Smooth Sailing: Blinkers On Racing Stable - By Lenny Shulman

 After longtime partnership entity Team Valor International won this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), it is no surprise that another owners’ syndicate is making a big splash. Blinkers On Racing Stable, based in Northern California and the brainchild of Bay Area resident Scott Sherwood, has a major star on its hands with the continuing electric performances of 3-year-old filly Turbulent Descent.

The daughter of Congrats left a solid field far behind in the Aug. 6 Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, earning her third grade I score and fifth stakes win. Sherwood and his nine co-owners couldn’t be more thrilled.

“To do what she did in that setting was just fantastic,” said Sherwood, 54. “It’s very rewarding to take her on the road and watch her defeat a solid field like that so easily.”

The next road trip for Turbulent Descent will be to Churchill Downs and the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 4.

Sherwood has been a horse racing fan since childhood. When he sold a chain of golf and tennis retail stores in 2003, he decided to realize a lifelong dream of owning Thoroughbreds. After playing the claiming game, he wanted to participate at a higher level, and began racing 2-year-olds with trainer Brian Koriner. When Koriner moved his operation to Southern California, Sherwood picked up Greg Gilchrist, who has since retired from training but still buys 2-year-olds at auction for various clients. Continuing his streak of purchasing top racehorses for relatively modest prices (such as graded stakes winners Lost in the Fog, Smokey Stover, Indyanne, etc.), Gilchrist landed Turbulent Descent for $160,000 out of the 2010 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s April auction of 2-year-olds.

She subsequently earned her name when her flight from Florida to California encountered rough air and she threw a wingding on the plane.

“When she got to California, she was down to bone on her ankle with a giant flap of skin hanging down, and her knee looked like a soccer ball,” Sherwood said. “But (trainer) Mike (Puype) was fantastic, and instead of turning her out, he and his vets decided it would be better for her circulation if they went on with her. So we ended up losing only 45-60 days of training with her, and she’s gone on to do what she’s done.”

That includes a victory last year in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I), and scores this year in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), Beaumont Stakes (gr. II), and Test. Turbulent Descent has won six of eight starts with two seconds and has earned $828,350 to date for her owners.

Sherwood retains about a 20% ownership stake in the partnership horses while syndicating the remaining 80%. He runs under the Blinkers On name, but the partners also have their names on the ownership papers and are listed in the program. Sherwood manages the racing stable.

“I’m not in this to make money on the partnership side of it,” Sherwood noted. “I’m in it to run better horses. I didn’t want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on horses myself. It’s a numbers game, and the more horses you can buy, the better chance of hitting a Turbulent Descent.”

Generally, eight-12 partners own 5% or 10% shares in each Blinkers On horse. Gilchrist typically buys three-to-five 2-year-olds a season for Sherwood and plays in the $100,000-$150,000 range. A 5% share in Turbulent Descent would have cost a partner $10,000. Sherwood anticipates an uptick in purchases next spring.

“We do some advertising and maintain a nice website, but there’s no advertising like having a Turbulent Descent out there,” he noted. “When you get a horse like that, people start calling because they want to be with a winner. Next year we’ll be able to go out and participate on a higher level with more horses.”

Sherwood credits Gilchrist for the success of Blinkers On.

“It all starts with Greg,” he stated. “It begins with watching video of the under tack shows and analyzing strides; then it goes to conformation; and lastly, pedigree, which is the opposite of how a lot of people work. Greg is a big part of the team, and we wouldn’t be here without him. Not only does he have a great eye for a horse, but he’s become a close friend.”

Sherwood is stoked about a pair of runners nearing their debuts: a 3-year-old Wildcat Heir colt named High Test and a With Distinction colt named Clearly a Cowboy, both plucked by Gilchrist out of an OBS auction. In addition, Sherwood on his own races a couple of homebreds in Northern California with conditioner Terry Knight.

Unless Santa Anita writes an overnight race for her in early October, Puype will train Turbulent Descent up to the Breeders’ Cup race, which is run at seven furlongs, a distance at which the filly is undefeated in three starts.

“The seven-eighths is in her wheelhouse,” said Sherwood. “She can take on the best there.” Which would make it smooth sailing for Turbulent Descent and Blinkers On.

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