On a Roll, Rigney Racing Seeks First Breeders' Cup Win

Richard Rigney (right) with trainer Phil BauerKeeneland

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The GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf looks like a tough spot for Xigera (Nyquist). She's 8-1 in the morning line, drew the 13 post, is facing a strong group of European challengers and her only win came in a maiden race. But she's not out of this, not as hot as her stable is.

In their ninth year in the sport and after an inauspicious start, Richard and Tammy Rigney's Rigney Racing is enjoying a dream season. With seven wins, they were the leading owner at the spring meet at Churchill Downs. They followed that up with six winners at Saratoga from just 13 starters. In September, they teamed up with private trainer Phil Bauer to win the GIII Locust Grove S. at Churchill Downs with Played Hard (Into Mischief).

“It's our ninth year together with Phil and we have been continually trying to progress to compete at the top level on a consistent basis,” Richard Rigney said. “We feel like we have kind of arrived.”

Rigney is a successful businessman who owns Clarendon Flavor Engineering, a Louisville-based beverage company that makes flavors for distilled spirits. He wanted a new challenge and chose to get involved in racing, but it didn't go well at the start. In its first four years in operation, Rigney Racing won just 17 races.

But he vowed to keep plugging away.

“You have to be really resilient to be in this industry,” he said “If you have a problem with being knocked down and you can't get back up you should get out of this business. We have long-term goals, goals to compete in the Oaks and the Derby. Having a bad year is not going to slow us down. Instead, we'll look at what we can do better each year.”

Looking back, he can see where he went wrong. Like many who have come before him, he thought that success in another business meant he could do just as well in horse racing.

“This is where I made my mistake,” said Rigney, who estimates he has 60 horses. “I own my own business. It seemed to me, I'm killing it here, I can do the same in another business and it will be no problem. Phil and I decided we'd do it together, just the two of us. We started picking out horses together and we weren't so good at it.”

Rigney was smart enough to know he had to try something different. He hired bloodstock agent John Moynihan to select horses for him at the sales and the results were immediate.

“This has been a long time coming for the Rigneys,” Bauer said. “He's put a good team together and that starts at the sales. John Moynihan buying our horses has made a world of difference for us. We're dealing with athletes that can compete at this level and we just try to stay out of the way.”

After winning the title at Churchill, the Rigneys and Bauer weren't that optimistic about Saratoga. They had a number of horses that needed a break and decided to send only a small string to Saratoga.

“Saratoga was huge,” Rigney said. “We thought it was time to give some of our horses a break and just take the right horses up to Saratoga, so we picked out who we'd send there. Phil had an amazing run. It was unreal. You just don't win six races at Saratoga with 13 starters. It was a great time for us and Phil got a lot of recognition, which was nice to see.”

Xigera, named for one of the Rigney's vacation spots, a safari lodge in Botswana, broke her maiden on Aug. 28 at Saratoga in a mile-and-a-sixteenth grass race. Bauer wanted to keep her on the turf but was told she might not get in the GII Jessamine S., so opted instead to try the filly on the dirt in the GI Alcibiades S. She finished fourth but was bothered late and placed third through disqualification.

“I was really pleased with way she ran,” Bauer said. “My initial reaction was maybe I didn't have her tight enough for a dirt effort. She bounced out really well and we're excited moving forward.”

Rigney has had three other horses he owned in partnerships compete in the Breeders' Cup, including Dream Empress (Bernstein), who finished in 2008 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Xigera will be the first for Rigney Racing. While he said he'd be happy if Xigera were simply to run well, he sees having a horse in the Breeders' Cup as an accomplishment in itself, a sign that his stable is headed in the right direction.

“We have some good quality horses and, hopefully, they will keep coming our way and we can keep participating in events like the Breeders' Cup” Rigney said. “That's what it's all about. We decided that we're all in.”

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