By Bill Finley
Coming off a banner year in which its fillies finished one-two in the GI Coaching Club American Oaks, WinStar Stablemates Racing burst out of the starting gate in 2021 going two-for-two on Friday. The victories included a win by Gulf Coast (Union Rags) in the Cash Run S. at Gulfstream.
“It's nice to get off to such a great start and we are very excited for 2021,” said WinStar CEO and President Elliott Walden. “To be two-for-two is great for our owners.”
The WinStar racing partnership is an offshoot of WinStar Stablemates, a club formed in 2011 that allowed members inside access to all things WinStar. Hoping to attract new owners into the business, WinStar branched out and started WinStar Stablemates Racing in 2018. The stable won with its first-ever starter, capturing the 2018 Wayward Lass S. at Tampa Bay Downs with Well Humored (Distorted Humor). All of the Stablemates horses are fillies.
The partners don't actually own the horses. Instead, they lease them for racing purposes for the year. At the end of the year, the fillies will either join the WinStar broodmare band, return to WinStar's regular stable or be part of the next year's Stablemates stable.
There are 100 slots available and Walden said about 40 have already been sold for this year. The members share in the ownership of all the horses in the stable and the fees they pay go to offset the training costs.
“With the first Stablemates program we had a fan initiative for about 10 years and thought this was the next step to grow more owners and to educate them,” Walden said. “This is a great opportunity for people to get a taste of what it is like to own high-caliber horses without a lot of cost. It gives people an opportunity to get in and share in the ownership without having to be a Kenny Troutt or a B. Wayne Hughes. Hopefully, our owners will graduate and go on and do their own thing, just the same as if they were involved with West Point or a number of other syndicates.”
WinStar Stablemates Racing had its finest hour in last year's Coaching Club at Saratoga, where Paris Lights (Curlin) defeated fellow WinStar Stablemates runner Crystal Ball (Malibu Moon) by a neck. Paris Lights has not run back since and Crystal Ball returned to finish fifth in the GI Alabama S. Both will run this year and are again part of the racing partnership. Walden said that Crystal Ball could run within the next four to six weeks and that Paris Lights could return shortly after that. Paris Lights is back in training in South Florida with Bill Mott.
“She came up with a little something behind and needed some time off,” Walden said. “She didn't need any surgery, but we felt like she was worth waiting on and wanted to do the right thing. We wound up having to give her 60 days off and we kept her in light training at the farm and just sent her back down about a month ago.”
Walden has high expectations for the Grade I winner in 2021.
“With Paris Lights being by Curlin, we are really excited about her 4-year-old year,” Walden said. “They tend to get better with age. She's a filly who has done nothing wrong and improved in all her starts. I think she's going to be one of the best fillies in the country this year.”
The 2021 roster for the stable consists of 12 horses. Walden explained that they are all fillies because WinStar owns many of its colts in partnerships with other stables, including the China Horse Club, and because well-bred fillies always have the potential to join the WinStar broodmare band when done racing.
WinStar's big day on Friday began with Signify (Speightstown), the winner of a $15,000 maiden claimer at Turfway Park. About an hour and 20 minutes later, Gulf Coast squared off against seven others in the Cash Run, a one-mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies. It was her third lifetime start after she broke her maiden at Indiana Downs and then finished second in the Sandpiper S. at Tampa Bay Downs. Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, she won by a half-length. She was purchased for $300,000 at the OBS April Sale.
“What's exciting is that with her win we now have 12 fillies and three of them are stakes horses,” Walden said. “That's not an easy feat.”
With the Coaching Club win, WinStar Stablemates Racing had its best year ever in 2020. They won nine races, including the Iowa Distaff S. at Prairie Meadows. They have Paris Lights and Crystal Ball coming back and Gulf Coast is an improving horse. Walden is also looking forward to the debut of Seascape (Distorted Humor), a 3-year-old WinStar homebred trained by Dallas Stewart who is part of the syndicate.
“This definitely could be our best year,” he said. “We have two Grade I fillies and Gulf Coast is now a stakes winner. The best thing about this is the passion these owners have for the industry. It should be a very exciting year for us.”