ARCADIA, Calif. – It was not Dennis Albaugh’s time in 2016. Perhaps it will be his moment in Friday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.
In 2016, the Albaugh-owned Not This Time fell a neck short to Classic Empire in the Juvenile at Santa Anita. Friday, Albaugh and his son-in-law Jason Loutsch, who race under the banner Albaugh Family Stable, are back at Santa Anita with Dennis’ Moment, who was made the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Juvenile.
Dennis’ Moment, a son of Tiznow, won a maiden race by 19 1/4 lengths at Ellis Park in his second start. He validated that with a 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept 14.
Dennis’ Moment is the latest in a line of runners the Albaugh family has brought to this race. In 2015, they finished 3rd and 12th with Brody’s Cause and Unbridled Outlaw. Following Not This Time’s second-place finish in 2016, Hollywood Star and Free Drop Billy finished sixth and ninth in 2017.
Though Free Drop Billy and Brody’s Cause each won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, Loutsch says he and his father-in-law are still seeking that signature win for the stable.
“Absolutely. Winning a Grade 1 at Keeneland twice is unbelievable,” Loutsch said. “To win that big one on the biggest race day – the Triple Crown or Breeders’ Cup – that’s our next step. We got a shot this year.”
It was Loutsch who got his father-in-law into racing about 14 years ago. They bought into a horse Miss Macy Sue, and the filly won six stakes and earned $880,000. Albaugh, who made his fortune as head of a pesticide and fertilizer company based in Alkeny, Iowa, thought he had found another gold mine in racing. He soon found out it wasn’t so easy.
“I thought ‘How can I go wrong?’ ” Albaugh said. “I bought some more and learned there is something more to this.”
Albaugh said he has a team of seven individuals that provide input when purchasing yearlings at auction. Albaugh said he buys about 10 yearlings a year and also breeds to 10 to 15 mares he owns. Miss Macy Sue, Albaugh’s first horse, produced Liam’s Map – whom Albaugh sold as a yearling for $800,000 and who won the 2016 Dirt Mile – and Not This Time.
Not This Time (Taylor Made), and Brody’s Cause and Free Drop Bill (both Spendthrift) all are stallions based in Kentucky A stud deal regarding Dennis’ Moment is expected to be announced shortly before or right after the Breeders’ Cup, Loutsch said.
“I’ve taken more money off the table than I’ve put in,” Albaugh said of his time in racing.
That this horse is named after him came as a surprise to Dennis Albaugh. Loutsch said the family had luck naming horses after friends or family – Free Drop Billy and Brody’s Cause – and he wanted to name one for his father-in-law. Bloodstock agent Barry Berkelhammer, who had a role in selecting Dennis’s Moment, told Loutsch he thought this son of Tiznow – a sire Loutsch long admired – was special.
“He didn’t know about it when I met with him in the spring to go over the roster,” Loutsch said of his father-in-law. “He said ‘Dennis’ Moment? What’s this?’ I said, ‘He might be a good one.’ I had no idea he was going to be this good.”
The first race wasn’t too good. Albaugh was having a family reunion in Iowa the day Dennis’ Moment made his first start at Churchill Downs, and everybody gathered around the television to watch. About an eighth of a mile into the race, Dennis’ Moment clipped heels with a horse that had come over on him and unseated jockey Robby Albarado.
“I was quite shocked,” Albaugh said. “I was worried about Robby, too. Then to watch that horse go on and win the race without a rider, I thought I think I got myself a horse here.”
Dennis’ Moment proved Albaugh right by romping in a seven-furlong maiden race. He came back to punch his ticket to Santa Anita in the Grade 3 Iroquois.
Three years ago, Romans said Not This Time had the potential to be the best horse he had trained. Now, he thinks it could be Dennis’ Moment.
Not This Time “was the only one of my dirt horses that breaths the same air as this one,” Romans said. “This one is so special. Even around the barn or in the stall he has an aura about him that horses don’t have. I don’t know what it is. You stand around him for five minutes you see what I’m talking about.”
Albaugh hopes everybody gets to see what Romans is talking about on Friday.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.