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Larry Best maintains quality control with $1.8m Curlin colt at Keeneland

Michele MacDonald catches up with the man behind the rising Oxo Equine

Larry Best (right) after signing the docket for the $1.8 million Curlin colt
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Unconventional and fearless new owner Larry Best continued taking aim at the top level of the American bloodstock market, buying a $1.8 million Curlin colt on Monday that proved the second most expensive yearling sold during the opening session of the Keeneland September sale.

Since purchasing his first two thoroughbreds at this venue two years ago, Best has spent a total of just under $20m on 22 horses, often with no guidance from bloodstock advisers.

When asked after buying the Curlin colt about his bold approach to racing, Best, 69, said his philosophy is simply to seek the highest quality in any business venture in which he is involved and to follow his instincts after doing diligent research.

“People are all different. I’ve never feared failure or taking on challenges,” Best said. “You win some and you lose some. You bet on yourself and then you’re not pointing fingers at anyone else.”

Accompanied at Keeneland by John Dowd, who has been a trainer and served as a bloodstock adviser in helping with the selection of young horses such as Repole Stable’s champion Uncle Mo and multiple Grade 1 winner Stopchargingmaria, Best said he is seeking only horses with elite potential.

“I never have a long shopping list. In my entire life, in all the businesses I’ve been involved with, quality means everything,” he said. “If you deviate from quality, you’ve got problems. I try to stay with quality.

“I don’t buy that many horses so I have to buy right. I take a lot of risks, but that’s why I’m here. I enjoy it,” he added.

The Curlin colt, bred by Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Farm and offered at Keeneland as hip 211 from the Summerfield consignment, is the first foal from Grade 1 winner Molly Morgan, by Ghostzapper. Best said he became entranced with the colt when he was stranded at the Summerfield barn during a Sunday rainstorm.

“I was stuck there for an hour, so I saw the horse five times and I fell in love with him,” he said. “He’s the perfect horse. I think he’s flawless; now the big question is, can he run?”

Best, the former financial services executive who founded the Massachusetts-based Oxo Capital investment firm in 2007 and races under the name Oxo Equine, said he thought the colt might go over $2m but he was determined to secure him.

“I’ve always wanted to find a quality Curlin colt and now I’ve found one,” he said. “I got the horse that I wanted, and now I hope he can run.”

The colt will be sent to Eddie Woods in Florida for his early breaking and training, and after his ability is assessed, Best said he will consult with Woods about determining a trainer. Currently, Best employs Chad Brown and Jerry Hollendorfer.

Best has been rewarded this year by some of his earlier high-dollar purchases as three of his juvenile runners have won their first races in impressive fashion for Hollendorfer. Among that group is the unbeaten Into Mischief colt Instagrand, a $1.2m acquisition at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Two-Year-Olds in Training sale who won the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar on his second start.

Looking ahead, Best said that his primary goal is to win a top-level race, and he is optimistic that some of his two-year-olds will be good enough to take him to the Breeders’ Cup.

“I hope and pray,” he said about the possibility of seeing his red and white silks in Breeders’ Cup races. “But a lot has to go right.

“I’ve never won a Grade 1 race, so that’s the first goal,” Best added. “Beyond that, I’m not planning on anything until I get a Grade 1, and I haven’t gotten one yet.”

Instagrand could have a chance to hit that target soon as he is currently aimed at the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes over 1½m at Santa Anita on September 29.

In the meantime, Best likely will look to add to his stable before the end of Keeneland’s four-day Book 1, but he emphasised that “I never have a long shopping list” due to his focus on quality.

At the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale, he bought two horses, a $1.2m American Pharoah filly out of multiple Grade 1 winner Life At Ten and a $950,000 Into Mischief filly from the family of Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride, Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour and European champion Peeping Fawn.

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