By Jessica Martini
George Sharp had been repeatedly shut out in his attempts to add to his 14-horse racing stable in the claiming ranks, so he was bidding not to lose when he purchased recent stakes winner Hello Hot Rod (Mosler) (hip 672) for $335,000 during Tuesday's session of the Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale.
“My agent Charlie Allen, who was at Fasig-Tipton, picked him out,” Sharp said Tuesday evening from his Scottsdale, Arizona, home. “He picked out a few horses and I watched Hot Rod's races and the horse has a lot of guts. He seems to be a little immature still, but I like horses who look like they can improve. And this is definitely one of them.”
Hello Hot Rod won back-to-back starts at Laurel late last year and was coming off a gritty victory in the Jimmy Winkfield S. at Aqueduct just days before the Fasig-Tipton auction.
“I have high hopes for him,” Sharp said of the 3-year-old colt. “It might be a little too late to get to the Derby, but hopefully the Breeders' Cup where he will have a choice of races that we can get him into.”
Hello Hot Rod is expected to head west and arrive at the Turf Paradise base of trainer Shawn Davis this weekend.
“We will evaluate him over a week or two and work him and check his maturity level,” Sharp said of plans for his latest acquisition. “The Turf Paradise Derby, which is a 3-year-old $50,000 stakes, is on Mar. 12. If we feel he needs an easy spot to braven up, we might put him in there. But it is possible, if we feel he is strong enough, that we might go to a different Derby prep, or pre-Derby prep. And then see how he does. Or we can just go to the Turf Paradise Derby and then decide if we are going to do a Derby prep.”
Davis, a three-time world champion saddle bronc rider and a member of the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame, trains 2018 GIII Aristides S. winner Chief Cicatriz (Munnings).
“We are here [at Turf Paradise] for now, until April or May, and then we are going to decide if we are going to either Kentucky or California or Texas,” Sharp said of plans for the Davis stable. “It's more likely that the barn is going east than west. And if we do it make it to Churchill [for the Derby] by some fluke of a chance, then we will probably just head that way a little earlier.”
Sharp is an investor and in mergers and acquisitions, as well as conducting investigations into stock market fraud. His first involvement in racing came in the Standardbred industry in the late 1990s.
“I was living in Los Angeles at the time and I was racing at Los Alamitos and then there was no more racing at Los Alamitos,” Sharp said. “So I raced around the country for a little while, but it consumed my life a little too much. The Standardbreds race every week and I always had a race somewhere in the country. I was traveling too much and neglecting the rest of my life. So I took a little siesta from the business and then I went into Thoroughbreds in 2015.”
Sharp currently has 13 horses based at Turf Paradise, plus one runner in California. He also has two broodmares in California.
“I'm in the business of racing,” he said. “I raise them to race them.”
Sharp said he is passionate about his horses and isn't afraid to get a little emotional after a special win. He scored his first victory at Del Mar with League of Shadows (Gotham City) in a 2019 allowance contest.
He said of that experience, “League of Shadows is a horse who has had a lot of health issues. I spent $60,000 to save his life once, but I love my animals. It's what I do. But if you watch the TVG replay, they interviewed me afterwards and I was very emotional in the winner's circle. You save a horse's life and then he goes and wins an allowance race, it's very emotional. I don't think I would be emotional if I won the Kentucky Derby, but that horse winning that race was a big deal to me.”
Sharp's stable includes a 2-year-old half-sister to League of Shadows who he hopes to see go postward later this year.
“I wouldn't mind getting a couple of older horses for some of the minor stakes around,” Sharp said of plans for his stable. “But they have proven to be very difficult to buy or even claim. I've been out-shook on so many claims at Santa Anita, I've been on a cold streak. I missed out on another 3-year-old that I really coveted. So today, I was just determined I was not going to lose.”
Sharp said Hello Hot Rod's $335,000 price tag was “by far” the most expensive horse he had ever purchased. But the colt wasn't Sharp's only purchase Tuesday. He also purchased a 2-year-old filly privately, spending $250,000 for a daughter of Daredevil out of stakes winner Jaws N' Paws (Onebadshark).
“The second most expensive horse I've bought was the filly I bought this morning,” Sharp said. “She is coming to Turf Paradise. They tell me she is the absolute real deal. She's already breezing, so we'll see how she progresses and then make a decision on her. It's going to be a fun year.”
And Sharp is more than ready to welcome Hello Hot Rod to Arizona.
“We are already planning some Hello Hot Rod giveaways, the obligatory hats, and he'll probably have a Twitter account by the end of the week,” Sharp said.
He concluded, “I like the business. I have always liked the business. It's not exactly a good investment, but it's more fun than I could ever possibly have imagined.”