04/13/2016 1:20PM

Albaugh exceptional at beating the odds

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In the fall of 2014, Iowa businessman Dennis Albaugh and his son-in-law Jason Loutsch sat in the sale pavilion at Keeneland and selected nine yearlings. The nine youngsters came from a North American foal crop estimated at 23,509.

Less than two years later, the men were walking back through the tunnel at Keeneland, arms around each other’s shoulders, celebrating after one of those Albaugh Family Stable colts, Brody’s Cause, won the Blue Grass Stakes to punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby. They’ll try to beat the odds again this weekend when stablemate Unbridled Outlaw attempts to earn his way in through the Arkansas Derby.

“We bought him within a block of right here,” Albaugh said after the Blue Grass. “We picked out nine of them two years ago. We’ve got quite a process that we go through of checking them out before we go ahead and bid. That process, I’ll give it a blessing now! We’re very happy.”

Albaugh began dabbling in racing through partnerships just over a decade ago, but the entity of Albaugh Family Stables is newer to the scene – and achieving milestones at a rapid rate. Brody’s Cause, a son of Giant’s Causeway purchased for $350,000 as a yearling, became the stable’s first Grade 1 winner last fall when he took the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

“This horse met all our criteria,” Albaugh said. “Can he get the distance? Does he scope right? Are all the legs and everything right? We filled out all the boxes on this horse, and the breeding on this horse is unbelievable.”

Albaugh grew up on a family farm in Ankeny, Iowa, and sold fertilizer and chemicals for a local company while earning a degree in agricultural business from Des Moines Area Community College. In 1979, he used $2,000 in savings and a $10,000 mortgage on his home to launch a pesticide business. Albaugh LLC is now a global agricultural-crop-protection company headquartered in Iowa with annual revenue of more than a billion.

Albaugh developed an avid interest in racing as a child visiting the now-defunct Ak-Sar-Ben in Nebraska with his family. He later attended the races at Prairie Meadows with Loutsch, who grew up riding, and decided to become involved in the sport. With fellow Iowa horseman Leroy Gessmann’s Roll Reroll Stable, he bought Miss Macy Sue for $42,000 at the 2005 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. June sale of 2-year-olds in training. She went on to become a Grade 3 winner, finished third in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and earned more than $880,000.

Now part of Albaugh’s small broodmare band at Taylor Made Farm, she is the dam of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map, who sold for $800,000 as a yearling, and Grade 2-placed Taylor S, who runs for Albaugh.

Albaugh also became involved in fellow Iowan Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing partnership as part of the team that brought Paddy O’Prado to the 2010 Kentucky Derby, where he finished third; the colt later won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes on turf. That experience sparked Albaugh’s drive to keep chasing success at the Derby. That fall, he purchased Cozzetti for $150,000 out of the Keeneland September sale; the colt finished seventh in the 2012 Preakness Stakes before becoming a Grade 3 winner on turf.

Albaugh Family Stables shops the sales with a fairly modest budget for a high-end operation. Working through Steve Castagnola’s Kempton Bloodstock, the team purchased eight colts for a total of $2.1 million at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale; last year, they bought 10 yearlings for $2.8 million.

The initial group included Brody’s Cause and Unbridled Outlaw. The latter, a $330,000 son of Unbridled’s Song, signaled his potential by finishing a troubled third in the Iroquois Stakes last fall at Churchill Downs. He prepared for the Arkansas Derby with a runner-up effort in an allowance/optional-claiming event at Oaklawn last month, caught in the stretch by an older horse. But it is Brody’s Cause who trainer Dale Romans describes as a “prototype” Derby horse.

“He has the perfect pedigree and the perfect look to him when we bought him,” Romans said. “And then he’s taken every step we’ve given him along the way. We couldn’t be set up better going into the Kentucky Derby.”

Brody’s Cause, a maiden winner at Churchill Downs, finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year – after which his team planned two Derby preps. Romans urged them to stick to that plan despite the colt finishing a disappointing seventh in the Tampa Bay Derby in March.

“We were really frustrated, obviously, after the Tampa Bay race, but Dale said he came out of the race [okay], and we had no excuses,” Loutsch said. “Dale said, ‘We’re going to get back to work, and we’re going to win this Blue Grass.’ We sat down after the Breeders’ Cup, and we put a plan together. Everyone was doubting us as to why we only planned two prep races going into the Derby. But when a plan comes together like this, it’s really special.”