Porta Fortuna Is Medallion Racing's Lucky Charm at Ascot

Porta Fortuna Wins the Albany Under Frankie Dettori | Getty Images

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Ever since Porta Fortuna (Ire) (Caravaggio)'s win in the G3 Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies Sprint S. at Naas last month, bloodstock agent Mark McStay had been pestering Taylor Made's Mark Taylor to make his plans to come to Royal Ascot. But the Taylor family is more known for probity and hard work than they are flights of fancy, and Taylor demurred, citing preparations for upcoming sales in America.

But when Porta Fortuna launched a determined bid and got up for the win in Friday's G3 Albany S. at Ascot to give Taylor Made's Medallion Racing partnership a win at the royal meeting, Taylor couldn't be blamed for maybe having thought twice about his decision.

“It's been two and a half hours, and I think my blood pressure has just come down to the point where I can have a conversation with you that you can understand,” said Taylor, reached after the race. “I'm a very superstitious person, so the agent who helped us find this filly, Mark McStay, he has been texting me literally three times a week since she won her last race, saying, `you've got to come, you've got to come, you've got to come.' And historically, any time I go to great lengths to see a race, things never go well. So, I've got a lot going on here, I've got to get ready for sales season, I'm not going. When I was watching the race, there were 18 horses, some of the best two-year-olds that have come out in Europe so far are in this race, and I thought if we could crack the top four it would be a great accomplishment. I was trying to temper everybody's expectations, and then when she put on that move and put everybody away. It was just surreal. I was watching it, saying, `is this really happening?' It was fantastic.”

Medallion and its partners-Barry Fowler, Steve Weston and Dean Reeves-bought the filly after the win at Naas, telling the TDN at the time that the partnership tries to buy one or two horses a year in Europe.

“I was very happy for our partners, both our partners in Medallion Racing that enable our team to go build the stable and also the people that come in alongside us like Barry Fowler, Steve Weston, and Dean Reeves because they put their confidence in us. With Steve Weston and with Barry, we've bought into some horses that have gotten hurt, didn't pan out, but they've stuck with us, and to see Steve Weston's silks cross the finish line at Ascot and to see him get to lead that filly in, it just really made me so happy because he's such a loyal guy, he's such a just great human being. I was crying for him, I was just so happy for Steve.”

Mark Taylor | Fasig-Tipton photo

Taylor said that Medallion has around 25 partners, each of which invests $50,000 or more in the partnership. The group raises from $1.2 million to $1.7 million every two years, only buys proven horses, and every partner is in on every horse.

“Our model is we buy all female horses and we buy horses that have already run who we believe have graded stakes talent off of what they've done so far. A lot of times, we have to pay; we're not stealing these horses. Everybody would like to go in and buy them, but we're also willing to let the existing partners stay in. A lot of times, we can leave them with the same trainer.”

In Porta Fortuna's case, they left her with her trainer, Donnacha O'Brien, son of the original owner, Annemarie O'Brien. Taylor said he felt that it was accommodations like that which help them to get a leg up on others who might be offering more.

“We try to be very accommodating partners, which allows us to get a crack,” he said. “Even though somebody else might offer more money, they're going to take the whole horse and do their own thing. So we try to be more flexible and just allow our people to participate on stages like Royal Ascot or the Kentucky Oaks or the Breeders' Cup or Grade Ones at big racetracks. Our theory is that once people get a taste of that, they might want to play on their own and take it to a larger level, or they might want to stay with this model. We have had some people that have gone outside and tried to do it themselves, which is great. It drives investment in the game.”

Porta Fortuna was well-represented by her American owners at Ascot this week, with Medallion's Philip Shelton as well as Reeves, Fowler and Weston, and at least six additional Medallion members on hand for the win. Ironically enough, it wasn't Taylor Made's only connections to succeed at Ascot this week. Other Taylor Made customers, Black Ridge Stable, won the Queen Mary with Crimson Advocate (Nyquist).

“We were going crazy for her when they won the other day, and then in my superstitious mind, I was like, `Well, there's no way two horses are going to win at Ascot with Taylor Made connections.' For it to happen twice, it was beyond words.”

In addition to creating and nurturing new owners, Medallion also has a goal of showing off the sport at its best.

“In Medallion, we want to educate the people who come into the sport about all aspects of racing, including international racing, and to showcase to them how well these horses are taken care of. So many people look at our sport and say negative comments like, `These horses are just pawns in this big game,' but they're really not. We partner with people and we employ trainers that really care about these horses. And we try to shed light on that anytime we can so that our partners can see these horses are really loved, they're cared about, and we cheer for them and love them whether they win or lose.”

And even if he wasn't on hand, Taylor said he'd celebrate the win in typical Ascot-and typical Taylor–fashion. “I will drink some champagne,” he said. “But I'll wait until 5:00 tonight.”

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