08/27/2013 1:31PM

Del Mar: Rising Legend can add to big year for Hronis Racing

Benoit & Associates
Rising Legend goes into the Del Mar Derby off this victory in a division of the Oceanside.

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Kosta Hronis had his first starter as an owner on St. Patrick’s Day 2010 – Sleep Tight in a $40,000 claimer at Santa Anita. The mare finished third at 6-5, and Hronis was delighted. He went trackside after the race.

“I was thrilled,” Hronis recalled last weekend. “But all the people that bet her were mad. I thought I hope they don’t know who I am.

“I learned right away this was serious business to the bettors.”

In his own way, Hronis, 54, has made amends with bettors. His Hronis Racing, a stable he owns with his brother Pete, was the leading owner by winners at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting and the Betfair Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting earlier this year. Through last weekend, Hronis Racing was in contention for the same title at Del Mar, with the chance of adding to the win total this weekend.

[DEL MAR 2013: Complete meet coverage, schedule, race replays]

The Hronis brothers operate Hronis Farms, a table grape and orange grove business in the central valley of California. The family has several farms in that region. Their horse involvement fulfills a lifelong interest that began with trips to Santa Anita as children. Kosta Hronis travels to see most of his horses run. Pete Hronis is a rare racegoer. So far, the focus has been on racing horses of all ages.

“What I’ve tried to do is give him a wide portfolio,” said John Sadler, who trains for Hronis. “We’re not all in with 2-year-olds. We have a bit of everything.”

Sunday, Hronis starts Rising Legend, a winner of a division of the restricted Oceanside Stakes on July  17, in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on turf. At Santa Anita on Sept. 28, Lady of Shamrock, a two-time Grade 1 winner in 2012, will attempt to win her first Grade 1 of the year in the $250,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes on turf.

Last weekend, Hronis Racing won Saturday’s Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap with Breeders’ Cup Turf hopeful Vagabond Shoes, and an allowance race on Sunday with the 3-year-old filly Magic Union.

Rising Legend is the top 3-year-old owned by Hronis.

A British-bred colt by Rock of Gibraltar, Rising Legend was purchased privately last fall by Hronis after winning two modest races for trainer Richard Hannon in England. Rising Legend finished second in his American debut, the Grade 3 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park. The colt was pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last November, but did not draw into the race from the also-eligible list.

Following the Generous, Rising Legend worked once in January, but was rested until the spring, resuming workouts in early June.

“He had a couple of tiny issues,” Hronis said.

Rising Legend made his first start of 2013 in the second division of the one-mile Oceanside. He closed from eighth in a field of nine to win by a head. Hronis is hopeful that Rising Legend can show continued improvement in Sunday’s race, which is at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“I do expect him to improve in his second race off the layoff,” Hronis said. “He looks good and he’s getting better and better.”

The Del Mar Derby will tell Hronis and Sadler how high they can aim this fall with Rising Legend, who has won 3 of 8 starts and earned $112,462.

“We’ve got high hopes,” Hronis said.

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For the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in November, Hronis intends to start Lady of Shamrock in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Vagabond Shoes in the BC Turf.

Vagabond Shoes earned a fees-paid berth to the BC Turf with his win in the Del Mar Handicap, but must be nominated to the program for $100,000. It’s an expense that Kosta Hronis said he is willing to incur, even though Vagabond Shoes could have been claimed for $62,500 in May.

“We’ve got to give him a chance,” he said last Saturday. “He’s a different horse in the last couple of races.”

Rising Legend could be part of the Breeders’ Cup if he runs well this weekend and into the fall.

Hronis is hoping to make his stable a growing presence in California.

“The big plan is for it to grow and be successful,” Hronis said. “We’re still growing and moving ahead.

“We didn’t have targets. We’ve got all kinds ––stakes, allowance, and claimers. We’ve got Euros and Cal-breds. We’re all over the place.”