By Jessica Martini
Walt Borisenok, who looks to strike a balance between his boutique breeding operation at Old Tavern Farm in Saratoga Springs and a small number of pinhooking prospects each year, hopes to get the yearling sales season off with a bang when he offers a filly by Yes It's True during next Tuesday's Fasig-Tipton July Sale. The yearling, offered as hip 205 through Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck's Summerfield, was purchased by Borisenok for $30,000 at this year's Keeneland January Sale and received a timely update when her half-brother Run Away (Run Away And Hide) produced an impressive debut victory at Santa Anita May 26. Run Away, acquired by Kaleem Shah for $325,000 at the Barretts March Sale, goes to the post for the second time Monday as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Santa Anita Juvenile S.
Borisenok, who founded Fortitech, Inc. before selling the nutritional-enhancement company for $634 million in 2012, has long been a participant in the racing game, mostly in partnership with fellow Saratogian Tom Mina. It was Mina who introduced Borisenok to the commercial breeding industry.
“I've always been involved in racing at a certain level, but as far as getting involved in the breeding part of it, I want to say that started six or seven years ago,” Borisenok recalled. “Tom Mina and I shared some racehorses together and he asked if I would maybe have an interest in splitting a mare and trying a little bit of breeding, which he does. I didn't know that much about it at that time, but that got me started. We were partners on breeding a few mares and then eventually I built a farm, which is Old Tavern Farm. I still do stuff with him, but I have my own mares. And then we also do some pinhooking. We breed four and we pinhook four–so we will bring about eight offerings a year to the market.”
Old Tavern was busy stocking its broodmare band at last year's Keeneland November Sale. The farm purchased Memento d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro) (hip 492), in foal to Ghostzapper, for $160,000 and Taste's Classylady (Afleet Alex) (hip 635), in foal to Carpe Diem, for $155,000.
“We target the upper-end of the market with our breeding,” Borisenok explained of his business model. “We use Summerfield, Francis and Barbara, as our agents. So they advise us on that. We're looking for the best that we can get in what we call our value range. Conformation is number one. We are looking for a nice-looking animal because we believe, obviously, that's what potentially they will throw. So if they are nice-looking, hopefully they are going to throw nice-looking. Second, is a solid pedigree. Because if you're going to target the upper-end of the market stallion wise, you've got to be able to get your mares in there. And then race record, if we can get. If you check all three of those boxes, then it might be tough in the range that we're initially looking at for mares, so if we're going to sacrifice one, we'll probably sacrifice the race record at this point.”
Borisenok uses his pinhooking prospects to help diversify the operation.
“We know we're not the volume breeder, so we have to pick our spots,” he explained. “By combining breeding and pinhooking and bringing eight offerings, sometimes the breeding part might be the big hit, sometimes the pinhooking might be the big hit. It helps balance it out. Obviously, in breeding you're doing the best you can to select a sire with your mare that is going to give you your best product. But at times, you're going to get what you're going to get. There could be issues when you breed. Whereas when you pinhook, at least you're able to pick and choose. It helps to balance it. That's the model that we're following.”
It was the pinhooking part of his venture that led to the purchase of three fillies at this year's Keeneland January Sale, including the aformentioned short yearling by Yes It's True whose older half-brother by Run Away and Hide had sold for $35,000 at the 2016 OBS August Yearling Sale.
“The Summerfield team were out looking for four or five weanlings, or in this case short yearlings, for us,” Borisenok said. “They brought us a list and we went through them and short listed looking for value. And this filly was a very nice-looking filly by Yes It's True with great conformation. We thought she would be good value. So we picked her up.”
Through Summerfield, Old Tavern also purchased a filly by Congrats (hip 8) for $25,000 and a filly by Central Banker (hip 120) for $31,000.
“They will all go into upcoming sales,” Borisenok said of the trio. “The Central Banker is a New York-bred, so she'll go to the [Fasig-Tipton Saratoga] New York sale and the Congrats is headed to Keeneland in September.”
The early exploits of Run Away, the second foal out of Cabales (Pulpit), led the team to have several discussions about where his half-sister would make her second sales appearance.
“We were deciding where to go with her,” Borisenok recalled. “She is a nice filly, she vets perfectly and is a nice horse. We didn't know if we were going to go to Fasig in July or hold off and go to Keeneland in September. Obviously, when we saw how Run Away worked at Barretts [:10 flat] and then his maiden win, that started a conversation between Summerfield and my people at the farm–Greg Daley, who is the farm director, and Trina Pasckvale, our broodmare manager who handles the sales prep. If we decided to go to the July sale, would she be physically and sales-prep ready? And between Summerfield and those guys, we decided to give it a shot. We had the market dynamics with her brother that made us think maybe we want to go now. Run Away seems to be moving in the right direction. He's running Monday at Santa Anita and, believe me, there will be one barn rooting heavily for him.”
The yearling sales season follows up a spring of juvenile auctions that saw strong action at the top level of the market and Borisenok said those results give him optimism as he brings his offerings to market this summer and fall.
“For what we are targeting, when you are targeting the upper end, we feel pretty good about it,” he said. “This year, we have a Curlin coming, a Lemon Drop Kid and a Carpe Diem. If you're in the upper-level range, based on recent sales, we feel pretty good.”
The Fasig-Tipton July Selected Yearlings Sale gets underway July 11 at 10 a.m. The day before, the sales company will present its Horses of Racing Age Sale, which begins at 5 p.m.