Bobby Zen

The exhilarating rush of adrenaline created when seeing your Thoroughbred soar across the finish line creates a sweet taste of victory that brings a sense of satisfaction and a touch of disbelief.

That often-elusive flavor remains on one’s tongue in a constant search for more. Taste of Victory Stable’s founders Kyle Yost and Brian Richardson have reveled in that sensation, knowing it can be interspersed with bitter moments that only life and owning Thoroughbred racehorses can produce.

The seeds of Thoroughbred ownership are typically planted by family and/or friends. Kyle Yost, a graduate of Penn State University, grew up on a small South Central Pennsylvania farm where his parents raised and brokered livestock. “My dad raised some mid-level Thoroughbreds on the farm which attracted me to the sport, almost by osmosis,” reflected Yost. “We would take in days at Penn National and Pimlico. There was just something about a Thoroughbred that drew me in.”

Brian Richardson, on the other hand, and on the other side of the country, grew up just 20 minutes from Los Alamitos Race Course in Huntington Beach, California. “Aside from the early trips to Los Al, I will always remember my days at USC and making trips to Santa Anita with friends. On one occasion I hit an exacta for $680 and I was hooked as a horseplayer. As a fan, attending the races in Southern California was something special for our family.”

The road to ownership for Richardson began while on a fishing trip with his dad and his dad’s best friend Gene Ward, who was affectionately nicknamed “Cherry.” “Cherry offered up what he called the idea of all ideas to my dad who they called `Hawk,’ Richardson said. “Why don’t we gather friends and family and rent out a luxury suite at Del Mar to take in the races and put Brian in charge?” It became an annual event, titled the Del Mar Cherry-Hawk event.”

The Partners | courtesy of Taste of Victory Stables

After a number of years enjoying Mexican buffets and drinks at Del Mar, it was another genius idea from `Cherry’ who figured since they enjoyed going to Del Mar so much each year, it was time to buy a Thoroughbred and race themselves. So, 20 friends and family members got together, including Hawk, Cherry and Yost, who was a business associate and friend, and they started Cherry Hawk Stables.

The partnership’s first horse was a yearling who the 20 partners opted to name Twenty Hawks (Unusual Heat). “We didn’t think the name Twenty Cherries would provide the intimidating aura we wanted in our first racehorse,” quipped Richardson.

Twenty Hawks would go on to earn over $338,000 for the group of first timers, but sadly Brian’s father passed away prior to the horse moving out to Charles Town and finding success. Twenty Hawks broke his maiden in his fifth lifetime start. “It was bittersweet considering my dad inspired us, along with Cherry, to start going to Del Mar and purchasing a racehorse. I knew Twenty Hawks was wearing angel wings when he first scored for us. It was an emotional moment for me,” said Richardson.


Twenty Hawks: The Life-Changing Story of “The Iron Horse”

The concept of Taste of Victory Stables was amalgamated over multiple conversations between Yost and Richardson. “It was about 10 years ago, and we both wanted to somehow elevate the popularity of the sport,” said Yost. “There were other groups out there like West Point and Dogwood, but buying shares with them was out of reach for most people. We wanted to make it affordable for the average fan.”

Richardson concurs. “We had the ability to attract new owners from coast to coast and at a level that wasn’t going to break the bank,” he said. “Giving people a `behind the ropes’ experience that most racing fans have never been a part of was something we were committed to providing. The partners in Cherry Hawk Stables were also looking for more action and more horses so we launched Taste of Victory Stables in 2015.”

Partner Jeff Guffey and wife Nancy with Marley’s Ghost at Saratoga | courtesy of Taste of Victory Stables

Current partner Dan Filipek recounted his initial connection to horse racing and Kyle Yost. “I let him know that I had been going to the racetrack with my father since I was a young boy,” said Filipek. “I had great memories of watching the Michigan Mile at Detroit Race Course and watching the Trotters at Northville Downs. I was sad that both of those tracks closed along with Hazel Park Raceway. I mentioned to Kyle that the three things my father and I did most together were go to the racetrack, work on cars and go hunting. But since my dad passed, my passion for working on cars and hunting faded, but not my love for horse racing. It was then that Kyle told me about the partnership group that Taste of Victory offered, and I thought what better way to rekindle my memories of watching horse racing with my dad then getting truly involved in the sport, so I joined.”

Another partner who said he was glad Taste of Victory started to expand is Larry Hopkins. “I have met some incredible people through TOV,” he said. “I have been on a few road trips to see our horses including our annual pilgrimage to Pimlico for Black Eyed Susan day. It is interesting getting to mingle with more experienced horsemen and also meeting some of the trainers.  It has really opened my eyes to what a great sport Thoroughbred racing is.”

As the partnership expanded so did the management group. In 2016, while attending an owners’ conference at Keeneland, Yost and Richardson met Russ Sapienza on a tour of Adena Springs. Originally from Pennsylvania like Yost, Sapienza would eventually make his way to Saratoga Springs where the former senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers currently resides. “I was first introduced to horse racing in high school when I went to Brandywine Raceway in Delaware to see the Stanley Cup, which was on tour after being won by the Flyers,” said Sapienza. “But I looked around and my attention turned to the horses. That experience and years of going to Saratoga and Belmont with my wife and her dad turned me into a hardcore fan of the sport and the horses. I enjoy handicapping and even participated in the 2020 NHC in Las Vegas and continue to play in tournaments today. I hope I bring a bit of the ‘business of Thoroughbred ownership’ in my role as an advisor to Kyle and Brian.”

Sapienza has focused on New York-breds and racing at Belmont, Aqueduct, and Saratoga for Taste of Victory. “New York has a friendly condition book for New York-breds, and the purse structure is extremely competitive. They also have a strong aftercare program which is important to our partners. When you race at places like Saratoga, you get to compete at an elite level in sport while still being part of a small barn or group. You can’t do that in any other sport.”

Taste of Victory provides a variety of opportunities that can include young horses or claimers. Their groups are also regionally diverse with groups competing in California, the Mid-Atlantic, New York, and recently Ohio. “We like to keep the investment levels between $1,500 and $7,500 and want people to have at least a three percent interest in any group,” said Yost. “Each group has multiple horses to provide plenty of action and we don’t mark up any of our purchases. Each group starts off with a budget that includes estimated expenditures for a year in advance, assuming no purse earnings. We don’t want to be reaching out and making cash calls every month.”

The lower starting investment level was a key for partner Doug Shepherd. “The idea of purchasing a horse on my own was too daunting and expensive for a hobby, so the concept of an ownership group was perfect for me,” he said. “I have now been a part of numerous TOV groups that race in various parts of the United States. My wife and son have also become interested in horse racing and my son has recently joined a group with TOV.”

Hit the Road | Lauren King

Partner Dan Filipek agreed and aptly summed it up. “The cost of entry is affordable, but the thrills are priceless!”

Taste of Victory does reserve $300 per month for administrative expenses that go to cover professional fees and the services of their trusted bookkeeper Cara Thomas. The group has begun retaining five percent of purse earnings for new groups to provide funding for expansion and offering more social events. The trio of experienced managers has recently begun offering private management for individuals or groups that want to own horses on their own but need some additional guidance and support.

“Private management is great for families, poker or golfing groups, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters, corporate groups–essentially any individuals or groups that want a program customized to provide maximum enjoyment and flexibility,” said Yost.

Jeff Guffey is one partner that enjoys the events and access. “On race days, they are always willing to host owners at the track, and even set up barn tours for up-close access to the horses and the trainers. It really makes you feel like a true owner and horseman. I think that is what differentiates a group like Taste of Victory from other ownership groups that are less hands on, and more crowd-sourced.”

Taste of Victory Stables has sent two horses to the Breeders’ Cup since its inception. GISW/GSW What a View (Vronsky) was the first in 2016, but success arrived in a big way when Taste of Victory Stables bought into Hit the Road in 2019. The More Than Ready colt won the GIII Thunder Road S. and the GI Frank E. Kilroe Mile in 2020.

“Hit the Road made it to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2019. Even though he didn’t hit the board, it was such a joy to be able to host our partners and family at one of our home tracks,” Richardson said.

Hit the Road will be starting his stud career in South Africa this year.

Hit the Road | Benoit

The sweet taste of success was less palatable for Yost though. His wife of 15 years was also immersed in a cancer battle, which sadly she lost in June 2021.

“The horses, including Hit the Road, helped divert my mind for a bit and provide some positivity to the situation, but it was difficult for everyone,” said Yost. “I couldn’t get over the outpouring of support from our partners and all the people in the horse racing industry we work with. From sending food for my family to simple notes of support, it was unbelievable.”

Doug Shepherd reflected on the sentiment. “Sure, we love to win stakes races, but that is not what drives everyone. I have learned so much about the sport and the people involved, that it has made me love and appreciate the sport so much more than I ever imagined.”

As Taste of Victory Stables continues to welcome new partners, one thing will continue to hold true: The flavor of life and owning Thoroughbreds is a complex blend of sweet successes, bitter disappointments, and the savory experiences that linger in between.

The post Partnerships, Presented By Taylor Made: A Taste of Victory appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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