'Capping It Off: Adam Wachtel - By Esther Marr

 (Originally published in the March 17, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

Adam Wachtel is no newbie to the Thoroughbred world. As a child, he was introduced to the industry by his father, prominent New York owner Ed Wachtel, and he grew up on the New York circuit racetracks. But Adam would want it no other way.

“I’ve been going to the races since I was 10 years old,” said Wachtel, 50, who resides in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., with his wife, Susan, and stepchildren Lauren and Matt-hew. “Even though I went to law school, I don’t practice. I loved racing from the first time I went to the track, and I always knew I’d get involved one day.”

Adam Wachtel, who bought his first horse when he was a college student, has bred and raced several stakes winners over the years with his father, in partnership with others, and on his own.

“Racing was just a hobby for most of the owners I grew up around,” said Wachtel, who currently has 25 horses in training. “I thought if I treated it as a business, then maybe I would have an edge over the other owners and end up in the winner’s circle one day with a grade I.”

Wachtel’s stable currently features two different standouts: grade II winner Al Khali and grade I victor Ron the Greek. He owns both horses in partnership with his longtime friend Nils Brous. The latter is also co-owned by Jack Hammer, the horse’s breeder.

Al Khali, a two-time graded winner on turf, has been a little off form lately, but Wachtel has high hopes for the 6-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro.

“His last two turf races were thirds (2011 Sword Dancer Invitational, gr. IT; and Northern Dancer Turf Stakes, Can-IT), so we feel he could still be one of the top players in the distance turf category,” said Wachtel.  

Ron the Greek’s best form began to emerge late last year, with back-to-back stakes victories at Aqueduct and then a close second behind Mucho Macho Man in the Jan. 28 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes. Wachtel and trainer Bill Mott decided to step the 5-year-old son of Full Mandate up in class for the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and he rewarded them with an easy 31⁄2-length victory.  

Wachtel first took a liking to Ron the Greek following his victory as a 3-year-old in the 2010 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III), but he was unable to purchase the horse from Hammer then because he was on the Triple Crown trail.

Hammer finally offered Wachtel and Brous the opportunity to acquire a majority interest in Ron the Greek following an eight-race losing streak during his 3- and 4-year-old campaigns.

“(Hammer) thought he was mismanaging the horse or doing something wrong,” said Wachtel. “He felt like maybe if he could hand over the reins to me and Bill Mott, it could help get the horse back in the right direction. I looked at his recent races, and I felt he had every bit of the potential he had when he was young.”

Wachtel was quick to point out that he has great respect for Ron the Greek’s previous trainers Tom Amoss, Tom Albertrani, and Peter Walder. But once the horse was in Mott’s barn, it just seemed like the best fit.

“I think I do a pretty good job of working with Bill and managing our horses,” said Wachtel. “We came up with the right game plan.”

Their strategy involved giving Ron the Greek a few months off last summer to regroup and work with Mott’s team, which seemed to be exactly what the horse needed.

Ron the Greek is a typical example of Wachtel’s racing philosophy. Because Wachtel is also a breeder—he keeps eight mares and stands the stallion One Nice Cat at Keane Stud near Amenia, N.Y.—the veteran horseman tends to buy only horses in the open market.

Wachtel likes acquiring runners that have impressive Ragozin numbers, like Ron the Greek did when he finished third behind Hymn Book and I Want Revenge in the Three Coins Up Stakes at Belmont Park last May.  

“On the Ragozin sheets, which is what I use for purchasing and managing horses, he ran a 13⁄4, which is monstrous,” Wachtel said.

Wachtel’s other main strategy is to buy horses that have shown potential but don’t fit into their current trainers’ programs. Because his trainers—Mott, Chris Englehart, Dale Romans, Billy Morey, and Allen Iwinski—are spread across the nation, Wachtel can be flexible about sending horses to the region where he feels they belong.

Wachtel’s past success speaks for itself, and considering the rapid progress Ron the Greek has made, the future looks bright for the horse to continue on the path to stardom.

“We’re just really excited about him; we think he’s a legitimate threat,” said Wachtel, whose long-term plans involve getting Ron the Greek to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) in November. “He’ll be a major factor in the older handicap division for sure. We’re hoping for a little luck, and if he stays healthy, then watch out for Ron the Greek this year.”

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