The education of BOBBY FLAY by: Lucas Marquardt


t is 6:15 a.m. on an unusually cold Miami morning in mid-February, and Bobby Flay has just arrived at Miami International Airport. The celebrity chef concluded filming the season finale of "The Next Food Network Star" less than 24 hours earlier and, after speaking to his daughter Sophie's class at USC and having dinner with her and her friends, took the red-eye from LAX. He's in Florida to check on his racing stable. It's still dark and the airport mostly vacant as Flay wheels his luggage—one large black suitcase, no carry-on—out of the Delta terminal.

Flay has emerged from the flight in surprisingly good order, despite the lack of sleep. "Honestly, I was too excited about seeing the horses," he says as he climbs into the passenger seat of a rented black Chrysler.

It's a half-hour drive up the Turnpike to Flay's destination, Palm Beach Downs. This is the winter home of trainer Todd Pletcher's Florida-based string, and to two of Flay's horses, Whispering Angel and Dame Dorothy. The latter is coming off a victory over Sheer Drama in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, and is two months away from becoming Flay's second Grade I winner.

Pletcher is away on a rare vacation (Turks and Caicos), but his assistant, Tristan Barry, greets Flay as he steps out of the car. Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero walks by and yells out, "Bobby! Stay lucky!" Flay has arrived in time to see Whispering Angel go through her morning drills. The wind picks up and Flay, dressed in dark denim jeans, white canvas shoes and a light coat, rubs his hands together. It's 45 degrees.

"I was not expecting this from Miami," he says as he makes way over to the rail to watch a set of horses go by. A gentleman standing nearby offers Flay a coat from his SUV, then tells Flay he's welcome to hop in the idling truck to warm up. Flay politely declines. "There's two heaters in the office, head on in there," says Berry.

"Nah," says Flay, uncomfortable that people are making a fuss over him. "This is where the horses are."

While relatively new in the top echelons of racing, Bobby Flay has made a name for himself as not just an exceptional chef, but as a popular television personality as well.

Save Your


Flay at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga

Bobby Flay has done something unique in horse racing. As an owner and breeder, he has put together a boutique stable that includes some of the best bloodlines in the stud book. That in itself isn't so rare. People come into the industry every few years and develop top-class stables. What makes Flay's operation unique is that he's done it on a budget.

That may sound odd to say about someone who bought White Hot (Ire), the Galileo (Ire) half-sister to G1 Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi (Ire), for 1.25 million guineas (US$2,122,050)—the highest-priced yearling filly in the Western Hemisphere in 2014. Or who purchased the mare Countess Lemonade, then a half to Duke of Marmalade (Ire) from the family of A.P. Indy, for 700,000 guineas ($1,145,159) in 2010.

But keep this in mind: Flay makes good money...for a chef. He isn't a captain of industry, however. As Chris Rock would say, Flay may be rich, but he ain’t wealthy. Or to paraphrase Rock, if John Magnier woke up with Flay’s money, he’d jump out the window.

"You've got to flip a lot of burgers to make $ 1 million"

- Bobby Flay

So when Flay purchases a horse for seven figures, he's putting up life-altering money. If things go wrong, he's going to feel it. His accountant will make sure he does. "You've got to flip a lot of burgers to make $ 1 million," quips Flay. How, then, has Flay found himself outbidding Arab sheikhs and Irish business magnates for some of the world's best-bred horses?

To answer that question is to outline the strategy that Flay and his team have devised over the past decade. That strategy begins with Flay's desire to play at the highest level of the sport, and is influenced at every step by an oft-repeated mantra in the group: "Save your powder." As in, save your gunpowder, you'll need it later in the fight.

Dame Dorothy
Her Smile

"Save your powder" has resulted in Flay going from a passive investor in a racing syndicate 20 years ago, to a small-time owner with a penchant for impetuous hand-raising at auctions, to the proprietor of a stable of impressive quality for its size. In many ways, Flay has tried to become a scaled-down version of breeding operations built up by the likes of Helen Alexander, Ballymacoll Stud, and the Niarchos and Phipps families. He has focused on acquiring members from the best families in the stud book, and so far, he's done a pretty good job.

Today, Flay's broodmare band of nine includes the prior mentioned Countess Lemonade, in foal to Galileo (Ire); Auld Alliance (Ire), a stakes-performing half to the G1 2000 Guineas winner Golan (Ire) and to Tartan Bearer (Ire), second in the Derby, in foal to War Front; Super Espresso, a graded-winning granddaughter of Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee, in foal to Bernardini; and Montjeu (Ire)'s French Group 3 winner Albisola (Ire), in foal to Oasis Dream (GB).

His racing stable, meanwhile, features Dame Dorothy, the Grade I-winning daughter of Bernardini; America, a Grade I-performing A.P. Indy filly from the immediate family of Rags to Riches, et al; and White Hot, that half to Pour Moi (Ire) who is also a half to G1 French Oaks runner-up Gagnoa (Ire).

Flay's commitment to premier bloodlines is revealed in two salient transactions: Flay sold a Breeders' Cup winner (More Than Real) and a Grade I-winning filly (Her Smile), both of whom he campaigned, because their families simply weren't deep enough.

Dishing with Flay: Her Smile. Bobby talks about the thrill of his first Grade I winner.

Just a kid who liked


Robert William Flay remembers the day Ronald Reagan was shot. It was Mar. 21, 1981, and Flay, having skipped class with his friends, was at Aqueduct Racetrack. The aimless 17-year-old had bounced around a series of parochial schools, and, except for causing trouble with this friends, didn't find much appeal in student life. The same couldn't be said for the track. Flay was introduced to racing by his grandfather, who would search the sky for a single cloud on an otherwise ideal day, then announce a trip to the beach was pointless and bring Flay to Belmont instead.

Graduating from Culinary School

"It was great," says Flay, who was born and raised on the Upper East Side, a fifth-generation Irish-American. "He would make bets for me. I'd always bet Steve Cauthen. I was 13, maybe 14."

Four decades later, it is interesting to consider which came first—Flay's love of food or his love of racing. In any event, after Flay dropped out of high school, it was clear his life needed direction, and it was the former that sparked his imagination. Flay got a job, first as a busboy, then in the kitchen, at Joe Allen Restaurant in the Theater District. Allen (no relation to the horse owner) was so impressed with Flay's instincts that he paid Flay's tuition to the French Culinary Institute. In 1984, Flay became part of the Institute's first graduating class. Flay spent the rest of the decade perfecting his craft at influential restaurants, most notably Jonathan Waxman's Bud and Jam's, and in 1990, he was named executive chef at a new restaurant called Mesa Grill. Flay quickly became a partner, and the rapid success of Mesa Grill established Flay as a certified wunderkind at a time when chefs were becoming rockstar-like figures in New York.

"People ask me what I'm best at," Flay says. "Here it is: I know how to feed New Yorkers. I'm not sure I'd know how to feed people from Cincinnati. But I know what New Yorkers want to eat, and how they want to eat it, and I think that's a big part of my success in the restaurant business here. I know my clientele."

Flay's star wasn't just rising in New York's hard-to-please foodie circles. He first appeared on The Food Network in 1994, and helped build the fledgling network's reputation with shows like "Grill It! with Bobby Flay" and "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." More restaurants opened—Bolo and Bar Americain in New York, a second Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, and soon, Flay wasn't just a chef, celebrity or otherwise. He was businessman with a burgeoning empire. The same could be said about the man he chose to be his trainer, Todd Pletcher.

Dishing With Flay: Todd Pletcher. Bobby talks about the military precision of Todd Pletcher’s operation.

From Restaurant to

Sales Ring

All this didn't leave Flay much time for anything outside the kitchen. But Flay remained a fan of racing, and he was intrigued when Arthur Seelbinder, a restauranteur who also happened to breed and race Thoroughbreds, offered him a piece of three yearlings he had.

"Arthur wanted me to partner with some restaurants in the Midwest," Flay recalls. "It didn't work out, but we realized in spending some time together that we both liked racing. So he called me up and asked if I wanted to buy into some yearlings he had. It wasn't that big of an investment. Two of the horses didn't run, but the third was a Mr. Greeley filly named Faraway Legend. She paid $60 when she broke her maiden. It was a Jimmy Toner special. She ran on the dirt, he gave her some time off, and he brought her back on the turf. Richard Migliore rode her. He will tell you, ‘I rode Bobby Flay's first winner.' That he even remembers the name of the horse is ridiculous."

That was 2002. "And at that point, I didn't want any part in the decision making," says Flay. "I didn't want any control. I said, ‘I'm going to put my money up, and that will be it.' But that is so against the grain of my personality. And it lasted about 10 minutes." Flay began to buy horses under his own name with the help of his longtime friend Barry Weisbord, publisher of the TDN. Initially, the goal was to buy horses who could knock out some victories on the track. Flay purchased an interest in the turf sprinter Gilded Gold, who became Flay's first stakes winner. He purchased Grace and Power off a stakes win at The Meadowlands, and in her first start for him she ran second in the GI Hollywood Starlet. Just prior to the 2005 GI Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Flay and Richard Santulli bought a half-interest in the Grade I winner Wonder Again (she ran fourth).

Sophie's Salad

"Bobby is an all-in kind of guy," said Flay's friend and business partner Laurence Kretchmer. "Bobby is not the guy who is going to just dip his toe in and leave it there. He goes all-in on things that he is passionate about, and his occupations and preoccupations are all very immersive. So there would be no reason to expect that he would be any different in his commitment to Thoroughbreds."

Excited about his initial success, Flay attended a new-owners seminar in Ocala in 2006. The seminar fell right before OBS April, and Flay stuck around for the sale. Caught up by the energy of it all, he wound up buying a Rahy filly, later named Sophie's Salad, for $205,000. Later in the year, he bought the New York-bred Mesa Girl for $110,000.

Flay had some success with both fillies. Sophie's Salad earned black-type at Belmont. Mesa Girl broke her maiden at Aqueduct. But in the end, they came to illustrate what was wrong with Flay's strategy. Namely, he didn't have one.

CBS Sunday Morning: How cooking saved Bobby Flay’s life

Looking back, Bobby Flay acknowledges the characteristics that made him a great chef and media personality—the ability to act quickly on instinct, a love of the melee-wouldn't translate into success as a horse owner and breeder. Not in the long run, at least. "When I went to a sale, I just couldn't sit on my hands," Flay says. "I would spend $100,000 here, $200,000 there, and was really just throwing darts. But all that money adds up. Why not save it for a truly special horse? My friends would spend half their time at auctions looking for me to make sure I wasn't buying something."

One of the friends policing Flay was James Delahooke. In the 1980s, the British bloodstock agent helped Juddmonte Farms assemble its now-renowned broodmare band, and soon he became a core member of Flay's bloodstock team.

Pay for top physicals. Pay for proven families. Limit risk by purchasing horses whose value isn't tied solely, or primarily, to race performance.

Delahooke helped introduce a new concept to Flay—patience. "From time to time we read of a brave and enthusiastic new investor in bloodstock who goes to Lexington or Newmarket and buys 25 mares in one sale," says Delahooke. "Sadly, it is a fact that there has never been a horse sale which offered 25 mares that anyone needs to own. Except possibly the Chenery dispersal. The patience required to grow a quality broodmare band is immeasurable. Opportunities to purchase the best eggs arise very seldom, and the feeding frenzy of those backed up by their country's defense budgets makes it very difficult to compete."


Flay says he learned much by watching Delahooke in action. "We've been on horses for three days, and the horse will come into the ring, go around a few times, and James will say, ‘I don't like her attitude,'" says Flay. "And just like that, we're off the horse. James's experience tells him that could be a problem down the line. He'll say, ‘There will be another one.'"

In other words, save your powder. Underpinned by this maxim, Flay's new strategy took shape. Buy only fillies and mares with significant residual value. Pay for top physicals. Pay for proven families. Limit risk by purchasing horses whose value isn't tied solely, or primarily, to race performance.

"Growth has to be gradual and organic to establish a firm foundation on which to build the next Juddmonte," says Delahooke. "The first time I came to Keeneland November in 1980 I had a $10-million budget from Juddmonte. I bought one mare from C.V. Whitney, namely Bag of Tunes, for $600,000."

Flay would sell the vast majority of the colts he bred. He'd race most of the fillies, but sell if the stars aligned.

The strategy played off Flay's relative indifference—relative being in the operative word—to winning the GI Kentucky Derby, the stated goal of a good many high-end stables.

"You can generally split buyers into two groups: people that are trying to win the Derby, and people who aren't," he says. "We made a conscious effort that we're not interested in doing that. The only chance we have of winning the Derby is if I don't sell a really nice colt. Other than that, I'm looking at the first Friday in May."

He adds, "If you're buying colts to win the Derby, or just throwing darts at fillies, you're buying fiction. By buying fillies with incredible pedigrees, we're buying fact. It's right there in front of us in black and white."

In 2007, Flay set things rolling with his first significant purchase, the Fasliyev filly Lacadena, a then-2-year-old from the family of that year's GI Belmont winner Rags to Riches. Flay bought Lacadena privately just after she'd RNA'd for $1.4 million at Fasig-Tipton November.

"She was a substantial piece of real estate," says Flay. "James had bought her as a weanling, and he thought I should buy her. She was beautiful, she had black-type, she had a big pedigree, and she could still run—there were all kinds of upside."

The following year, in 2008, Flay made another important buy. Flay had attended Keeneland September, but left after being outbid on several prospects, including an impeccably bred Medaglia d'Oro half-sister to that year's G2 Royal Whip S. winner King of Rome (Ire). Three days later, Flay was walking into a Las Vegas hotel room at 6 a.m., tired from a long night, when he received a call from Kentucky. He was informed that the winning bidder for the filly hadn't secured credit with Keeneland, and the sale, at $1.1 million, was declared void. Flay was getting a second chance at the filly, a granddaughter of Courtly Dee, and jumped at the opportunity.

"I remember going to look at her," said Flay. "She was just pure bay, not a spot on her, and she was so pretty. And she was from Helen Alexander's great family. Even I could tell she was special."

Flay paid a substantial amount of money for the filly, named Super Espresso, but got a substantial pedigree. "She was the first important yearling we bought," he says.

Super Espresso took a while to get going on the track, losing her first seven starts. But everything began to click for her late in her 3-year-old year. In the span of six starts, she broke her maiden at Belmont, won an allowance, won a minor stakes at Aqueduct, and won the GIII Allaire DuPont Distaff S. at Pimlico.

"We were really patient with her, and then it was boom-boom-boom-boom," says Flay. "Todd [Pletcher] had her at that point, but we had originally had her with Steve Klesaris. And Steve was a really good guy. He had said to me, ‘Bobby, listen, she's not going to be a 2-year-old. She might not even be a 3-year-old. She's big and lanky and hasn't grown into herself, and I don't want to rush her.' Some trainers don't have the patience and they push through no matter what. And they either break them down or don't give them the chance to live up to their ability."

Flay began to win major stakes with other members of his stable, too. He got his first graded winner in 2009 when the European purchase Mrs Kipling (Ire) won a Grade III in California. In 2010, More Than Real won the G2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. In 2011, Her Smile became Flay's first Grade I winner when she rallied from far back to win the Prioress S. (She later was a fast-closing third in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.)

Flay's commitment to his new strategy was tested in earnest at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton November Sale. Shelving a sentimental attachment to not only his first Grade I winner, but his first Breeders' Cup winner, too, he sold Her Smile for $1 million and More Than Real for $675,000.

"They were great horses for me and had a lot of ability, but their families just weren't strong enough," he says.

Flay on the


Bobby Flay leans back in his office chair. He's looking out his seventh-floor window at the low gray sky framing the buildings on Broadway, but his mind is elsewhere. "People don't want to eat spring vegetables when it's 38 degrees," he says. "They just don't." As if to underscore his point, he looks down at the figures below, wrapped in scarves and coats, and buffeting against the wind.

"April's a weird month. But by next week, I'll have fava beans and some ramps, some peas."

Some people are surprised at how hands-on Flay is when it comes to running his restaurants. They wouldn't expect him to be making week-to-week menu plans, or working five nights a week at both of his current New York City restaurants, Gato and Bar Americain. Maybe, because he's on TV so much, there's an assumption that he's only acting like a chef. It's a point that obviously irks Flay, despite his insistence that he's past caring. But the man was once named the James Beard "Rising Star Chef of the Year." Of course it bothers him.

It isn't menu choices that are distracting Flay, however. A few hours earlier, news of his impending divorce was made public, and the tabloid media is champing at the proverbial bit to get the salacious details, factual or not.

"You know when the pilot gets on the overhead and says, ‘Things are about to get bumpy'?" he later sighs. "Well, things are about to get bumpy."

Despite this, it doesn't occur to Flay to not take the subway from his office several stops up to Bar Americain. "Oh yeah, all the time," he says when asked if he rides the subway often, making a face to indicate that it might be a stupid question. Standing on the platform, waiting for an uptown Q, Flay is recognized several times. He's friendly and courteous to those who stop to shake his hand, but doesn't act like he's doing anyone a favor.

At Bar Americain, the staff rush around the kitchen in preparation for the night's service. Most barely raise an eyebrow when Flay enters the kitchen. Why would they? He's here all the time.

Flay's work ethic reflects his Irish-American upbringing. He's up each day at six. He reads the New York Times and watches CNN or MSNBC like the news junkie he is, and then works out for an hour—a run along the West Side Highway promenade, or a popular new spinning class called Soul Cycle. Then it's off to work. If he's taping, he'll generally do two shows, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Regardless, Flay almost always concludes his days at his restaurants. He starts at Bar Americain on W52nd, then hops in a cab to Gato on Lafayette.

"It totally shocks people that I still cook every day," he says. "First of all, I love it. I want to be there cooking. What am I going to do? Sit in someone else's restaurant. But it's also really important for consistency. I'm generally the last person to touch the food."

Despite the workload, Flay has still found time to be heavily active in the Thoroughbred industry. He sits on the 14-member Breeders' Cup board, and was pivotal in designing the popular "Taste of the World" event now held each year at the Breeders' Cup.

"Bobby's incredibly generous with his time," says Breeders' Cup CEO Craig Fravel. "Whenever we ask him to help out—and unfortunately for him we do that more that we should—he does if his schedule allows. On the hospitality and entertainment side of things, Bobby is incredibly talented and brings that creative side to things that those of us who have been in the business for a long time sometimes forget about."

Two years ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed him to the NYRA board, and Flay is a prominent member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA). People who imagine him to be inactive in these endeavors, like those who imagine he doesn't cook at his restaurants, are mistaken. Flay is vocal and opinionated about racing's issues, and feels he has a right to be. "I have the experience from a marketing and media standpoint, which is important," he says. "I also know racing, and I put my money up."


Flay says that at the end of the day, all issues eventually come back to one thing—horse welfare. Flay's been an active supporter and fundraiser for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation for over a decade, and has hosted the TRF's annual dinner at Bar Americain. (Flay actually met his primary trainer, Todd Pletcher, after donating an "experience" package to the TRF that included dinner at Flay's home. Owner James Scatuorchio was the winning bidder, and brought Pletcher as a guest.)

"The very first time I met Bobby, he told me how passionate he was about the health and welfare of the horse," says The Jockey Club's Jim Gagliano. "That was the most important issue to him. It impressed me that he made it his business to advocate for the horse." For his efforts, Flay was recognized with the Earle I. Mack Thoroughbred Champion Award for his dedication to racehorse welfare, safety, and retirement in 2013.

"It's something I feel very strongly about," he says. "I follow the horses I've bred closely, and try to make sure every horse I've bred has a good, safe home upon retirement. It's a difficult issue, but the industry needs to take care of its horses when they are done racing."

The use of raceday Lasix is another issue Flay feels especially passionate about. "I was excited a few years ago when the Breeders' Cup decided not to have Lasix with their 2-year-old races, and I was upset when they reneged on it," he said. "I'm just so tired of the ‘We can't get rid of Lasix' thing. If people keep on saying, ‘We can't,' that's going to become our reality. And that's what is wrong. It's frustrating. I don't understand what you gain by using raceday medication. Sure, some owners are going to get upset that their horses can't run because they're bleeders. To me, that's just one more risk you take. If I buy a yearling, and in his first workout he fractures an ankle…that's racing. If they're not healthy enough to run, they shouldn't be running."

Flay spends a lot of time traveling abroad, and said he's seen the effect of America's medication policies.

"From a global perspective, the American Thoroughbred is tainted," Flay said. "When I go to Europe and I'm around people in the horse business, they don't want to buy our bloodstock. I'm a breeder. I spend a lot of money breeding horses. I want everybody to want my bloodstock. Once you start narrowing down your market by region, it makes your bloodstock less valuable immediately. People say, ‘Why do we have to be like the rest of the world?' That's like saying that we have the dollar, so who cares about the euro. You have to care—it affects the dollar."

Closer to home, Flay is also a proponent of less, better racing. "There's no need to have racing for the sake of racing," he says. "I don't see why we need to be racing in 10 different places on a Wednesday in February. It dilutes the game."


To that end, and as a member of the NYRA board, Flay has publicly favored an end to winter racing in New York. "Every sport takes a break," he says. "We don't have baseball 12 months a year. Let the racing go to Florida, which it does, and they can make money on the simulcast. Stop running bad horses for a lot of money. And they're dying, and the New York Times writes a bad article, and it just snowballs. Aqueduct is a disgusting place. Can you imagine introducing to someone to racing at Aqueduct?"

Flay would like to move away from racing at Aqueduct, and focus on Belmont Park. But that, too, requires a change from the status quo, he says. "Belmont Park was built in the 1960s, and it was built for racing in the ‘60s, when we had huge crowds and no competition for gambling dollars," he says. "We need to make it smaller and more modern, and have a more modern product. It can’t just be a betting window and a hot dog stand. We need lively bars, really good restaurants, retail spaces, music—things that bring in people who aren't there just because they're big John Velazquez fans."

If Flay has used his prominence to promote change within the industry, he's also used it to promote the sport to outsiders. In addition to his work as a Breeders' Cup ambassador, he brings exposure to racing whenever he can. When Food and Wine magazine told Flay they wanted to do an eight-page spread on him, he suggested Ashford Stud as a location.

"The Coolmore partners gave me Giant's Causeway for the whole day," said Flay. "It was amazing."

Bobby and longtime business partner Lawrence Kretchmer at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling sale.

Friends and business associates have also been invited to take part in a loose partnership Flay put together called Flavor Racing. Flay purchased the 3-year-old Quality Rocks for himself and Flavor Racing, which includes his friend and partner Laurence Kretchmer, and the Rock Hard Ten filly has been terrifically consistent. She won the GIII Florida Oaks in March and was second in both the GIII Edgewood S. and Pennsylvania Oaks. Zloty, a similar purchase, is also a stakes performer.

"Unquestionably, Bobby is a great ambassador for the sport," says Kretchmer. " I have enjoyed racing since I was a kid, so for me personally it was more like getting pulled further in a deeper way. But for others I have seen how he has been able to seize on the range of appealing aspects of the sport and industry, whether taking someone to see the beauty of a farm for the first time, or just out for a day at the races to enjoy the spectacle, beauty, tradition and the excitement that exists there."

A post by which

by which to measure

To stand next to trainer Aidan O'Brien on the hallowed ground of Ballydoyle would be exciting for any race fan. But to stand next to the genius behind Coolmore's training operation, have him point out horses from families you've bought into, and say, "That's a nice horse—he's going to help your pedigree," well, that's something different.

Bobby Flay relates this story of his August trip to Ballydoyle, which came at the invitation of O'Brien himself. The two first met at the previous year's Arc de Triomphe. O'Brien knew Flay had bought Countess Lemonade, the half-sister to Coolmore's star runner Ruler of the World. The two hit it off, and O'Brien asked Flay if he'd like to someday make the trip to Co. Tipperary.

Ten months on, O'Brien wasn't pointing to Ruler of the World, who is now standing at Coolmore, but to yet another of Countess Lemonade's siblings, Giovanni Canaletto (Ire). The 3-year-old Galileo (Ire) colt was a 6-1 chance in the Epsom Derby in June, running fourth, before placing third in the Irish Derby three weeks later.

Flay got a serious pedigree update on Countess Lemonade’s page when Ruler of the World won the Epsom Derby.

Racing Post

The Coolmore partners are heavily invested in the extended families of both Countess Lemonade and White Hot, and O'Brien continued to point out several other relations, horses inevitably by the likes of Galileo or War Front. As Flays tells it, it was an exceptionally cool moment in his year. It was also one that captured what his stable is trying to achieve.

"These fillies with great pedigrees give you so many shots; you hope they can run, but if they can't, you still have all kinds of opportunities through the family."

- Bobby Flay

"When we bought White Hot, for instance, we didn't have to guess if she was going to be special," says Flay. "She already was. She cost a lot of money, but if she never races, we might be able to walk her in the ring five or six years from now, and she might bring the same money or more. These fillies with great pedigrees give you so many shots; you hope they can run, but if they can't, you still have all kinds of opportunities through the family."

Flay doesn't have to look any further than Countess Lemonade as an example. The mare had a brilliant pedigree when Flay bought her at Tattersalls in 2010. She was a half to the European champion Duke of Marmalade, and is from A.P. Indy's immediate family. But then her brother Ruler of the World emerged on the scene three years later and won the Blue Riband, further elevating the page.

"I remember I was on the golf course, on the 17th hole, and my phone started blowing up that Ruler of the World had won the Derby," says Flay. "Even my father called me."

Flay could only smile when, while visiting the newly opened Coolmore Museum in Ireland, he laid eyes on piece that featured a familiar Tesio quote: "The Thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby."

Flay now has not one but three siblings to Derby winners—Countess Lemonade, White Hot, and Authorized (Ire)'s sister American Spirit (Ire).

State of the


Flay's mare Lacadena at Stone Farm Bobby Shiflet photo

Flay's commitment to blue-blooded fillies and mares has begun to pay off in recent years. At the 2014 Keeneland September Sale, he sold not one but two seven-figure yearlings. A Tiznow daughter of Countess Lemonade brought $1.1 million, while a Tapit filly out of Super Espresso made $1 million. They were the first foals out of both mares, and in a single book at Keeneland, Flay was out almost entirely on the cost of the mares themselves.

"And really, that gave me a lot of confidence," he says. "It said that we're doing something right."

Flay says he would have been happy to keep and race either filly, but when the right people lined up on his horses and the vet reports came back clean, he was spurred to sell.

"When you can take all the money off the table at once, that's when it all makes sense to me," he explains.

Super Espresso Bobby Shiflet photo

Meanwhile, on the track in 2015, Flay was represented by his second Grade I winner when Dame Dorothy (Bernardini) won the GI Humana Distaff S. on the Kentucky Derby undercard. James Delahooke purchased the 4-year-old for $390,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September Sale. Named after Flay's mother, Dame Dorothy is a half-sister to the Grade I winner Mrs. Lindsay and traces back to the European champion Mrs. Penny.

"When you have a horse who is by a great sire and with a great pedigree, the upside is unlimited," he said of Dame Dorothy's success. "You don't know what's going to happen, even 15 years down the line. That's the thing that took me a long time to understand. With a filly like her, you can see your investment grow in front of your eyes."

Flay has two daughters of Lacadena in his stable. The most accomplished is America, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy filly that he bought back at the 2012 Keeneland September Sale for $725,000. America ran third behind Untapable in last year's GI Mother Goose S. She won her first stakes in the Affectionately S. at Aqueduct over the winter, then added another Grade I placing in the Delaware H. in July.

Mrs. Kipling and Lacadena Bobby Shiflet photo

America's success has meant Lacadena herself will be sent through the ring at the upcoming Keeneland November Sale, where Stone Farm offers her in foal to Bernardini.

"We're trying to keep our requirements tight," explains Flay. "Being by A.P. Indy, America's an upgrade, we think, from Lacadena, and we have two other fillies out of Lacadena.

Flay's recent success is all the more impressive when considering he owns more restaurants (24) than broodmares (9) and racehorses (11) combined. But it's the young horses in Flay's operation—there are seven yearlings and seven weanlings—who could well take Flay to another level. They include a yearling Tapit filly out of Super Espresso who Flay RNA'd for $975,000 at the most recent September Sale. He also kept a Tiznow colt out of Lacadena and a Medaglia d'Oro colt out of Countess Lemonade.

Double Tapped Bobby Shiflet photo

His weanlings include yet another Tapit filly from Super Espresso, as well as a Malibu Moon filly from Lacadena. There's a distinctly European flair in the group, too. Flay has a Dutch Art (GB) filly out of the group winner Albisola (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}). There's a Nathaniel (Ire) filly from American Spirit (Ire), the half to the G1 Epsom Derby winner Authorized (Ire). And, maybe most exciting, a Galileo (Ire) filly out of Countess Lemonade.

"We've heated up to the point now where, in the next five years, I'll have the best chance for things to blossom," says Flay.

Flay says he has no intention of investing in a farm in Kentucky—he boards all his mares at Arthur Hancock's Stone Farm—but says he'd like to grow the size of his involvement.

"If the business can pay for itself and grow itself, I'd like to have maybe double or triple what I have now," he says. "So instead of nine mares, maybe somewhere in the high teens. But that creates a lot of horses. The business has to prove itself to me."

It's mid-September, and the crowd at Gato is loud and vibrant, stirred with an energy unique to Friday nights in Manhattan. Matching that energy is Bobby Flay, who is multi-tasking like a champ. He skips from the main floor into the kitchen of his newest restaurant to put the final touches on two appetizers set to go out. There's a dish of roasted octopus, with sour orange, bacon, oregano, followed by a house speciality of scrambled Eggs, almond romesco and boucheron cheese. (Gato is doing well. Not long after opening in March of 2014, it was given a glowing two-star review in the New York Times, and tonight's crowd suggests the sheen hasn't worn off.)

Flay heads back out to greet Jimmy Ventura, a well-known handicapper who is dining at one corner of the packed, square-shaped bar. Two men in their forties stop to interrupt Flay and ask for a photo. For their kids. When he returns, Flay gets a soda water from the bartender, and continues a story about his trip to Ballydoyle.

"It was one of the great experiences of my life," he asserts. "Forget about horses—just in general. Aidan O'Brien gave me four hours of his time, and the man, he's just a magician. Just watching him work was a learning experience."

How so?

"In the way he treats his staff and his riders, and how much he relies on them," says Flay. "He's got 70 riders and refers to them each by name. He hears what they have to say, really listens to them, and if they make a recommendation, he says, ‘That's a great idea. Let me think about that.' And he does. He's an amazing manager of people. They love working for him, and it actually changed the way I look at things as a manager of people. With my restaurants, I try to connect with each employee every time I'm in the restaurant. But after watching him, I feel like I'm underachieving in that department."

Flay's passion for both food and racing is apparent on nights like this.

Bobby takes a moment out from cooking at his newest restaurant in NYC, Gato, to talk about the best horses he’s seen.

"I'm a lucky guy—I make a living at what I love"

- Bobby Flay

"I'm a lucky guy—I make a living at what I love," he says, clarifying he doesn't only mean cooking. "I have two businesses. I'm in the business of food, and the business of horse racing. I take both seriously, and I enjoy them both. When I got into the business of horses, I literally lied to myself. I said, ‘I'm just going to invest some money, get some horses, not make any decisions, and go to the track and root.' In two years I had no partners, and I knew I wanted to be at the top of the sport in terms of quality, and I knew I wanted to hire the best people, and I knew I wanted to help the sport."

Flay has spent part of the evening talking about what racing can do better. But he also wants to make clear that there are a lot of thtings racing does right, and that it offers something few other sports do.

"There are very few feelings like the one I get when I wake up the morning of a big race that I'm about to take part in," he says. "Opening the Racing Form…putting on a nice suit…grabbing my binoculars…heading out to the track? That's the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night because I'm so excited."

The key, just as it is in cooking, says Flay, is finding the right balance.

"It's easy for me to say that I want this different, or that different," he says. "But I don't want to sound like a total pessimist. If that was the case, I'd just get out of the sport. But I care about it. I'm optimistic because the sport has a lot of really smart, motivated people who want to make this better. Listen, we are going to get things right."