Big Frown For Hedge Fund Horse At Belmont

Jun 9 2008 | 11:25am ET

ELMONT, N.Y.—Even the best hedge funds have losing days. Hedge-fund-to-be International Equine Acquisitions Holdings had their first on Saturday on national television.

Big Brown, the big bay colt owned by IEAH, became the latest Triple Crown hopeful to fail in the test of champions, coming in dead last at the 140th Belmont Stakes here at Belmont Park this weekend. The overwhelming favorite, who ran away with convincing victories at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, ran in third for most of the race. But when jockey Kent Desormeaux pushed his horse for a burst of speed on the far turn, he came up short.

“He was empty,” Desormeaux said. “He didn’t have anything left.”

Big Brown—which IEAH owns a 75% stake in—was racing with a quarter-crack in his left front hoof, an injury that trainer Rick Dutrow said was a non-issue. But Desormeaux eased up on Big Brown after he failed to respond, as the 94,476 spectators who came out to see the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years were treated to a wire-to-wire victory by Da’Tara, at 38-1 the longest shot in the field.

Despite his injured hoof, things seemed to be going well for Big Brown. On the morning of the race, his top competitor, Casino Drive, was scratched due to a bruised left hind hoof, leaving what was generally considered an extremely weak field of eight to try to derail Big Brown. Dutrow called the coronation of his horse “a foregone conclusion.”

Instead of becoming thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, in oppressive 88-degree heat, Big Brown became the 11th horse to enter the Belmont after wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness to fail since Seattle Slew and Affirmed swept the three races in 1977 and 1978.

Big Brown’s camp said Sunday there was nothing wrong with the horse, who they still plan to run in August’s Travers Stakes in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Still, IEAH is moving ahead with their plans to build a horse hospital across the street from their greatest defeat. Newsday reports that the Garden City, N.Y.-based group is seeking tax breaks for its $17 million Ruffian Equine Medical Center, which is expected to open this summer.

Should the Town of Hempstead grant the three-year tax freeze, it could be worth as much as $1 million.

Documents filed with the Hempstead Industrial Development Agency also provide a peak into the inner workings of IEAH. Co-chiefs Michael Iavarone and Richard Schiavo hold a combined 13% stake in the firm. John Roberts of Ravenhill Investments owns 31%, while James Tagliaferri’s asset management firm, TAG Virgin Islands, owns 60%.

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