For Speedway, a Racing Prospect Hard Not to Like

Peter Fluor and K.C. Weiner, equal partners in the burgeoning Speedway Stable LLC, bought their first-ever horse on Monday night with the $1 million Leigh Court (Grand Slam), and didn't wait long to double their holdings. Through advisor John Adger, they went to $1.5 million yesterday to acquire the 2014 Grade I winner Hard Not to Like (Hard Spun) at Keeneland November. Michael C. Byrne consigned the gray Ontario-bred as Hip 307. 

“She's a Grade I winner, and [bloodstock agent] Marette Farrell, who's part of our team, liked her very much,” said Adger. “I've watched her run before, and we'll take a chance. Hopefully, we'll have some luck racing her, and later on as a broodmare. We'll see how she trains on early in the year, and hopefully she'll have a year of racing at 6-years-old. If not, we'll breed her.” 

Fluor and Weiner haven't picked a trainer yet for Hard Not to Like or Leigh Court. 

“They've decided to buy a couple of racehorses and maybe a couple of 2-year-olds next year,” Adger explained. “They're more interested in racing right now [than breeding]. We'll see how that changes once they've had some luck. But these guys will be a great addition to Thoroughbred horse racing. Both are great guys, are great sports and they're looking forward to it.” 

Fluor is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Texas Crude Energy, an oil and gas 
exploration company. 

“The company is based on a street in Houston named Buffalo Speedway, and that's how they got the name of the stable,” said Adger. “They've been really successful together in the oil and gas business, and their families have been friends and partners for over 60 years.” 

Adger helped build another Houston-based operation, John McNair's Stonerside Stable, into a racing powerhouse. Asked if he met Fluor and Weiner through the Houston Texans owner, McNair said, “No no, I've known Peter a lot longer than I've known Mr. McNair. And I knew Peter's father, who was quite a horseman himself. He was a part-owner in Alleged with Robert Sangster in the late '70s.” 

Michael Byrne was consigning Hard Not to Like on behalf of Garland E. Williamson's Ontario-based Hillsbrook Farm. It was the second time, in a way, that Williamson had offered her at Keeneland November. Hard Not to Like was in utero when her dam, the Canadian Classic-winning Like a Gem (Tactical Cat), was put through the 2008 November auction, but Williamson and Byrne decided to take Like a Gem home when bidding failed to eclipse her $350,000 reserve. 
“I think we got to $325,000 or $335,000 [of live money]–we were very close,” said Byrne. “We were actually stabled in the same barn that we're in now [Barn 15], and I said to Garland yesterday, 'If we didn't buy that mare back for $350,000, we wouldn't be standing here now.'” 

As it was, Hard Not to Like prove an exceptional first foal for Like a Gem. Under the tutelage of trainer Gail Cox and then Michael Matz, she placed in Keeneland's GI Ashland S. at three and in a trio of graded events last year before notching a career-best in the GI Jenny Wiley S. here in April. 

“She's a beautiful mare…just a picture,” said Byrne. “Selling her was a business decision. He has her dam–who's in foal to Bernardini–and her granddam. He also has a weanling full-brother to Hard Not to Like and a yearling half-sister by More Than Ready, and so we just decided to was the right time to sell.” 

Williamson is involved in the snack-food business and is a founder of Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., which sells snack mixes, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. -L Marquardt

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