Despite his success, Kumin knows ownership a tough sell
Hedge fund manager Sol Kumin started out in horse racing only two years ago with five racehorses in his stable.
Other owners to watch at this year's Breeders' Cup
|IN THE STABLE|
|1||Vincent Viola||Sweet Loretta|
|Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola dabbled in horse racing in the 1990s and got back into the game a few years ago with his wife, Teresa. They now own racehorses under the name St. Elias Stable. This year they are expected to start their 2-year-old filly, Sweet Loretta, a winner of this year's Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.|
|IN THE STABLE|
|2||Teo Ah Khing||Good Samaritan|
|Malaysian Teo Ah Khing is a Harvard-educated, self-made billionaire entrepreneur who has been described as the new big player on the world horse racing scene. Since he founded China Horse Club in 2010, the stable has won some of the best races in the world, including the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby. China Horse Club is expected to race Good Samaritan in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Yellow Agate in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Earlier this month Teo bought an equity stake in California Chrome, the favorite to win this year's Breeders' Cup Classic.|
|IN THE STABLE|
|Charles Chu is one of the founders of Baoma Corp., a GPS and navigation device company based in North Andover, Mass. He owns Drefong, who won this year's King Bishop Stakes at Saratoga, earning him an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup TwinSpires Sprint. Drefong is expected to compete in the $1.5 million race, which will be run at Santa Anita on Saturday.|
|IN THE STABLE|
|4||Tom Benson||Tom's Ready|
|New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is new, again, to horse racing. Benson raced horses in the 1970s and 1980s, got out of the game about 30 years ago, then in 2014 decided to get back in. His horse Mo Tom, a son of Mike Repole's Uncle Mo, ran in this year's Kentucky Derby. Another horse of Benson's, Tom's Ready, is set to run in the Breeders' Cup Las Vegas Dirt Mile on Friday.|
Today, Kumin, founder and CEO of Folger Hill Asset Management, owns more than 70 horses by himself or in partnership with others, and those horses have won 10 graded stakes races. In January, The Jockey Club recognized Kumin with its first New Owner of the Year award.
“It’s very difficult to be a successful owner over time,” Kumin said. “The way the purses are set up; the cost of buying a horse; training the horse and only receiving ‘X’ percentage of the purse when you win. … And then knowing that a good chunk of your horses are going to be hurt at one time where you are paying bills and you can’t earn. It makes it a very hard business to survive in.”
The first race Kumin attended was the Preakness Stakes when he was in college at John Hopkins. Earlier this year, he won that race with Exaggerator.
One of the first horses he bought, Lady Eli, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf in 2014. Lady Eli is scheduled to run in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Saturday. Undrafted, a horse Kumin co-owns with former New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, is set to run in the Las Vegas Dirt Mile on Friday.
The 41-year-old Kumin said the challenges of making money in horse racing are widely known, and he often hears them when he talks with other young businessmen about entering the sport.
“When someone like me goes to a young friend and says, ‘I would love to get you into the sport, you will love it,’ the response is: ‘Oh, man. I heard it’s a lot of fun, but I heard you will get killed. Why don’t I just write a check to charity?’”
Kumin said higher purses would alleviate some of the misgivings people have with investing in the sport. “Having it be a business where people can look at it and feel they have a better chance of being financially successful, I think will help more young people do it.”
He also could see the benefit of more regulation off the track, such as having a commissioner for the sport.
“There are lots of pitfalls for anybody getting into the game,” he said. “The racing is very regulated. But the rest of it — the private purchases, the buying, the vetting process — a lot of that stuff is a little loosey-goosey. There are a lot of stories you hear about people getting their clock cleaned. So having a commissioner, I don’t think would be a bad thing.”
Kumin said that despite the hurdles found in the sport, he’s had fun developing friendships, including with Welker.
“I have a group of young guys who work on Wall Street who have some horses with me,” he said. “Taking them to Belmont on a Friday, do you think that’s going to make them want to pour a couple million bucks into the sport? It doesn’t work, right? Now if I take them for a weekend at Saratoga, that is a totally different ballgame. Then they comment, ‘This is awesome. The paddock and the people.’ So I am trying to get more of my young friends into it, because it’s fun. But you’ve got to pick the right races to take them.”
As for himself, Kumin hopes to be a horse owner for years to come.
“It’s something I have fallen in love with,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of hobbies. My kids love it. My dad loves it.
“I like the racing. I love the weekends.”
|Kumin, second from right, celebrates this year’s win at the Preakness Stakes.