Robert Clay 'Flipped The Business Plan' To End Up With Top-Class Olympiad - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Robert Clay ‘Flipped The Business Plan’ To End Up With Top-Class Olympiad

Olympiad winning the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs

When Robert Clay launched Grandview Equine in 2018, he wanted to invest in colts that could one day become quality stallion prospects. On Saturday, the former owner of Three Chimneys Farm has a big chance to watch his business plan come to fruition when Olympiad pursues his first Grade 1 victory in the $1 million Whitney at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Olympiad brings an unbeaten record in five starts this year, all at two turns. He posted a flashy 2022 debut in an optional-claimer at Gulfstream Park, winning by 7 1/4 lengths on the pathway to four graded stakes wins this year.

Olympiad is owned by Grandview in partnership with LNJ Foxwoods [Larry, Nanci and Jaime Roth] as well as Everett Dobson's Cheyenne Stables. In addition to Olympiad, the trio of owners have enjoyed prosperity with graded stakes winner Scalding and Grade 1-placed Shoplifted. The ownership group uses Alex Solis II and Jason Litt of Solis-Litt Bloodstock to select their horses at sales, including Olympiad who was bought for $700,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“This partnership consists of partners and customers of mine before we put this group together,” Clay said. “We took a shot at buying some colts and we have two seasons of colts.”

Clay said his longstanding relationships with the ownership group has been beneficial.

“It's an easy one to manage because these people know what the risks are and they can take bad news because they've had plenty of it,” Clay said. “When the Roths first got into the business, they came to us and we had their mares at Three Chimneys. Alex Solis was their advisor, so we had a relationship with them. Everett Dobson was an investor with me in some stallions, so we had all done business together. I was looking to spread the risk a little bit. I threw this proposition at them and made a two-year commitment, and the rest is history.”

During his tenure at Three Chimneys, which was purchased by Goncalo Borges-Torrealba in 2013, Clay was responsible for the management and oversight of multiple influential stallions including Seattle Slew and Dynaformer. His current venture has allowed him to switch roles and acquire unproven but promising young horses that could eventually be stallion prospects.

“I was always raising capital to buy stallions and we had some good luck,” Clay said. “Once I sold the farm, I said to these guys, 'Let's try to take to the other side of the street.' It's a high-risk business buying colts. We played a numbers game and buy enough of them where maybe we can strike it with one or two and then sell them back to the stallion farm. That flipped the business plan a bit.”

A veteran in the breeding game, Clay understands the risks that come along with having a model that is geared more towards colts than fillies. He said he takes a strength in numbers approach to his plan.

“It's like drilling oil wells. If you drill enough of them, you're going to hit one,” Clay said. “You have to have enough of them, but you also need to have a skillset on the buying end that gives you a fair chance. Fillies have residual value and you can get her to breed, get her in foal and sell it. That's not the case with colts. Unless you have one that's good enough to be a stallion, it's a high risk game. You have to play enough numbers. There are several partnerships right now that are playing the same game, at the same time there are people that aren't playing as strong as they were before. It's not a bad time to be doing this.”

Olympiad appears to be a shining example of what Clay's operation has been looking for. The 4-year-old son of Speightstown has earned in excess of $1.2 million this year along with graded stakes victories in Fair Grounds Race Course's Grade 3 Mineshaft and Grade 2 New Orleans Classic.

After a victory against returning rival Happy Saver in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs, he returned to the Louisville oval with flying colors under regular pilot Junior Alvarado, turning back fellow Whitney aspirant Americanrevolution in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster. His last loss took place in his final start last year when fourth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets.

A second-out graduate in September 2020 at the Spa, Olympiad did not race again until the following September where he finished second behind stablemate Baby Yoda. He defeated winners for the first time in a next-out Keeneland allowance going seven furlongs.

“He's taken a big step forward,” Clay said. “We were really excited about him as a 2-year-old. He won up here and then he had a setback his 3-year-old year, so we lost some time. We weren't sure what we had until he came back and won at Keeneland and then went in the Cigar Mile, where he had an unfortunate trip. Since then, he's done everything we've asked him to do. He seems to get better every race and he's been a real pleasure. Billy's done a great job with him and he's been a fun one to watch.”

While disappointed that Olympiad missed out on the Triple Crown trail, Clay remained confident in the seven-time winner's future.

“When you get a good 2-year-old that you think might be on the Derby trail and you have a setback, you just have to take the attitude that he's getting the time he needs,” Clay said. “We knew he had talent and we brought him back when he was ready. We went for the Grade 1 win and that didn't work out, but since then he's done everything right. He loves the two turns and it seems like the longer he goes, the better. He sort of has it all so now we're running against the gorilla in the room and find out how good he is. I think he'll run a good race, he's training really well.”

Clay said Olympiad's two-turn debut made it clear that routing is what he was meant to do.

“He's got a good pedigree and he's bred to do that as well,” Clay said. “Each race has been a little bit tougher, and a better feel and he hasn't looked back. He's done what he's had to do. He's a horse that once you ask him to go, he goes. You dream of those. We've had fun with it.”

Olympiad earned a “Win and You're In” entry to the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic on November 5 at Keeneland in capturing the Stephen Foster. With the Classic as the long term goal, Clay said Olympiad could race once more between the Whitney and the Breeders' Cup with the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 3 here and the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward on October 1 at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet as potential targets.

“Distance is not a limitation for him. The options are obvious. The Jockey Club is four weeks away and the Woodward is five weeks from the Breeders' Cup, plus it's a two-turn race now,” Clay said. “We're just going to take it one race at a time and see how he comes out of his races. He's done everything we've asked him to do.”

Gilded Age, who Clay owns in partnership with Don Alberto Stable, finished a late-closing second to Artorius in the restricted Curlin on July 29. He said the Mott-trained son of Medaglia d'Oro will be nominated to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27.

“It's a big mountain climb but he seems to be getting better every race and we think he'll like the distance,” Clay said. “We'll see. He just went back to the track Tuesday morning. We're going to nominate and take a look.”

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