Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: Dubb ‘Takes Chances,’ Pleasure In Helping Others

by | 01.11.2017 | 2:58pm
Michael Dubb with jockey Jose Ortiz

To understand Michael Dubb is to go far beyond his stature as the preeminent owner on the rugged New York circuit.

His greatest satisfaction has nothing to do with the 78 wins last season that secured his third consecutive New York Racing Association owner's title and fifth in seven years. It has everything to do with his impact on backstretch workers and their families.

“The people who take care of the horses, they get up at five o'clock every morning. They have hard lives. Nobody pays attention to them,” Dubb said. “They deserve a decent place for their kids and they deserve a decent place to sleep. That is our obligation.”

He could not take that obligation more seriously. After he learned some children of backstretch workers were seen sleeping in cars at Belmont Park in the early morning hours, he responded by having his company, the Beechwood Organization, build an on-site day care center in 2002 that came to be known as Anna House.

Dubb says of his involvement as chairman of the Belmont Child Care Association,  “This is a gift that keeps on giving because I come here and the kids are just tremendous. I come here and I get big hugs and kisses.”

Anna House remains open throughout the year. Children receive an early education that can prove to be invaluable. Many of them speak primarily Spanish when they are enrolled. They are invariably fluent in English when they graduate.

Dubb's commitment to grooms and hotwalkers does not end there. As a New York Racing Association board member, he has been a strident voice in expressing the need to provide them with better housing. He recently oversaw construction of a three-floor, 47-unit dormitory at Belmont Park. He has been responsible for refurbishing many other units at Belmont and Saratoga Race Course.

“I have a lot more respect for the people who work on the backside,” he said, “than I do for a lot of the arrogant owners.”

Despite his success, or perhaps because of it, some counterparts do not view him as a gentle man with a big heart. They quietly criticize him for his involvement with controversial trainers Rick Dutrow Jr. and Rudy Rodriguez.

Dubb founded Belmont Park's on-site daycare center, Anna House, in 2002

Dubb founded Belmont Park's on-site daycare center, Anna House, in 2002

Dutrow had his license revoked for at least 10 years in 2011 after racing authorities found him guilty of numerous transgressions. Dubb's association with Rodriguez, who had a series of positive tests for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Banamine in 2013, has been integral to his success.

Dubb, 60, vigorously defends his integrity.

“If I thought for a second a trainer was taking an edge,” he said, “I would be out of there faster than lightning.”

Although he severed ties with Dutrow well before the trainer's suspension, he said of that separation, “I just didn't want to be involved in the controversy.”

Dubb called Dutrow a “phenomenal” horseman and added, “I still don't believe he was a quote unquote cheater the way the public perceives him.”

Those Banamine overages found in Rodriguez's horses?

“I'm not diminishing that,” he said. “I think it was growing pains. I think he found he could train without Banamine, period.”

Dubb emphasizes that his success with Rodriguez and other trainers stems from hard work and the ability to spot what others might have missed. He makes sure to stay heavily involved with a stable that numbers approximately 100 horses worth an estimated $4 million to $5 million.

Rodriguez, for instance, claimed Royal Posse for $20,000 in May 2015. Royal Posse successfully defended his title in the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel in December.

“I really claim horses – and I claim a lot of them – with the hope that every once in awhile, I can claim one that can move on and do great things,” Dubb said. “The rest are just going to cycle through the barn. Either I'll win a few races and lose them or I won't win a few races and lose a few dollars and drop them down.”

Rodriguez, an ex-jockey who was an understudy to the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and Dutrow, could not feel more indebted to Dubb for keeping faith in him.

“It means the world to us. We had some positives with Banamine and if it wasn't for him, we'd be out of the game,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of people didn't want to hear how the horses came up positive.”

Rodriguez attributes Dubb's handiwork in the claiming game, the foundation for the owner's success, to his aggressiveness at the claiming box and in his placement of horses. “He doesn't hesitate. He takes chances,” Rodriguez said.

Wavell Avenue gave Dubb his first Breeders' Cup win in 2015

Wavell Avenue gave Dubb his first Breeders' Cup win in 2015

Dubb acquired his business acumen without the benefit of college. He built a landscaping business while he was in high school and never looked back. His Beechwood Organization has built approximately 8,000 homes.

Dubb's racing operation grew rapidly after he entered the game in 2001.

“If you want to know why I am successful,” he said, “I will tell you it's because of diversification and self-control.”

Of the 100 or so horses he owns, most in partnerships, he estimates that 30 are claimers, 10 are stakes horses and another 10 belong in the allowance ranks. Newly-minted 2-year-olds and turned-out horses comprise his remaining holdings. No matter how he acquires horses, he does everything possible to limit each transaction to $100,000. He is not involved in breeding.

“He's willing to play at every level and he knows where to put a horse to win,” said Sol Kumin, who partnered with Dubb when Wavell Avenue gave Dubb his first Breeders' Cup victory in the Filly & Mare Sprint in 2015.

“I absolutely aspire to race at the highest levels. I just don't chase it,” Dubb said. “In other words, I don't go to the sale and buy the obvious horse. I'd rather buy the unobvious horse.”

He finds winning sweet at any level. But nothing matches the joy of seeing a smile light up the face of a child at Anna House.

Tom Pedulla wrote for USA Today from 1995-2012 and has been a contributor to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Blood-Horse, America's Best Racing and other publications.

  • Genellen

    Mr. Dubb is a real inspiration when it comes to supporting the backstretch workers — a successor, perhaps, to continuing all the good work Marylou Whitney and her husband have done in their behalf at Saratoga.

    I do wonder about where the horses he claims that “cycle through the barn” and “drop down” end up? It would be wonderful if he could also support their aftercare with a similar kind of dedication and devotion. Perhaps he does? Does anyone know?

  • Larry Sterne

    Hope he keeps big picture in mind If any help comes up with violations you’ll not only not only be dropped down but dropped out the back gate. Know one person can’t do it all but all can have high standards. Grateful for what you have done for backside. Hope the track and other owners follow.

  • Turf Paradise Tommy

    Shame on you, Paulick. You’ve done so much good work on integrity and drug issues and now you run a puff story on an owner who uses every needle guy on the backstretch and was a staunch defender of Dutrow. While Mr. Dubb may do some good things, his continuing support of suspect trainers is appalling.

    • Figless

      The conflict of interest is obvious when someone in management claims horses and/or has one of his horses test positive. As most are owners, there is not much that can be done about the positive test issue, but track management should be banned from claiming horses for optics sake.

      • togahombre

        he sits on the nyra board, which is regulated by the gaming commission,if he were on the gaming commission and raced ( which is done in kentucky and california), i could see your point

        • affirmed

          True, and because he is on the nyra board, its easier for him to know when to do his thing!! Meaning Rudy Rodriguez

          • togahombre

            who tells you to do things, the voice your bed?

    • This looks to be a Breeders’ Cup sponsored piece, so the BC may have hired writer Tom Pedulla to write it and Paulick may be obligated to run it as part of a business transaction. I share your sentiments, but do not go as far as to blame Paulick.

      • RayPaulick

        To set the record straight, I asked Tom Pedulla to write the piece and specifically wanted Michael Dubb’s association with Rick Dutrow and Rudy Rodriguez to be addressed as part of the profile on the leading owner at the New York Racing Association tracks. Tom asked the questions and Michael Dubb responded.

        While Breeders’ Cup sponsors the weekly “Connections” feature, it does not dictate, guide, edit or have final approval of the content.

        Part of my reasoning for wanting to profile Michael Dubb was his 2013 testimony (by telephone) before the Kentucky Racing Commission’s licensing committee when the license of Rudy Rodriguez was being considered. Dale Romans also testified on behalf of Rodriguez. Dubb said Rodriguez was a “first-class human being and epitomizes the American dream.”

        I thought the statement demonstrated great loyalty. The article was about Dubb, not his trainers.

        • lastromantibune

          without MD NY racing would be the loser

  • Michael Beauregard

    You bash Rudy to know end. If only you could train at that level. The man is a horsemen get over it Keep up the good work Rudy

  • Larry Ensor

    Went to High School with Micheal. We partied hardy. But while the rest of our gang were lazing about the next day he was on the job. Mowing lots of lawns. He didn’t made the list of most “likely to succeed”. He and most of us proved them wrong. One way or another. Micheal more than the rest of us combined.

    You’ve done Wheatley proud!!!

  • Kevin Callinan

    It’s nice to read a nice, balanced article about anything for a change. I’d been disappointed with this tandem when the have shipped to Monmouth- a few have barely made it off the track. To see someone make it and give back in a big way outweighs a few ‘growing pains’. I’d much rather see someone loyal to their trainer as opposed to the Mattress Matt business model.

  • Nucky Thompson

    Looking forward to reading the next exciting episode in the series ..David Jacobson !

  • affirmed

    Good question..

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