Twenty-six year-old Justin Nicholson’s upstart group
NINETY NORTH RACING STABLE BREAKS FROM THE GATE; NEW SYNDICATE SELLING SHARES OF THOROUGHBREDS BACKED BY EXPERIENCED TEAM, MULTIPLE TRAINING SITES
Mar 19, 2012, 13:12
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to compete at Gulfstream, Keeneland and Saratoga
At 26, Justin Nicholson may be the nation’s youngest thoroughbred racing syndicate owner with the recent launch of his Ninety North Racing Stable (www.90northracing.com). But don’t mistake his youth for a lack of experience.
Nicholson has his boutique ownership group off and running with a quintet of horses ready to rumble early in 2012. His plan for success? Be approachable. Stay small. Offer unbridled access. Have fun.
Born into the sport of kings, Nicholson has developed a keen eye for finding talent both on the track and on the backstretch – quite a feat when one considers Nicholson could not go near a horse or a stable as a youth owing to severe allergies.
“Fortunately, I outgrew the allergies,” said Nicholson. “I’m also fortunate to have been around some incredibly bright racing minds who have truly helped to pique my interest in this great sport.”
Ninety North Racing Stable is a collaborative effort between Nicholson and fellow New Yorker James “Jimmy” Toner, a respected veteran trainer who also has worked with Justin’s father, Ronald Nicholson and the Kimran Racing Stable.
Location. Location. Location.
Nicholson has hit the ground running, purchasing a barn at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., that will serve as one of the homes for Ninety North’s roster of horses. Other locations where Ninety North will maintain stables include Palm Meadows (Gulfstream) in Hallandale Beach, Fla., Belmont Park and historic Saratoga Racecourse. Ninety North has plans to be active on the NYRA circuit in addition to running at Gulfstream and Keeneland.
Unlike many larger syndicates, Nicholson pledged that Ninety North will focus on ensuring that owners have “unprecedented access” to their horses.
“By establishing ourselves in these terrific locations, we are perfectly positioned to not only enter races at nearby tracks, we also are offering our owners unparalleled access to visit the horses and meet with our trainer and staff,” said Nicholson.
“The Fair Hill barn, as an example, offers an opportunity for owners to come visit, spend a weekend, and get to know better what it’s like to be around these amazing animals.”
Nicholson story reads like “Moneyball”
Nicholson was eight when his father, Ronald – along with partner Cesar Kimmel, and Toner – bought and developed Flying Chevron, a major stakes winner whose crowning achievement came in a victory in the 1995 NYRA Mile.
Purchased for $80,000, Flying Chevron earned more than $380,000 racing and returned seven figures in a subsequent sale that preceded his stud career.
Justin cites that initial experience – at that young age – when he knew he wanted to be in the racing game.
“I grew up on the business side of racing,” said Nicholson. “The guys spending millions on horses, they always grab the headlines. I was always fascinated with the idea of building a group of horses by spending money wisely and then finding a niche for these horses.”
Sounds a lot like the Oscar-nominated picture Moneyball.
“In many ways it is,” said Nicholson. “Spending millions on horses is a risk, just as it is with a free agent athlete. The history of racing is littered with million-dollar prospects that didn’t pan out. But there are hidden gems out there, at reasonable prices. You do the legwork. You find that horse. Pair him with a terrific trainer like Jimmy Toner and watch them develop together. Then to see that horse run well? Incredibly rewarding.”
In 2006, Ronald Nicholson passed the torch to his son. Justin was 20.
“Make no mistake, I am still learning,” said Nicholson. “But I’m confident in the people around me and in my record so far. I’m eager to share our success with others.”
Nicholson has spent the last three years building AJ Suited Racing Stable, a privately-owned operation that spent much of the 2011 spring campaign among the leading owners at Belmont Park.
“I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to commit my time, effort, and energy to developing a quality racing operation these past few years,” Nicholson said.
Accessible and Affordable
During this same time period, Nicholson also realized he wanted to change how traditional syndicates did business.
“Too often in syndicates, the owners are kept in the dark and without much say in the campaigning of the horse,” said Nicholson. “I want to change that paradigm and focus on running Ninety North with as much transparency and openness as I can.
“This is not an easy sport,” he said. “But it can be an incredibly exhilarating ride. I want people to experience that. We are offering full access to our stables, horses and trainers. We plan to race all over the East Coast.”
Nicholson stressed communication will be key with all owners.
“Whether it’s a discussion or a direct vote, I want the owners of Ninety North to be involved in the process,” he said. “I have seen large outfits first-hand, where you feel like a cog in a giant machine. I do not intend to replicate that model here.”
Nicholson said owners could get in the game with an investment in the low four figures. Expenses are billed on a quarterly basis. Investment lengths are in the 2-3 year range.
“I am hoping that the model that has led AJ Suited to such competitive standing within only two years will appeal to the public, and that they will trust not only in me, but also the team of people like Jimmy Toner and others behind the scenes who will be putting Ninety North Racing Stable together,” he said.
Small, talented roster includes a Derby hopeful
Nicholson’s goal is to keep a small and manageable stable of high-quality stock at the right price.
Ninety North presently has five horses on its roster. The first is Chief Energy, a gallant-looking colt who won his maiden impressively in 2011 at Monmouth Park. “The Chief” has been nominated for the 2012 Triple Crown and will compete in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby (March 10) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Graded-stakes-winning Bold Hawk was owned by the Nicholson family and is being syndicated prior to a 2012 campaign that should see him competing for over $1 million in purses. He finished 2011 with back-to-back graded stakes placements.
Listed-stakes winner Crying Lightening, an import from the UK, is expected to flourish at the European-style training environment at Fair Hill. She will be pointed to numerous stakes races throughout the year.
Astral Thunder is a son of Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch. The multiple group-stakes-placed colt is spending the early part of 2012 competing in Dubai. With the potential to run on three continents this year, Astral Thunder is Ninety North’s international ambassador.
Ninety North’s freshest face is two-year-old colt Wabbajack. A well-made son of Midnight Lute out of a Carson City mare, he is bred for speed and will hopefully be an early winner when he debuts in the next few months.
“I am proud to launch the company with four runners who will make their first starts for us in stakes company,” Nicholson said. “All our horses are legitimate prospects, and allow owners immediate opportunities to participate in some of the sport’s most important races.”
Speaking Series Coming in March – April
Nicholson is finalizing plans to host a series of speaking engagements on the topic of “Horse Racing Ownership” beginning in March and leading up to the Kentucky Derby. He will speak in select markets along the East Coast. The schedule will soon be available at www.90northracing.com
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