Last year was a big one for the resume of Alex Solis II, spearheaded by the success of Kentucky Derby winner Country House and Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Covfefe, both selected or managed by Solis/Litt Bloodstock.
Just a few days into 2020, Solis has laid the foundation to grow upon that success by becoming the new director of bloodstock at Gainesway. Solis, 35, will remain based in Los Angeles, Calif., through June, at which point he will move to Kentucky on a full-time basis.
Solis took a moment to discuss his new position, his goals with Gainesway, and reflect upon an unforgettable 2019.
Question: Why was now the time to associate yourself with a farm?
Alex Solis II: “I have a great deal of respect for Antony Beck and Brian Graves. When Brian took the helm at Gainesway, he was bouncing ideas off me and mentioned that he was looking for more help at the farm. I guess he could tell I was somewhat interested if the role and its responsibilities made sense for me. He called me back a month later and asked if I'd be willing to do something.”
Q: What in particular made the Gainesway position appealing to take?
A: “Antony Beck has a great passion for the sport. He understands the need to take advantage of opportunities as they are presented and can play the game on multiple fronts. I can call him about a horse and he can make decisions instantly – that's how I want to operate; there's an ease and trust to that kind of relationship.
“Gainesway is a family operation which is really exciting for me to be a part of. Antony's kids have grown up on the farm and want to be involved in the operation – they love horses. The Beck family has been custodians of Gainesway for 30 years, which gives me confidence in the future. Being around a family who wants to work together and contribute to the farm's legacy is energizing.
“I'm also looking forward to working with Brian – I respect his eye and horsemanship immensely. We often land on similar horses at sales, so hopefully it will be a seamless transition working together selecting horses for the stable.”
Q: What are your day-to-day responsibilities with Gainesway?
A: “Much of the work will be what I currently do for other clients. I'll attend every sale, watch races, help strategize and streamline. I think the best way to describe my job would be to keep Gainesway's finger on the pulse of what's happening in the industry. I will have more focus on identifying stallion prospects than previously as I have never been associated with a stud farm.
“I'll also be managing Antony's racing stable, which is great. It was a natural fit for me to go to Gainesway – there is a lot of crossover between my role there and what I do for Solis/Litt clients. As long as we have the right infrastructure and the right team in place, I have no worries.”
Q: What are your early goals with Gainesway?
A: “For the short term, I will be focused on the racing stable. Building relationships with trainers, understanding what is going on with each horse and their history, organizing the roster so that Antony feels confident he knows what is going on with each of them. Of course, we'd love to get a stallion in the stable pretty soon, so we'll be on the hunt to find the right one. You'd love for your first deal to be a good deal.”
Q: What were the conversations like with the rest of the Solis/Litt team throughout the process?
A: ” Jason [Litt] and Madison [Scott] were both very supportive from the beginning. Jason asked a lot of questions, and said to make sure I had all them answered before saying yes or no. It was really simple. Jason is a great partner to have, and I think he was excited for me to expand everything I've worked for so far.
Q: What has the feedback been like from your clients?
A: “I talked to them before I made a decision on what I was doing – there wasn't one negative thing said. It was a big deal to me to make sure the Roths (owners of LNJ Foxwoods) were OK with this – they have been so supportive and good to Jason and I since LNJ Foxwoods began. We flew to New York to have a meeting with them and make sure they were all good with the transition – they were appreciative I went to talk to them and excited. They have a couple partnerships with Antony already, so they're excited about doing more with him. I think you'll see a lot more done between LNJ Foxwoods and Gainesway.”
Q: Country House's Derby win was a big moment for your bloodstock career. Tell us about that experience.
A: “It was a surreal moment. The way it all happened, being it was a homebred of Jerry Shields, who I did some work for, that was pretty special. Maury [Shields] and Guinness [McFadden] have always been very supportive of me. I went to all the races in Louisiana with Guinness, and we enjoyed ourselves.
“Country House ran second in the Risen Star, and then the Louisiana Derby was a little disappointing. I really did think he was set up to run a huge race that day with more distance, and for Bill Mott to call and say he wanted to go to the Arkansas Derby, I'm thinking in my head, 'We're really going to push for the Derby? Jeez, Bill. This is aggressive. You've got a really good Belmont horse here.'
“Bill runs him, and he runs third behind Omaha Beach, and I thought, 'Perfect, that'll set him up for the Belmont,' and Bill said he wanted to push on with him. I'm thinking, 'Gosh, he must really love this horse.' For him to run second in the Derby, we were just proud of that. You didn't think the whole inquiry thing at the Derby was going to happen, but I could see the merit in it. When it happened, I think it was all just meant to be, and I think Jerry was up top looking down on us.”
Q: Covfefe had a huge season in 2019. How did she fit the profile of what you like to see in a young racehorse?
A: “From the moment we saw her, Jason and I really liked her. Jason loves a lot of Helen Alexander's families, and he kept saying he wanted to get something in this family, and I'd say, 'We'll find one, don't worry.'
“Covfefe is by Into Mischief, and we've always had an affinity for Into Mischief. She had a presence about her, just a quiet, good-walking filly, great hind leg. She was just on the smaller side. You never thought she was going to be a route filly. You knew from the beginning what you were getting.
“It was fun to watch the natural progression of the horse getting better. It reminds you when you put them in the right spots and they win races, they get more and more confident. That's the most important thing – the desire to do it.”
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