11/01/2016 8:51AM

Zoccali: Trixton deal with Taylor Made Farms could be a game-changer

Nikki Sherman
Trixton won the Hambletonian in 2014.

A common theme I have encountered from harness racing lifers is that “we cannot think like thoroughbred racing and have to accept the reality that harness racing will never be thoroughbred racing.”  Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  At least that is what Mike Gulotta, C.E.O. of Deo Volente Farms, is thinking.

A couple of weeks ago, Deo Volente Farms announced a unique partnership with Taylor Made Farms and Perry Martin, owners of the richest thoroughbred in North American racing history, California Chrome.

In the agreement, Deo Volente Farms acquired a share (two breedings) in California Chrome, while Taylor Made Farm and Perry Martin acquired a share (two breedings) in Trixton.

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Interestingly, this deal was not one that was formed over a lengthy period of time or through many discussions.  Mike Gulotta was meeting with Taylor Made Farms on the subject of historical racing.  According to Duncan Taylor, President of Taylor Made Farms, he and Gulotta were introduced by Ernie Martinez.

“We had a good meeting regarding historical racing and Duncan (Taylor) invited us to go see the farm the next day,” said Gulotta. “Duncan asked us if we knew of any standardbred stallions worth investing in, and I said, how about Trixton?”

“I asked Mike about any standardbred stallions and he told me about Trixton,” said Taylor. “He was a Hambletonian winner, his sire and grandsire were Hambletonian winners, what’s not to like about that?”

Taylor indicated that as a young boy, he grew up around Standardbreds, even working for C.F. Gaines for a period of time.  In an ironic twist, and one that was not known until after the deal was in place, the dam of Trixton, Emilie Cas El, was owned in part by the Estate of Joseph Taylor, father of Duncan Taylor.

“I didn’t even realize that my father’s estate owned a part of the mare,” said Taylor.  “It didn’t even come up until after we had an agreement.”

For Gulotta, the lure to this agreement is an obvious one.  “How often does an opportunity to own a piece of a horse like Chrome come around,” said Gulotta. “It’s really incredible, we’ll be at the Breeders Crown to watch one of our horses compete and then the next week we’ll be at the Breeder’s Cup to watch California Chrome.”

Gulotta said he is going to rely on Taylor and Perry Martin to help him pick out mares for his breedings.  As for what Deo Volente will do with the foals, Gulotta said “we haven’t gotten that far yet.”

As great as it is that Gulotta is now involved with Chrome, for harness racing, the investment by Taylor Made into Trixton is even more exciting.

“It just happened that I had been thinking about getting involved with a standardbred stallion and then had this meeting with Michael,” said Taylor.  “I had been thinking of investing in standardbred stallions so long as the economics of it made sense.  I think this will be a great start for us and if it works out it’s possible we will expand on it in the future.”

Like Gulotta, Taylor said he hasn’t yet thought about what direction he will take pertaining to the foals.  But he identified Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farms as a long-time friend and someone he will look to for assistance in picking out standardbred mares for his breedings.  Taylor also indicated that Perry Martin is a partner on the share of Trixton.  Martin was the co-owner of California Chrome prior to the agreement with Taylor Made Farms. In fact, he is the individual who selected Lucky Pulpit as the stallion for his mare in a breeding that produced California Chrome.

The potential here for harness racing and the standardbred breeding industry is immense.  If successful, Taylor Made may look to expand on their investment into standardbred stallions.  How significant is Taylor Made?  Well, they have been the leading consignor at the Keeneland September sale in four of the last five years.  This past September, Taylor Made sold 282 yearlings for $32.9 Million.  Needless to say, Taylor Made injecting some capital into standardbred breeding is not just a good thing, it has the potential to change the game.

California Chrome, who is entered in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic, will now hopefully take the place of Unbridled's Song, who was Taylor Made's flagship stallion until his death in 2013.  

According to Gulotta, they certainly picked the right stallion to start with.  “Trixton has been exceptional going into his third year as a stallion,” said Gulotta. “His book was full and closed the first two years and he received a lot of excellent mares to breed to.”

Gulotta is an easy guy to root for in harness racing.  He is aggressive in his ventures and takes risks that are unmatched in the standardbred breeding industry.  With this partnership, the importance of Trixton being a successful stallion has reached a whole new level.

Should this relationship continue to grow and should this investment be deemed successful by Taylor Made, the potential of further investments and also bringing in other major breeding operations simply by word of mouth could make this partnership the single most important thing that has happened to standardbred breeding in the 21st century.

There is one thing that I can be sure of, if the breedings are successful for Taylor Made, whether or not they retain ownership in the foals is almost inconsequential.

If they do retain ownership and one of the foals goes on to do great things, dare I say win a Hambletonian, Taylor Made could grow and even produce a brand new division of their operation for standardbred breeding.  If they sell the foals for a significant profit and the foals prove to be excellent racehorses, that scenario of creating a new division could become a reality as well.

There are three words that every person in harness racing needs to be shouting both at the yearling sales and when his offspring step onto the racetrack.  They are, “Let’s Go Trixton!”