(Originally published in the April 9, 2011 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
Friendships made in college can last a lifetime, enhance employment opportunities, or, in the case of George Bolton, perhaps even lead to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
“Bill Farish and I went to the University of Virginia together,” said Bolton, who grew up in Maryland, studied economics at Virginia, and today at age 47 lives in the San Francisco area. “One day Bill called me and said they were going to sell a couple of 2-year-olds in training, keeping half.”
Bolton was happy to buy into some of the farm’s promising homebreds from the Farish family’s Lane’s End Farm. One of those was Exotic Moves, a 1991 Kentucky-bred daughter of Miswaki who earned $221,854, won the Lady Ladbroke Handicap at Detroit Race Course, and placed in six other stakes at six different racetracks.
From those beginnings Bolton has partnered in several major runners, including 1997 Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Cymbala with Farish and most notably 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin with Jess Jackson. Also with Jackson, he owns 3-year-old Astrology, a grade III winner last year and second in the March 27 Sunland Derby (gr. III). Bolton, Jackson, and B. Wayne Hughes own Dominus, an impressive 51⁄4-length maiden winner at Santa Anita March 26. Steve Asmussen trains the pair.
Anyone would be happy with such promising colts, but Bolton has one with even better prospects for major 3-year-old events—San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) and Rebel Stakes (gr. II) winner The Factor. Bolton bought The Factor for $250,000 at the 2010 Barretts May 2-year-old sale and brought in David Shimmon’s Fog City Stable as his partner.
Bolton learned from Farish and applied his own business acumen to his investments. He worked in the investment banking business for 20 years, and in 2004 started WestEnd Capital Management, an independent asset management company.
Along the way he met sales consignor Jerry Bailey, who now starts Bolton’s 2-year-olds in Florida. Last year Bolton felt he already had a good group of youngsters in Astrology, Dominus, and the Tiznow filly Abide. But when Bailey mentioned a son of War Front who was developing amazingly well for the Barretts May sale, Bolton took notice.
Getting to the sale took a little family finagling.
“I was at Disneyland that day with my kids,” said Bolton. “I snuck over to the sale and watched the video where he worked :10 flat and out in :324⁄5. I jumped in on the bidding at $220,000 and got him for $250,000. Then I raced back and picked my kids up.”
Added Shimmon, “That’s OK—they were still in the Space Mountain line.”
That purchase topped the sale and was one of the more expensive 2-year-olds from War Front’s first crop.
Because the colt showed potential, Bolton gave him a name he had already reserved with The Jockey Club. The Factor, as Bill O’Reilly states regularly on “The O’Reilly Factor,” was named for the television show, but Bolton said it actually stems from two places.
“The factors in Europe are the accountants for the royal family,” said Bolton. “I have a friend who’s an accountant over there.”
Now, The Factor has Triple Crown and stallion potential. War Front has also sired another classic hopeful in Soldat, and The Factor has sizzled for trainer Bob Baffert, breaking a track record in his maiden victory before adding the San Vicente and Rebel.
“In the San Vicente, he showed not only brilliance, but that he’s gutsy,” said Bolton. “He’s also a very nice, sensible horse. I’m close friends with The Factor. I spent a lot of time with him last summer at Del Mar.”
Yet Bolton’s business plan never limits him to one horse. He keeps 10 mares at Lane’s End and sells most of their produce as yearlings. Then he buys a few yearlings and 2-year-olds to race. Bolton already has his 3-year-olds of 2012 in the pipeline.
“Jess Jackson and I have a Smart Strike—Ask Me No Secrets colt,” Bolton said. “We’ve got three fillies: a Tiznow—Chaste, a Smart Strike who’s a half sister to Albergatti, and a nice Malibu Moon—Career Oriented.”
Those four came out of the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. Bolton and Jackson also purchased a 2-year-old son of Dixie Union—Polish Ruby at the March 3 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale at Palm Meadows.
“We try every year to have four or five new horses to have something to root for,” said Bolton. “This year with Astrology, Dominus, and The Factor, it’s pretty much the best bench I’ve ever had going into the spring.”