Oklahoma-based L and N Racing has only been involved in Thoroughbred ownership for several years, but the group already has made a mark at the upper level of the sport.
In early May at Churchill Downs, the partners watched their 3-year-old colt Lookin At Lee, a 33-1 shot, rally from far back along the inside to finish second to Always Dreaming in the Grade I Kentucky Derby. That effort came on the heels of a third-place finish in the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Majority owner Lee Levinson, an attorney, is joined by his sons, Michael and Andy, and family friend Don Nelson in L and N Racing. Lee Levinson had owned racehorses before but decided to get back in the game on a different level.
“It took some time, but my father got the resources he believed are necessary for him to do (racehorse ownership) the right way,” Michael Levinson, the L and N Racing stable manager, said Aug. 3. “We're up to 13 horses now, and bought our first 2-year-old at auction last year.”
Lookin At Lee, trained by five-time West Virginia Derby-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, was purchased by L & N Racing for $70,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt by Lookin At Lucky quickly made an impression when he began racing as a 2-year-old late last spring.
After a fifth-place finish in his career debut at Churchill, Lookin At Lee broke his maiden at Ellis Park in western Kentucky and came right back to win the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes. He then finished second in the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill and the Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in Kentucky, and ended his season with a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile in California.
So far this year, Lookin At Lee, who competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown, has earned $678,000 without a victory. His owners are hoping the colt connects in the Grade III West Virginia Derby Aug. 5 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort. He is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in a field of 11 in the $750,000 event.
“We're running him at Mountaineer because he needed an extra week (after a July 30 workout),” Levinson said. “The West Virginia Derby is a good opportunity to run after the horse competed in all three Triple Crown races, and the prize money is very good.
“He has been training well and had a really good work along with Gun Runner, and if he's keeping up with that horse, he has to be doing pretty good. He's from our first crop of 3-year-olds, so I'd say we've been pretty fortunate.”
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner, also trained by Asmussen, is considered among the best older horses in training. He is entered in the Grade I Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in New York Aug. 5.
Levinson said the partners are hoping Lookin At Lee races well enough to perhaps return in the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga the last Saturday in August, but they will take a wait-and-see approach. The West Virginia Derby drew what appears to be a very well-matched field of 3-year-olds, several of which appear poised to step up in a big way.
“To have 11 horses entered with all the other 3-year-old races at this time of year is pretty remarkable,” Levinson said of the Derby.
Corey Lanerie, who rode Lookin At Lee in the Kentucky Derby and Grade I Preakness Stakes, will be back in the saddle for the West Virginia Derby, which goes as the eighth race on a nine-race card that begins at the special post time of 2 p.m.
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