Partnerships: Medallion Racing

Medallion partners in Royal Ascot winner's circle

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Nestled in the heart of Kentucky's rolling hills, Taylor Made Farm has been a cornerstone of the Thoroughbred industry for almost 50 years. Having been the leading consignor in the world 28 times in the last 30 years, Taylor Made is an operation that lives at the epicenter of the horse racing industry. When the idea of putting together a racing division was being batted around, it was a no-brainer for Mark Taylor and his family to begin to construct what is now monikered as Medallion Racing.

“You could say we were first drawn into the racing side of the business through our association and partnership in California Chrome back in 2015,” said Medallion Racing Manager Phillip Shelton. “Then came Cathryn Sophia, winner of the 2016 Kentucky Oaks, and we decided this was an excellent way to bring new people into the sport and grow our business.”

Taylor Made Farm officially launched Medallion in 2017 and put Shelton at the reins. Shelton has been a lifelong horse racing fan, who learned the game from his dad, while spending many racing/simulcast days at Keeneland. He worked for Taylor Made periodically at Thoroughbred auctions from 2004-2014, breaking up his time studying past performances. “I decided to make a career change and pursue my love of Thoroughbred racing full time,” he said. “I began at the bottom, working as a groom to help prep all our horses for the different auctions throughout the year. I moved into the office in the spring of 2016 as we began working on the plans for Medallion Racing. We launched Medallion Racing, and I have been the racing manager since its inception.”

Partner Brad McNulty recalls the beginning of his association with Medallion.

“Alex Payne, my current advisor at Taylor Made along with Mark Taylor, the CEO, made me feel comfortable from the beginning,” McNulty said. “Alex knew I liked racing, so mentioned Medallion and introduced me to Phillip Shelton. I was immediately impressed with Phil's knowledge and passion. I have been studying bloodlines and I have been basically a 'broken down horseplayer' for 50 years. So, I knew this dude knew his stuff. I instantly knew Phil was like a savant regarding bloodlines and studying races.”

Brad and Lissa McNulty | courtesy Taylor Made

Shelton and the team have posted an impressive record since its arrival at racetracks in North America and across the pond. They have had over 275 starts, 25% of which have been in Grade I races. Their horses have appeared in 12 Breeders' Cup races, four Royal Ascot races, and have sprung from the starting gate under the twin spires in the Kentucky Oaks on three separate occasions.

“We take minority interests in fillies and mares that have already run and are proven winners,” Shelton said. “We look for runners that will not only make money on the track, but also when we sell them at the end of their career. Medallion's goal is to provide an exclusive ownership experience at the highest level. It's about the opportunities that exist for the horses we buy into. We look for certain programs that our horses can participate in and look to maximize the upside for our partners.”

There are currently 22 partners involved in Medallion Racing and they have seven horses racing and one in foal. One of those horses is two-time Royal Ascot winner Porta Fortuna (Ire) (Caravaggio).

Medallion's “lucky charm” won the Albany Stakes at two and returned last month to claim the G1 Coronation Stakes at three. She also won the G1 Juddmonte Cheveley Stakes at Newmarket at two and finished a head shy of Hard to Justify (Justify) in last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Porta Fortuna has amassed almost $1.2 million in just nine starts so far in her young career and has taken partners, including Ann Kugler, to places they never thought they would go.

“I've gotten to know bloodstock agents here and across the pond,” said Kugler, “along with visiting Porta and her trainer Donnacha O'Brien at his yard in Ireland [part of a fun, five-star trip with Medallion partners last year]. These horses have taken us to many places that we would not have visited otherwise, including the backside of most tracks to meet our horses and trainers, including during Derby week. Last year, Frankie Dettori's 80th Ascot win was aboard Porta Fortuna. Partners were able to meet him and get pictures taken. He is a legendary celebrity abroad and I'm a big fan. So, this year my husband remarked, 'There's no way we can top last year's Ascot win with Frankie.' Consequently, my chatting up and shaking hands with the King of England, who presented us the Group 1 trophy, left him shaking his head in disbelief.”

Medallion Racing is an exclusive partnership for people who have discretionary income and a passion for Thoroughbred racing. Groups are formed annually and typically close at the end of a two-year cycle. Partners buy in for $50,000 and there are no mark-ups or disposition fees outside of the industry standards of a 5% bloodstock commission on purchases and 5% consignor fee at sale.

“We work hard to manage all expenses and keep any administrative costs to a minimum,” said Shelton. “When a new partnership is created, we offer it to existing partners first and then fill in with new people. Because of how we operate, you don't have to wait two to three years to have a horse running at the highest levels. That can happen within months of joining.”

That recently happened with Medallion's latest investment in Vodka With a Twist. The 2-year-old filly by Thousand Words out of Sky Mesa's Bourbon and a Kiss broke her maiden May 17. Soon after, Medallion Racing put a deal together and bought in. She instantly paid dividends when she scored in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill June 30, taking the $136,000 winner's share of the purse and being stamped as a GI Kentucky Oaks contender for next year.

“We thought she would be very tough in the Debutante off her maiden score. The plan was to go to Churchill and then to Del Mar and hopefully she can continue to improve and work her way to the Breeders' Cup,” said Shelton.

Kugler was equally enthusiastic.

“No sooner did we return stateside than the newest Medallion find, 2-year-old filly Vodka With a Twist, was entered to run in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill,” said Kugler. “We made the trip there to see her win gate-to-wire in a fast, impressive Debutante Stakes performance. That gave us three wins in 10 days, counting the deserving Papilio (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) who also won on June 20.”

Vodka With a Twist | Renee Torbit/Coady Media

Their expertise in selecting horses is only part of the value Medallion Racing provides for their partners.

“Our number one job is the communication of the truth and doing what is right by the horse,” said Sheldon. “We want our partners to be engaged on every level. If we are interested in a horse, we will produce a video explaining our rationale for the purchase and what our goals are for the horse. Using technology like the Racing Manager App and Voice notes, we are able to push out an abundance of information to our partners. I'll make all my trainer calls early in the week and get that information out to each partner. We want everyone to be engaged.”

McNulty has seen this firsthand.

“The communication from Phil and Molly Hyer of the Medallion team is extraordinary as they consistently provide all members updates and all information on all horses in the stable,” he said. “Additionally, they make sure Medallion horses race at a high level at high-profile tracks–Del Mar, Santa Anita, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Belmont and of course in Europe at the Curragh and Royal Ascot. This latest experience of winning the Coronation at Royal Ascot in a Group 1 with this amazing 3-year-old filly Porta Fortuna, you can't quite get your head around it especially when you're on the stand with Phil and other partners and we are all shaking King Charles's hand. Haven't washed my hand in 10 days!! Hard for all of us to experience anything close to this if out on our own, no doubt.”

Above Phillip Shelton's desk is a sign that reads “Just Say Yes,” and he takes that motto seriously as the racing manager of the partnerships.

“I always ask the questions such as, 'are we serving all the needs of our partners? Are we helping our partners achieve their dreams? How can we make this the best experience possible?'” he said. “That experience includes exceptional concierge services to make the racing experience truly unforgettable. From travel arrangements to premium seating at races, Medallion handles everything, so partners can focus on the joy of ownership.

“I believe Taylor Made has a model that can deliver exclusive experiences to an exclusive set of people who love the game. That can mean getting 19 partners to Ireland for a big race or making sure to send someone the right size hat.”

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