Brook Smith Joins TDN Writer's Room Podcast

Sierra Leone | Hodges Photography

The families and children who rely on the Backside Learning Center have a GI Kentucky Derby horse to root for. Sierra Leone (Gun Runner), the winner of the GII Risen Star S. at the Fair Grounds, is partially owned by Brook Smith, who is part of a partnership led by Coolmore. Smith has been a generous supporter of the Backside Learning Center and, through the Purses for a Purpose program, donates a portion of his earnings every time a horse of his picks up a check. Smith joined this week's TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland to talk about Sierra Leone, how he got involved with Coolmore and his philanthropy. He was the Green Group Guest of the Week.

“I have had some good fortune and had a lot of great, amazing people around me,” he said. “But, for me to really enjoy something it has to have some kind of social component to it. I mean, what's the point otherwise? I started learning more about the backside learning center and realized the backside is the backbone of the racing industry. Those are the workers that get up early and they have a tough job. It's a tough duty. They have the business and the industry in their blood. And the budget that the Backside Learning Center had was kind of anemic, especially when you consider all the money that flows through the industry. So, when I sat down with a few of the folks there, I said there's got to be a program where the owners can and should contribute a percentage of their purses to elevate the foundation. I was looking at what the backside learning center's programing is, and how they ran their, their nonprofit. I thought this deserves, a few more logs on the fire. So we came up with this Purses for a Purpose.”

His association with Coolmore started when he invested in a business partially owned by Charlie Pearson, who is John Magnier's son-in-law. From there, Smith connected with the Coolmore team and that led to him owning a piece of Sierra Leone and Hall of Fame (Gun Runner), who was seventh in the Risen Star.

“They're great folks, good friends and we started doing some business together and have had success,” Smith said. “One thing led to another, and I was introduced to the Coolmore ecosystem. Their breeding, farming operation in Ireland is second to none. And they are just amazing people that are wildly successful. Somewhere along the way, they asked if I would you be interested in maybe becoming one of their partners? I thought, 'Wow, that's a great opportunity? Coolmore, they play at the top.'”

Sierra Leone is the first legitimate Kentucky Derby contender Smith has owned. How has he kept his feet on the ground?

“I'm just trying to have fun with it and enjoy it,” he said. “And I can use the opportunity to be a voice for places like Purses for a Purpose and maybe a few other non-profits. It's not just coveting the moment, but reveling in it and reveling in it with everybody involved. These things can change in a step. I'm just hopeful that the horse stays sound and healthy. He seems the type.”

During the stallion spotlight segments of the podcast, the crew sang the praises of Coolmore stallion Jack Christopher , who stands for $40,000, and the WinStar stallion Audible, who stands for $15,000.

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Coolmorethe Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, 1/ST Racing, West Point Thoroughbreds, and, the team of Randy Moss, Bill Finley and Zoe Cadman reviewed the major races run last week, which included Sierra Leone's win in the Risen Star and the victory by Tarifa (Bernardini) in the GII Rachel Alexandra Stakes. The team looked back at the career of Echo Zulu (Gun Runner), who had to be euthanized after getting cast in her stall. Moss and Cadman explained why they voted for her for champion female sprinter over Goodnight Olive (Ghostzapper).

To watch the Writers' Room podcast video, click here. To listen to an audio version, click here.

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