01/05/2018 12:16PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: Besilu Stables

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Benjamin Leon of Besilu Stables set out to make an impact when he spent a combined $30,575,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale and November breeding stock sale to bolster his young program.

Leon saw immediate success with Royal Delta, whom he bought for $8.5 million and campaigned to an Eclipse Award for champion older female the following year. However, one could argue that the biggest imprint left by the Besilu program came several years later with 2017 Horse of the Year finalist Gun Runner.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Gun Runner is out of stakes winner Quiet Giant, whom Leon bought for $3 million at the Keeneland November sale. The mare’s first mating under Leon’s ownership was to Candy Ride, which produced Gun Runner.

Gun Runner was the highlight of Leon’s résumé as a breeder in 2017, which featured 17 runners winning a combined 20 races for earnings of $5,639,666. Besilu Stables ranked eighth among breeders by North American earnings, and the strength of Gun Runner’s campaign tied Leon’s operation with Clearsky Farms and WinStar Farm for the most Grade 1 wins in 2017 (four) and placed him second behind Clearsky by Grade 1 earnings ($4,663,700).

A native of Cuba now based in Miami, Leon found professional success as a health-care executive, and he is known elsewhere in the equine realm for showing and breeding Paso Fino horses. This is his first time as an Eclipse Award finalist as outstanding breeder.