Sometimes it's a little bit of foresight that makes all the difference in hindsight. That was thinking behind Jill and Shane Rose's decision to put the note on the papers of the colt they bred and sold at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Yearling Sale. Affixed to the horse's Jockey Club registration papers, the note simply stated that if the horse ever needed a home during any point of his career, to please contact Cerca Trova (their farm name), and included all necessary information.
That day the colt sold for $230,000 to well-known 2-year-old pinhooker and conditioner Nick de Meric, and the following spring he was entered in the OBS March Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Rob Masiello had been at that sale, shopping for a racing prospect to add to his stable. The colt, a strapping son of Candy Ride (ARG), caught his eye, and when the hammer dropped at $390,000, Rob was his new owner. He didn't realize until receiving the colt's papers upon completion of the sale that he shared a similar mindset to his new horse's breeders.
“He was one of the first horses we looked at and he kind of just set the bar for every other horse we saw,” said Masiello, who was shopping for horses that day with trainer Tom Morley and bloodstock advisor Joe Migliore of West Point Thoroughbreds. “I got the Jockey Club papers after the sale and there was a note on them that said, 'Please contact us if this horse needs a home at any point in his career.' I'm on the board of the TRF (Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation) and It was not only heartwarming, but incredibly meaningful to see a breeder include that note.”
It meant so much to Masiello, in fact, that he contacted the Roses' Cerca Trova Farm using the information included with the papers to thank them for making that gesture on their horse's behalf.
“Robert reached out to me via email and wanted to let me know that he was the gentleman that purchased our Candy Ride colt and how much he appreciated that note on the papers,” said Jill. “He reassured me that whether this Candy Ride colt was a superstar or if he was claimed away, Robert would always ensure a soft landing. His email absolutely made my day! Robert, as the owner, has high hopes for this colt, as do Shane and I as breeders, and it is one less worry about what happens next.”
Masiello has such high hopes for the colt that he chose to name him Mr. Mike after his own father, Mike Masiello. Mr. Mike [the horse] is currently in training with Morley at Belmont Park and has been doing everything right since being purchased.
“He just breezed 3/8 on Saturday. He's a big chestnut and you could see him growing into a nice, strong two-turn type of horse,” said Masiello. “He's a Candy Ride, so we hope he'll mature with age. We're trying to take our time with him and if all goes well, we'll try to debut him during the Saratoga meet.”
Mr. Mike is the latest of a growing list of horses Masiello has been involved with at the ownership level. It was a radio commercial for West Point Thoroughbreds that first got him interested in the idea of Thoroughbred ownership.
“I heard Terry [Finley, President and CEO of West Point Thoroughbreds] on a radio ad in college and sent him a long email saying that I'm just a college kid and don't have any money to get involved right now, but some day I want to own Thoroughbreds,” said Masiello.
Finley responded in less than fifteen minutes, answering all of the questions posed in the email and encouraging him to keep in touch and ask him more questions as he thought of them.
A few years after he graduated from college, Masiello bought into his first racehorse with West Point Thoroughbreds, and since then he's been a partner on a number of their runners, including Twilight Eclipse and King Congie, both of whom were elite-level runners now properly retired, thanks to the efforts of West Point.
“One of the biggest reasons aftercare is so important to me is thanks to Erin [Birkenhauer]. You need people to shepherd you through the sport and help you learn stuff, and Erin helped with that in many ways, including aftercare and second careers for racehorses,” said Masiello of Birkenhauer, who serves as West Point Thoroughbreds' racing manager and director of communications. “I came into this game as a fan and I think when I first thought about buying horses, one thing that scared me was that the horses might not be taken care of. When you go to the backside at the track, you see very quickly that everyone loves these horses. That love doesn't end when their career does.”
Thanks to Birkenhauer, Masiello has gotten so interested in responsible aftercare and helping the industry move forward in that regard that he recently joined the board of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, of which Birkenhauer is a member as well.
“If we're going to ask these animals to run for our pleasure, we damn well better make sure they have a good life until the end,” he said. “That's a big thing with West Point and it trickles down from Terry and Erin. If you want to be in it for the long term, you've got to be in it for the horses.”
Masiello says he's notices a significant amount of change in how the racing and breeding industry considers aftercare in the past five years, and says attachments to registration papers like the one he found on Mr. Mike's when he purchased him validates that sentiment. Rose couldn't agree more.
“As the breeder, it feels good to know that those you have bred are in good hands, and while we may not be able to smooth every bump, in the end there are people that care enough about this colt so he will always have a home to call his own,” said Rose. “As an owner, it made me feel really happy for the industry. Rob as an owner, who has never met us, the breeder, but both of us have similar views on what is the right thing to do after a horse's track career is finished.”
As for Mr. Mike, Masiello is looking forward to the day he and his father can cheer him on together and hopefully take a photo (or several) with him in the winner's circle. Win or lose, he will serve as a custodian for the life and longevity for Mr. Mike and any other horse that bears his name.
“When you name a horse after your father, you obviously have pretty high hopes. I have a daughter now and my dad is the best father and grandfather in the world,” said Masiello. “We hope he's doing big things this time next year, but regardless of what he does on the track, we're going to take great care of him.”
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky and was recently named the Executive Director of the Retired Racehorse Project. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She is the go-to food source for one dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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