Member of the Month
After just a few years as a Thoroughbred owner, Bryan Sullivan is living the dream. His partnership business, Let’s Go Stable, took its first horse to the Kentucky Derby last year, and is back again this year with the likely morning line favorite.
“I love getting nerves. I grew up playing competitive sports and things like that, and getting butterflies in your stomach,” he said. “As nerve-wracking as it is to have horses…I don’t want to say it’s a comfortable feeling, but it’s what draws me to it.”
Sullivan said that despite his heavy involvement in the business now, he spent much of his life fairly unaware of the racetrack. It wasn’t until he visited the track with brother-in-law and Let’s Go Stable co-managing partner Kevin Scatuorchio and father-in-law James that he developed an interest in racing. James Scatuorchio owned such superstars as Florida Derby (gr. I) and Fountain of Youth (gr. II) winner Scat Daddy and Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) and multiple graded stakes winner English Channel. Seeing racing through the lens of Scatuorchio’s experience inspired Sullivan to learn more.
“I probably had been to the track up until the Haskell Invitational [in 1997] twice in my life, and literally had no understanding of the game,” Sullivan recalled.
As a lifelong athlete growing up playing tennis and soccer, the competitive nature of racing and the challenge of winning were compelling to Sullivan, so he began spending time around the barns to learn more.
“Once you experience it and start to learn it, it gets in your blood, and at that point you’re hooked,” he said.
Sullivan said he was lucky to learn from Scatuorchio’s advisers, trainers Todd and J.J. Pletcher.
“You first go and you think you understand it, and you start to learn more. It takes a while. It probably took every bit of eight or 10 years to feel like ‘now I’ve got it.’”
In 2006 Sullivan and Kevin Scatuorchio formed the ownership syndicate Let’s Go Stable. Sullivan said that Ready’s Echo was the first horse to take the brothers-in-law to the “big leagues” of racing as owners.
“He was the first horse who gave our investors a belief in us that we could go to the bigger races,” said Sullivan. “He was a tough, hard-knocking horse. To me, he was the first ‘legitimate’ horse that we had.”
From there, Let’s Go campaigned stakes winners Glacken’s Gal, Midst, and Silent Valor. A few years after the company launched, Sullivan and Scatuorchio started a “Derby Dreams” syndicate aimed at recruiting 2-year-olds with the potential to run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). In their first try, they got El Padrino, who won the grade II Risen Star Stakes and went on to place 13th in the Derby.
For Sullivan, the Derby Dream’s syndicate’s almost-instant success wasn’t exactly a surprise but did come a little quicker than he’d anticipated.
This year Sullivan will be headed to Louisville to watch Let’s Go Stable’s Verrazano, the undefeated winner of the grade I Wood Memorial Stakes and grade II Tampa Bay Derby, run for the roses. Verrazano is also a half brother to the stable’s first Derby runner, El Padrino. With a few days to go, he said Derby butterflies haven’t gotten to him yet, but he is sure they’re just around the corner.
Despite how Verrazano ultimately runs in the Derby, Sullivan said he is hooked on racing for good—and he hopes the sport can hook others like him, with the help of organizations like TOBA, which he believes bridges the gap between those in the know and newcomers to the industry.
“I think a big push toward the younger generation would be good. I think this is the greatest game in the world, and I try my hardest to bring friends and family into the game,” said Sullivan.
He believes with some uniformity and industry-wide effort, new fans should come flocking in.
“Horse racing to me, is a social scene. It’s going there, seeing friends, having a good time, having a drink, having some food, doing some gambling,” he said. “I think we lost that along the way—the camaraderie that the track can bring. If we can all work together to set aside our differences, it’s not an easy road to travel, but I think we can get there.”
Congratulations to Bryan Sullivan, TOBA’s Member of the Month!