02/26/2009 12:00AM

Pompa keeps biggest piece of 'Phil'


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When it was confirmed Thursday that Paul Pompa Jr. had sold off an interest in his latest Kentucky Derby prospect, This Ones for Phil, the initial reaction was that the buyer must be Michael Iavarone and the IEAH Stable. After all, the first deal between Pompa and IEAH worked out pretty well for all concerned after Big Brown won both the Derby and Preakness and ultimately an Eclipse Award as the nation's top 3-year-old in 2008.

This time, however, Pompa struck his deal with owners Jack Mandato and Michael Dubb for what he termed as "good money." And instead of selling off a majority interest in the horse, as he did with Big Brown, Pompa retained 55 percent ownership for himself. That means should This Ones for Phil continue successfully along the Derby trail and make it to Churchill Downs, Pompa would finally find himself in the limelight that, for all intents and purposes, eluded him a year ago.

This Ones for Phil is likely to be favored on Saturday at Gulfstream Park when he heads an outstanding field in the one-mile Fountain of Youth. This Ones for Phil, whom Pompa purchased for $150,000 from owner-breeder Gil Campbell Jr. several months ago, emerged from relative anonymity and into the Derby picture after recording a 116 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the Sunshine Millions Dash in his only start as a 3-year-old. A gelded son of Untuttable, This Ones for Phil won the Seacliff Stakes last September and finished third in the Appleton Juvenile Turf in November for trainer Kathleen O'Connell. He is now trained by Rick Dutrow.

"I got the horse for fair money, $150,000, and thought there was a lot of upside to him at the time I made the purchase," said Pompa, 50, who owns and operates Truck-Rite, a Brooklyn-based trucking company. "Michael [Iavarone] and I are very good friends right now, but he's got his hand in other fires, notably Stardom Bound, so he was just being prudent and took a pass on this horse."

Pompa, who owns a small piece of Stardom Bound himself, was content to stay in the background during Big Brown's well-publicized run to the Derby and beyond. He doesn't regret his decision to sell off 75 percent of the horse to IEAH following Big Brown's 11 1/4-length maiden win at Saratoga in August 2007.

"I usually don't have partners in my horses because it's less complicated that way," said Pompa. "But if people want to get involved and give me a call, I'll listen. I made a lot of money with Big Brown. I sold him for $3 million up front off a maiden turf race, got part of a great deal with Three Chimneys when he was retired, and still enjoyed all his racing success as an owner. I'm not in this game for the glory. I'm a businessman, and I know enough that when you're a minority owner you're supposed to defer to the people who own the majority share. And besides, Michael makes a pretty good front man."

Along with This Ones for Phil and Stardom Bound, Pompa owns another highly regarded 3-year-old prospect, Well Positioned, whom he has with Big Brown's original trainer, Pat Reynolds. Pompa turned down several offers for Well Positioned after the colt won his maiden by 14 lengths last fall at Aqueduct. Well Positioned disappointed in his 3-year-old debut, finishing far back under allowance conditions on Jan. 31.

"Pat and I took a lot of money off the table when we sold Big Brown, so we decided to go it on our own with this one," said Pompa. "We still think he's a special horse and that he'll be heard from again somewhere down the road."

A road that could end with Pompa, one way or another, sitting in the owners' boxes once again on the first Saturday in May.