Updated on 09/17/2011 6:51PM

Fog City men finally getting bang for their buck


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - There has been disappointment aplenty in the racing game for Bill Bianco and David Shimmon, who race as Fog City Stable, which makes them savor all the more an opportunity like Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star Park.

The two San Francisco Bay Area high-tech entrepreneurs, separated by 20 years in age but joined by a shared passion for racing, have invested millions of dollars in the sport in the past six years. It would be an extreme embellishment to say they've had no luck, but they've certainly had less than their share, most notably with multi-million dollar yearlings who were busts.

The high points have been infrequent. They've won a few stakes races, with the likes of Blueprint in the San Luis Rey and D'wildcat in the Swale, but they've never had a horse quite like Roman Ruler.

Roman Ruler, a gifted son of first-crop sire Fusaichi Pegasus, is the favorite for the Juvenile. He has won three times in four starts, his lone loss coming when narrowly defeated in the Del Mar Futurity. He's the kind of horse - a 2-year-old colt sired by a Kentucky Derby winner - who makes owners dream the biggest dreams.

"It's very rewarding. It's what you wait for," Bianco said. "We've had a couple of others we thought might go to the Breeders' Cup, but they got hurt. Same thing with the Derby. We just haven't had any luck. It's all luck and the good Lord looking down on you."

Bianco, who turned 65 on Tuesday, said he has been a racing fan his whole life. Not until he sold his company Kinetic Systems - which made products for the semi-conductor and biotech industries - six years ago to U.S. Filter did Bianco have both the time and wherewithal to indulge his passion. In addition to owning horses, he is currently a member of the California Horse Racing Board.

Shimmon, 45, has followed a similar story arc. He, too, has been a lifelong racing fan. "I'd go with my father and his friends to Bay Meadows," Shimmon said.

Bianco hired Shimmon as his chief operating officer in 1988. After Bianco cashed out in 1998, Shimmon became the chief executive officer of Kinetic. He subsequently sold the U.S. Filter-owned company to the giant conglomerate Vivendi, then later bought it back from Vivendi, and renamed the company Celerity, for which Shimmon is the CEO.

Though their business acumen, the two had millions to invest in horses. Their biggest purchase was the Seattle Slew colt Distinction, acquired as a yearling at Saratoga in 2000 for $4.2 million. They also spent $2 million at a 2-year-old sale for the colt Gotham City, and $1.2 million for a Hennessy colt at a 1999 yearling sale. All were huge disappointments.

Bianco and Shimmon initially had all their horses with trainer Bob Hess Jr. and his father, then had some with D. Wayne Lukas, but since have decided to spread their largesse among six trainers. Bob Baffert trains Roman Ruler, who cost $500,000 as a yearling. Roman Ruler is one of approximately 22 horses Fog City currently has in training. They have another dozen yearlings.

Shimmon said racing appeals to him on many levels, both as a social event for his family, and as a means to satisfy his competitive nature.

"I'm interested from the standpoint of wanting to try to compete, but also from a genuine love of the sport," Shimmon said. "I had owned some small pieces of horses in small ownership groups, but nothing like what Bill and I have done since we stepped in together.

"Racing puts gray hairs and smiles on you. Being an owner is great. In racing, you glimpse all aspects of the world. You are with people who make major financial transactions in the business world, trainers with their own style, and the great caretakers of these fine horses. There's very few situations where sociologically you can come across that diverse a group of people with a collective passion for what they do."