01/23/2008 12:00AM

IEAH team has a capital idea

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International Equine Associations Holdings Inc. doesn't roll off the tongue, but this is a company people may be talking about for a long time.

Led by co-presidents Michael Iavarone and Richard Schiavo, the IEAH Stable in 2007 enjoyed the best season of its five-year existence, winning 36 races, including three Grade 1 events, and earning more than $4 million.

Iavarone called it "the tip of the iceberg."

Backed by some big-pocketed investors, IEAH purchased a majority interest in a plethora of established young horses both in North America and Europe last year and is continually on the hunt for more. At this time last year, IEAH Stable consisted of about 40 horses. That number has nearly doubled.

"In the beginning, we were trying to take baby steps and build up over several years," Iavarone said. "We had the good fortune of finding some gigantic investors, and they have given us the capital means to take leaps."

Iavarone, an investment banker on Wall Street, said one of the original investors in International Equine, Andrew Cohen, brought in a few high-powered financial executives, including James Tagliaferri, president of the Taurus Advisory Group, who invested more than $20 million in the venture.

"He has been the catalyst for us significantly increasing our stock in quality and quantity," said Iavarone, who noted that another investor has put up $10 million.

Among the many purchases International Equine made last year was Benny the Bull, who will be the favorite in Saturday's $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Park. The Sunshine Millions, being run for the sixth time, pits California-breds versus Florida-breds in eight races held at Gulfstream Park in south Florida and Santa Anita in Southern California. The stable will also run Shaggy Mane in the Filly and Mare Sprint, a race she won last year.

International Equine attempted to buy Benny the Bull after he won an allowance race at Churchill Downs in May. But there was a discrepancy in the veterinarian's report, and while that was being ironed out Benny the Bull won the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows. The sale was done shortly after that race at a significantly higher price, Iavarone said.

Benny the Bull competed in four graded stakes for International Equine and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., running second to Midnight Lute in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga and fourth to that same rival in the Breeders' Cup Sprint before winning the Grade 1 De Francis Dash at Laurel.

"It's a good buy for us now," said Iavarone, who noted that original owner Greg James stayed in for 10 percent.

Benny the Bull remained in training following the De Francis and has been training exceptionally well at the Palm Meadows training center.

"Benny should beat these," Dutrow said. "He's doing very good right now."

Shaggy Mane has not won since taking the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint last January, her second start after International Equine bought into her in the fall of 2006. Iavarone believes Shaggy Mane, trained by Donald Chatlos, has had legitimate excuses in those races, including a last-place finish over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs last September and a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in the slop at Monmouth Park.

"We're expecting her to run the race of her career on Saturday," said Iavarone, noting that Shaggy Maine worked six furlongs in 1:12 Tuesday morning over the Hollywood Park Cushion Track. "She's never been better than we have her right now."

The current star of the IEAH Stable is Kip Deville, who won two Grade 1 stakes, including the Breeders' Cup Mile. He is being targeted for the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in April, the race in which he launched his 2007 campaign.

Other high-profile horses International Equine owns include Frost Giant, a multiple Group 3 winner in Europe who was disqualified from an allowance win at Gulfstream earlier this month; Irish Smoke, last year's Spinaway winner whom the company purchased for $750,000 out of last November's Keeneland sale; Subtle Aly, who won the Grade 2 Schuylerville at Saratoga; and Sharp Susan, who won the Grade 2 Lake Placid two days after IEAH Stable purchased a majority interest in her.

And it appears International Equine is about ready to make an even bigger splash.

Iavarone said his company will soon be announcing the creation of a horse partnership fund for those wealthy individuals who want to play the game at the highest level. For a minimum contribution of $500,000, Iavarone is hoping to raise $50 million in revenue to purchase horses.

"Every three months this fund will be appraised, and for a two-week period after that appraisal investors could sell at the appraised value or new investors could buy in at the appraised value," Iavarone said. "Every individual has a right to make a move."

Toward that end, International Equine has hired retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens as a bloodstock advisor to help in the acquisition of horses. Iavarone said more people of Stevens's ilk will be added to the team in the near future.

Off the track, the company is in the process of constructing a new state-of-the-art equine hospital to be located across the street from Belmont Park. The Ruffian Equine Hospital could be completed by early summer.