Robert LaPenta, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., who now resides in Westport, Conn., was introduced to racing during his youth by his mother. He first became an owner in 1998 in partnership with University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. LaPenta established his own stable in 2001, with Hall of Famer Nick Zito as his primary trainer. His stable consisting of more than 60 horses also includes horses with trainers Doug O’Neill and Ron Moquett.
LaPenta’s maroon and gold silks (honoring his alma mater, Iona College) have become familiar sights in 2- and 3-year-old races in recent years and many of LaPenta's runners had the classics in their sights. LaPenta again finds himself on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trail this year, with Zito-trained Ice Box, winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I).
Among the top horses campaigned by LaPenta have been 2007 champion 2-year-old male War Pass, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner The Cliff’s Edge, and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Da’ Tara. Although the top 2-year-old of 2007, War Pass never made it to the Kentucky Derby due to an injury. But LaPenta went on to achieve classic success that year when Da’ Tara upset Big Brown in the Belmont at 36-1 odds. The Cliff’s Edge finished fifth in the 2004 Kentucky Derby victory of Smarty Jones and later in the year ran second in the Travers Stakes (gr. I).
LaPenta has also stepped up to help boost racing by signing on to sponsor this year’s Derby Trial, the traditional feature on the opening-day card at the Churchill Downs spring meet. The race will now be named after The Cliff’s Edge, who stands at stud in Kentucky.
In addition to his racing success, LaPenta has also become a successful pinhooker, buying horses and reselling them at a profit. One of his biggest scores came with Fusaichi Samurai, bought for $270,000 as a yearling and sold as a 2-year-old for a then-record $4.5 million.
Outside of racing, LaPenta is board chairman, president and CEO of L-1 Identity Solutions, which provides solutions and services that protect personal identities and assets. He is also co-founder and former president and CFO of L-3 Communications Corp. and is a former vice president of Lockheed Martin Corporation. A member of the Iona College board of trustees, LaPenta donated $7 million toward construction of the college’s LaPenta Student Union Building.
Thank you for your questions. The podcast will be taped on Thursday, April 8th.