07/01/2014 10:38AM

Jerardi: Besecker transfers successful business formula to racetrack

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Michael Amoruso
Classic Giacnroll was nominated to the 2014 Triple Crown series.

Joe Besecker is the founder, chairman, president, and chief executive of Emerald Asset Management, which controls $3 billion in small- and mid-cap growth assets from its Lancaster, Pa., base. The 1979 Saint Joseph’s University graduate loves his school’s basketball team, has tailgated for years at Penn State football games, and supports all the Philadelphia professional sports teams.

He also has long been fascinated by horse racing, and his stable, which races mostly at Penn National, is having the best year it has ever had as we pass the midway point of 2014.

“I have 15 full-time research analysts [at Emerald],” Besecker said. “I use that same kind of methodology [in horse racing]. We look for conditions. We look for numbers.”

Besecker has about 30 horses at the track right now. He got very aggressive claiming earlier this year.

At Penn, Besecker’s horses are 22 for 81 (27 percent) this year. He is the leading owner by a wide margin. Overall, the stable has 30 wins in 2014.

He uses several trainers, including his main man, Tim Kreiser, at Penn. He also has horses with Scott Lake, Brandon Kulp, the Guerreros (Carlos and Lisa), a few with Jamie Ness, and, soon, some with Hugh McMahon. The stable got hot a few months ago.

“We’re just trying to take advantage of the inefficiencies,” Besecker said. “With the weather so bad this winter, people were putting horses in very advantageous positions. Races weren’t going, so people were dropping horses where they might not normally run. So, I decided to invest and stock the stable with horses that probably wouldn’t have dropped. People were trying to create cash flow.”

Like his regular business, Besecker is trying to buy low, win a few, and, if necessary, sell high or at least at a profit.

“Really, it’s about the team,” Besecker said. “We probably disqualify 70 percent of the horses we look at, by the trainer or for some other factor. We follow horses. Sometimes we’ll follow them for months.”

There are similarities between his full-time business and his horse-racing business. Research, Besecker said, is critical.

“Everything I think of in life is the three P’s,” Besecker said. “Get the right people, have the right process, performance should come. That’s really my theory, what I do in work, whether it be in private equity, the public market, whether it be in horses or whatever.”

There are more than a few things he would like to change about the sport.

“Horse racing, as you know, is not geared to the owner,” Besecker said. “They recognize the jockey, they recognize the trainer. You had to show me I was the leading owner at Penn. There’s no promotion, there’s no ‘attaboys’ given to the owners. As a matter of fact, they’re almost looked at as a mark. It would be nice if the tracks would have some recognition for the gas in the tank for the business.”

Besecker appears on Fox Business channel once or twice a month. He is a regular host of a Saturday morning business radio show in Philadelphia. And he is at the track as often as possible to see his horses run.

“Nobody loves horse racing more than me,” Besecker said. “That walk from wherever you’re watching to the winner’s circle, I don’t care if it’s a $5,000 claimer or a graded stakes, it’s still a thrill.”

He loves the horses, the racing, and the competition more than the gambling, although he will have a bet.

“When I was a kid, my parents would go with a group once or twice a year, and I was always intrigued with it,” Besecker said.

This winter, he thought he might have a big horse. Classic Giacnroll was nominated to the Triple Crown. The horse finished second in the Jerome Stakes but was then outrun in the Withers and Private Terms. He ran third in the Delp Memorial a month ago at Delaware Park.

Besecker’s horses have started in 1,738 races, with 324 wins, since his first starter in 2000. The stable won 46 races last year and 46 in 2007. It looks like the stable might win more than 50 this year.

“You’ve got to learn a lot of lessons,” Besecker said. “I look at it the same way as the market. You buy a diversified portfolio of horses.”

Then, you get them ready and watch them run.

“I love the animal,” Besecker said. “It’s a lot of fun.”