By Brian Sheerin
Medallion Racing's Phillip Shelton has explained how the sweet taste of Royal Ascot success with Porta Fortuna (Ire) (Caravaggio) has made the ownership group hungrier than ever, which has lead to the racing manager for the American-based outfit make his first trip to the Goffs Orby Sale this week.
The plan, according to Shelton, is to purchase three or four yearlings to support Donnacha O'Brien, the mastermind behind that brilliant G3 Albany S. success back in June.
Medallion Racing has already been on the scoresheet at the Goffs UK Sale at Doncaster this year. Fillies by Ten Sovereigns and Australia were added to the team for £82,000 and £100,000 respectively through bloodstock agent Mark McStay.
Up until this point, Shelton and McStay had been working solely to snap up form horses, with Porta Fortuna the most high profile recruit.
However, given the success they enjoyed this year with that star filly, who is on target for the G1 Cheveley Park S. next, Shelton and his investors have decided to go right to the very source and try and find a group of talented yearlings to go into training with O'Brien.
He explained, “Generally, we have almost exclusively been buying form horses out of Europe but, due to the success we have been enjoying, we decided to make the trip to the Orby to try and buy some yearlings. We brought a large group of people over to Ireland for the Irish Derby weekend this year and the appetite has continued to grow. We wanted to get more involved in running horses in Europe and, at some point, bringing some back to America. I'm definitely looking forward to the Orby.”
Porta Fortuna wasn't Medallion's original pick. The owners tend to try and buy horses who have finished placed in Europe, rather than those who have won, because the option to return to America for lucrative maiden races is always there. However, such was the style in which Porta Fortuna won her maiden at the Curragh on debut, Shelton was convinced that she was the right filly to add to the roster.
Shelton said, “What I would say is that we are always looking at what the next two or three months looks like for any horse we buy in America or in Europe. At the time, we had Del Mar in the back of our minds and said that, if we could find something that had finished second or third on debut, we could go to the Group 3 at Naas and, if you break your maiden there it's a home run deal. If you just run well, you can go to Ascot knowing that you will not be a 100-1 shot. We just didn't fall in love with the second and third-placed horses in Porta Fortuna's race so we decided to buy the winner instead.
“Another thing I would say is, Mark and I are constantly back and forth about what could be bought and what the buzz is on certain horses in Ireland. We try to get a good read on the form and, visually, we were just so impressed with Porta Fortuna on debut. Luckily, we have a lot of customers and partners who said, 'hey, if you guys like it, we'll jump in.'” But all the credit needs to go to Donnacha and his team for having her in great form all year and fingers crossed she can run well in the Cheveley Park and then on to the Breeders' Cup.”
The equine talent is not the only lure for Shelton as he describes the ownership experience that O'Brien has provided all of the investors at Medallion Racing to be hands down on another planet to what owners in America have become accustomed to with the bigger barns.
He said, “Working with Donnacha has been an unbelievable experience for us. Donnacha is very hungry and, what I like about everything is that his communication and how he explains what he is thinking about doing with the filly has been absolutely first class. We use The Racing Manager for communication with all of our partners and, when we came to Ireland, Donnacha spent a bunch of time with us. The biggest problem a lot of the American trainers have is they have so many horses and they are set up in so many different locations. Frankly, the communication is just not very good. You very rarely get any form of content from any trainer in America. But the communication with Donnacha has been very good.
“Take Porta Fortuna, there are four partners involved in her at 25 per cent apiece. We want Donnacha to drive the bus but we have guys who are putting up real money and all they want is to be included in the conversation and have their opinion be heard. It doesn't mean Donnacha has to do it, not at all.”
He added, “In America, with the bigger stables, you are just being dictated to. Donnacha will send multiple voice messages about what he thinks of a race, what he thinks about tactics and he'll just ping that across. That means that I can just circulate that among our partners and it has been a complete game-changer.
“We want to deliver a very high level racing experience. We've had roughly 300 starters in the last seven years and 25 per cent of those have come in Grade 1s. It's a very high level experience and, frankly, every horse I have had in training in Ireland, be it with Donnacha, Johnny Murtagh or Paddy Twomey, the communication and the level of involvement we get is significantly higher than in America.”
There is said to be a typically-strong travelling contingent of American buyers making their way to the Goffs Orby Sale this week. Their presence at the sale in recent years has provided a fascinating subplot and Shelton says he is hoping that this trip marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Medallion Racing.
He said, “We'll be looking to buy three or four more at Goffs this week. We want to be averaging about €150,000 but we might partner up on one if we really like it. I know it is a sale that has been well-attended in the past by American buyers and last year Goffs had Niall Brennan, the Gladwells and David Ingordo. The reality in America right now is that dirt horses are very hard to keep sound and these turf horses are becoming more popular. We're looking forward to this week and the trip is all about how we can best serve our partners.”
Shelton added, “It is in our best interests to keep our partners happy and we try to deliver something they could never do on their own, whether it's leveraging our connections or utilising our experience in the industry. I always say that, if you want to go and buy a Porsche, all you need is the money to do it. There's no secret formula.
“If you want to go to Ascot or run at the Breeders' Cup, it's going to take a significant amount of capital, but we can bring that down significantly for some people and there's no better example than Porta Fortuna. How many people dream of winning a race at Royal Ascot and how many dollars do they spend trying to chase that dream? All of our guys got to experience that for pennies on the dollar.”