07/31/2012 3:35PM

Durant looking for taste from Breeders' Cup as owner


DEL MAR, Calif. – The idea of being a Breeders’ Cup participant instead of a Breeders’ Cup spectator has fueled horse owner Jerry Durant’s increased investment in racing in the last year.

Through 2-year-olds in training sales in the spring, the recent paddock sale at Del Mar, and a bargain acquisition at the Keeneland horses of all ages sale in January, Durant has put together a team that could have runners in the Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3.

“I’ve never run in the Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “I’m hoping something makes it to the Breeders’ Cup. I’ve already bought my tickets.”

Durant, 65, is no stranger to racing, or horses. He has had runners in Texas since the early 1990s, when the modern parimutuel era began in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The owner of a string of automobile dealerships in Fort Worth, Durant raced primarily in Texas for many years before deciding to expand his focus.

“I’ve been in racing for 25 years,” he said. “I started with Texas-breds. I’ve just getting into big time in the last little while.”

Durant could have a very big weekend across the nation. Saturday, Macho Macho, trained by Steve Asmussen, starts in the richest race of his career, the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park.

In California, where many of Durant’s top horses are based with trainer Jeff Bonde, the highly regarded 2-year-old Caballo del Cielo is scheduled to make his debut at Del Mar this weekend. Amarish, the winner of the Willard Proctor Stakes for Durant at Betfair Hollywood Park in June, is expected to run in Sunday’s $150,000 Best Pal Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs for 2-year-olds.

Caballo del Cielo was bought for $250,000 at Barretts in March. Amarish was bought for $200,000 at Ocala in April.

Later in August, Durant will start the recent acquisition Fighting Mean Mad in the $150,000 Sorrento Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Aug. 8, and Mega Dream in the $85,000 Daisycutter Handicap for female turf sprinters on Aug. 10.

Any of those runners are capable of starting in a Breeders’ Cup race this fall.

Mega Dream, a 5-year-old mare by Medaglia d’Oro, is reflective of how Durant’s approach to racing is changing. She was bought for just $40,000 at Keeneland in January with partners Barry Arnason and Mersad Metanovic.

After winning the Great Lady M Stakes and finishing second in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes at Hollywood Park, Mega Dream was offered in the paddock sale at Del Mar on July 22. When bidding stalled at $300,000, Metanovic bought her back on behalf of the partners.

“If we could have gotten $450,000 for her, I would have said, ‘Let her go,’ ” Durant said. “Anything short of that I said, ‘Let’s take her back and run her.’ ”

At the same sale, Metanovic bought Fightin Mean Mad for $200,000.

Durant will be part of the partnership that owns the filly.

Horses are part of the Durant family. A brother, Tom, also a car dealer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is the all-time leading owner at Lone Star Park. The two brothers run independent racing operations.

“Tom has always had his own horses,” Jerry Durant said. “He didn’t have partners. I very seldom do.”

Jerry Durant’s interest in horses includes cutting horses, a discipline in which he participated until back problems surfaced.

“I’ve still got some cutting horses,” he said. “My passion is the racehorses.”

So is business. He began his auto dealership at the age of 23 and continues with a massive operation. In fact, this weekend, with runners in West Virginia and California, Durant will be stuck at home.

“I’ve got some business commitments,” he said. “I’ll probably stay in Texas and watch on TV.”

That’s this weekend. Expect Durant at the races in California very soon. He has too many promising horses starting in important races.