Derby Diary: Destination Louisville


Jon Green and some Derby swag | courtesy Jon Green


We departed New Jersey today-destination Louisville. The flight took almost two hours and thankfully was without incident.

But, in reality, the journey to this time and place began almost 40 years ago when my dad tore his Achilles while playing tennis. Back then, the best way to treat a ruptured tendon was to be placed in a cast from your ankle to your upper hip and keep your body as immobile as possible. Well, anyone who knows my dad understands that this directive was going to be short-lived. As someone once said to me decades ago, “Your father's mind is as active as a long-tailed cat at a rocking chair convention.”

So, after a few days of restlessness, my mother instructed me (at the age of nine) to take my dad out of the house. Anywhere out of the house was fine as far as she was concerned. So, I pushed my father in his wheelchair around the block a few times until a neighbor mercifully stopped us to talk about the weather, sports, the new house being built at the end of the street, etc. When those topics were exhausted, our neighbor asked if we wanted to join him at Monmouth Park – he had a $5,000 claimer who was the favorite.

The short story is that the horse won, we got our pictures taken in the winner's circle, cashed a few tickets and killed a hot summer day. On our ride home, I could see the wheels of my father's brain spinning. For the remainder of the summer, he pored over the IRS tax code seeking feverishly for horse-related depreciation schedules, hobby-loss rules, and passive vs. active definitions–yes, it's as exciting as it sounds.

That summer begat the beginning of two successful businesses-D.J. Stable and the Green Group. The former is our family-owned racing and breeding operation. The latter is my father's tax and accounting firm which specializes in the horse industry.

Technically the two businesses are mutually exclusive. But there is so much cross-over due to both groups being actively involved in our boutique industry. There are countless times when we attend sales seeking our next potential Grade I contender and end up consulting with a Green Group client about their taxes or reviewing a business opportunity. The bottom line is that we basically eat, drink, and sleep the horse business. We have found that it is the ultimate challenge trying to (as we call it) sweep the ocean back with a broom.

So now I sit here in a hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky on the last Thursday in April (not the same sexy ring as the first Saturday in May) and reflect on all the twists and turns through which our Thoroughbred career has taken us. What if my dad had not torn his Achilles tendon? What if our neighbor's claimer failed to hit the board? What if my father's interest that summer had turned to baseball instead of horse racing? What if we had not met Aron Yagoda, Mark Casse, Bo Hunt, Dr. Pugh and Susie Hart, Jeff Hayslett, the Taylor brothers from Taylor Made Sales, Bill Betz, Kim Valerio, and countless other people who have had such a positive impact on our success? What if last year's 2-year-old sales were not delayed and someone else bought Helium? And finally, what if we ran out of luck, money and/or patience before we bought or bred graded winners like Do It With Style, November Snow, Songandaprayer, Jaywalk, etc.?

The above life moments all lined up this way for a reason. So far it launched two successful businesses, provided my family with a remarkable shared interest, and presented countless opportunities for excitement (and heartbreak). Hopefully, there will be more flights to Breeders' Cups, Oaks, Derbies and other graded stakes that I can share with my family. But for right now, I'm going to enjoy this one.

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