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Prominent Owners On COSA TV

Published: May 13, 2020 6:17 pm ET

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A trio of prominent Standardbred owners were the stars in Wednesday night's (May 13) edition of COSA TV, swapping stories from the past and — in one case, at least — sharing a window to the future.

Adriano Sorella, Jeff Davis and Rob Giles joined moderator Greg Blanchard for the panel discussion, with the dialogue largely focusing on the gentlemen's highlights as Standardbred owners.

Sorella, who is heavily involved in the advertising and marketing industries, found his way into horse ownership — and partnership with trainer Casie Coleman — by way of a provincial association mentorship program, and he was hooked from day one.

"After the mentorship program, I asked Casie (Coleman) if I could partner in on some babies," Sorella explained. "She kind of pushed me toward Blake MacIntosh, and I started experimented with the claiming game. The following year, Casie and I bought a few horses.

"She was at the Lexington Sale, and she told me she bought a horse called Vegas Vacation," Sorella continued, noting his affinity for holidays in Las Vegas and indicating that Coleman invited him to buy into the horse. "I didn't even ask how much he was; I said 'Sure, I'll take half.' They thought he would probably sell for $80,000, and then just before the sale, Steve Calhoun backed out. He got out, I got in, and I was lucky to benefit from that."

Ultimately, Vegas Vacation sold for just $32,000, and Sorella hit the jackpot of his life as a partner in Vegas Vacation when he won the Little Brown Jug.

"It was exciting for all of us," said Sorella about Vegas Vacation's Jug win just one year after Coleman sent Michaels Power to victory in the September classic. "To go back and win the Little Brown Jug with Vegas Vacation, it's one of those moments that you think isn't going to happen again. It's a tough race to be in, let alone win it."

After Vegas Vacation, it didn't take long for Sorella to find another diamond in the rough — or, more aptly, the corn fields of Iowa.

"I got a call from an agent that I use — Mark Reynolds — and we had a deal set up for another horse," he recounted. "It fell through in the last minute, and Mark knew I was kind of upset. He called me back a couple days later and told me, 'I've got another horse for you,' but he wouldn't tell me the name."

That horse was Jimmy Freight. Sorella looked up the horse's past performance lines, but was largely underwhelmed with his findings ... until he dug a little deeper.

"I had a horse called Ballerat Boomerang, who raced in Iowa too, and compared the two," Sorella said. "I did a little bit of research, and something caught my eye," he continued, noting he found video of Jimmy Freight racing at What Cheer, Iowa, as a two-year-old. "It looked like they were racing in a sand pit, and he went 1:58.

"We got a deal done. I bought him for $115,000, and he was on a trailer. He missed the first OSS Gold, but he managed to make the second. It was three days after he shipped. He got the seven-hole, he was 10-1, and he ended up winning his first race here in 1:52 and a piece. At the time, I was like, 'Wow, we might have something here.'"

Jimmy Freight lived well beyond the billing, overcoming stretch trouble to win the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final in his three-year-old season. Despite many difficult trips in his career, Jimmy Freight won 21 of 52 races, hit the board in 22 others, and banked over $1.4 million in purses. Now, he stands in Ontario, and his offspring exclusively will be eligible to the innovative Jimmy Freight Stakes, a payment-free event to launch in 2023.

Sorella is far from alone in blazing new trails in harness racing. Davis, an Illinois native who was bit by the racing bug at Quad City Downs in the 1970s and who stands stallions World Of Rocknrolll and Stevensville in the Prairie State, is looking to revitalize horse sales and auctions by embracing mobile technology.

"We were talking about trying to create something easy to use that would have the new technology," Davis said of Hoofbid, a new app for mobile phones dedicated to facilitating Standardbred sales between owners. "Most people have their phone within five feet of them, so we thought it was an important step forward to bring it to the new technology... It's built on a powerful, scalable system, so it can handle lots of different situations."

Davis led COSA TV viewers on a virtual tour of the app, demonstrating the interface and its user-friendly features. Integration with TrackIT and Roberts Communication Network will enable sellers to easily list their horses and incorporate race replays in listings, while advanced mobile technology allows sellers to easily upload photos and other resources.

Completing the panel was Giles of the ubiquitous RAW Equine, and to no surprise, he had many reflections to share — but with an unexpected common thread.

"It was a long way to travel for an eight-hole," Giles said about ultimately not making the trip to Hippodrome 3R to watch Sunfire Blue Chip the 2014 Prix d'Été, "but he raced like a bearcat that day."

Sunfire Blue Chip drilled a 1:50.3 win over off going in Québec's top race, and ever since, Giles hasn't balked at an outside draw when it has come to seeing his top horses in action on the big stage.

Another standout for Giles, a produce distributor by trade, was The Joy Luck Club, and for good reason.

"She was a homebred, so she has a special place in our heart," he shared. "We bought her mother in Lexington. She wasn't a success story, so we bred her to Camluck. We lost the first two foals, but the third time was a charm. Mark and Mike Horner did a great job raising her and getting her to the racetrack."

Like Sunfire Blue Chip, The Joy Luck Club made easy work from an outside post in one of her toughest assignments. She overcame post 7 en route to a dominant score in the 2017 Kin Pace at Clinton Raceway.

On the trotting side, distaffer Evident Beauty stands out to Giles, in large part to his success with her dam, Struck By Lindy.

"We raced her mother with Nifty Norman, and then we bought her first two fillies. We bought Evident Beauty in Kentucky, and the rest was history. She had a good two-year-old year and a fantastic three-year-old year.

"There was some heartbreak, but I'm only crying out of one eye," Giles said wryly, noting that Evident Beauty broke in the Hambletonian Oaks and her elimination of the Breeders Crown.

Her biggest triumph of 2019 came at her home track, as she vaulted off cover to overcome post 10 at 9-1 in the Elegantimage at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

"We were only five minutes away; we weren't going to miss that one."

All three gentlemen offered advice to individuals who may be interested in testing the ownership waters, and their sentiments were largely congruent.

"Get involved with some of the good people in the business, and maybe get a piece of a horse," said Sorella. "Maybe wet your feet with a claimer or an older racehorse so you can see some of the excitement. You can experience the fun with other partners, trainers, grooms, caretakers — and it helps along the way."

Davis noted that diving into ownership may be daunting for the uninformed, but he concurred on the benefits of "easing in":

"For the person who doesn't have any connection, you've got to ask a lot of questions. For the people who don't know anyone to ask those questions, I think what Anthony MacDonald is doing with is fantastic. For those who do have a connection, just find someone you can trust and listen to the experts, and only invest in what you can afford."

Giles, who had the last word in the 90-minute roundtable, seconded Davis' stress on trusting the experts:

"You have to associate yourself with good people and let them do their job. I don't want my trainer telling me how to sell tomatoes; I'm not going to tell my trainer how to train horses."

The full broadcast, which aired on the COSA Facebook page, appears below.

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