03/12/2004 12:00AM

Lewises bring in new owners

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Bob and Beverly Lewis, who raced Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm and Charismatic, will sell a 10-percent interest in their 2004 juveniles to a specially selected group of new owners in an effort to recruit new investors for the sport.

The partnership program will operate as Premier Thoroughbred Ventures and is designed to introduce at least 15 wealthy new investors to Thoroughbred ownership, according to Barry Weisbord, whose Thoroughbred Daily News will provide communications and concierge services for the stable's new investors. The Keeneland Association, which helped design the concept with Weisbord, will provide investor-recruitment and accounting services to Premier Thoroughbred Ventures.

Weisbord said the venture will target high-income and high-profile investors who have never participated in Thoroughbred racing before. Each of the investors invited into the partnership will pay a one-time fee, including two years of training and insurance expenses, to acquire an equal share of the 10-percent interest in the Lewises' stable of juveniles bought at public auction. That stable currently includes 27 juveniles, but may grow if the Lewises buy more horses at Keeneland's 2-year-old sale April 13.

Weisbord said the share price currently is $135,000. "But that could change, because Mr. Lewis has the right to buy more horses," Weisbord said, adding that Premier Thoroughbred Ventures would establish a final, firm share price April 15. The group would like to have all investors on board by Derby day, May 1. The ownership interest will extend through the lifetime of the horses, including their breeding careers.

"Beverly and I are delighted to have been chosen for this opportunity," Bob Lewis said. "We look very optimistically to the new racing year. We have no way of guaranteeing anything, but we're certainly very optimistic about the future and welcome aboard the people who choose to participate and share in our fun."

The horses included in the partnership are trained by Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, Ray Bell, and Todd Pletcher. They include an unnamed $1.4 million Saint Ballado-West's Secret filly and a $1.2 million Storm Cat-Good Example colt named Consolidator. Weisbord said the venture would like to include five high net-worth people who are very well known, five high net-worth people who are not necessarily as well known to the public, and five "culturally popular" celebrities who could bring additional publicity to the sport. Investors will be allowed to split their shares and bring in their own friends and contacts, Weisbord said.

"Nick [Nicholson, Keeneland's president] is spearheading the effort to talk to dozens of industry leaders over the next two weeks to help identify potential investors," Weisbord said, adding that recruitment will target candidates "from Wall Street to Hollywood."

Weisbord said he and Nicholson began discussing the Premier Thoroughbred Ventures idea a year ago as a way of bringing wealthy individuals into the top end of racing ownership. Lewis met with Weisbord at the 2003 Preakness.

"I'm not saying seminars are a bad thing," Weisbord said, referring to the new-owner seminars conducted for years by groups like the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. "But, to me, people are more apt to pay attention to the education under the premise that they have some kind of vested interest. If it's not a hypothetical situation, if they're actually invested in it, they'll want to understand it more. A lot of this is about education and service and making people feel comfortable getting involved and learning about the game."

The Thoroughbred Daily News will provide customized daily newsletters, trainers' updates, and streaming video online to update shareholders in the stable. As the group's formal announcement noted Friday, "The partners of Premier Thoroughbred Ventures can expect concierge services with relation to industry events and races as well as all the access reserved for Thoroughbred owners."

Weisbord said the program could be expanded to other owners in future seasons.

Tattersalls, Goffs set schedule

English-based Tattersalls and the Irish auction house Goffs, which have clashed over sales dates in recent seasons, have released the 2004 calendar for their principal yearling sales after holding discussions on the scheduling.

The Goffs Orby and Challenge auctions, Ireland's most prestigious Thoroughbred yearling auctions, will run from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 at Kill, Co. Kildare. That catalog will incorporate the former Autumn Bonus auction. The Tattersalls Houghton sale, previously Britain's flagship yearling auction, will be amalgamated with the company's October Part 1 yearling sale and will run from Oct. 5-8 at Tattersalls in Newmarket. The Tattersalls October Part 2 yearling sale will run from Oct. 11 or 12 through Oct. 16. That sale's start date will be determined according to the number of horses ultimately cataloged to the auction.