Race fans, horse lovers and Belmont jockeys and trainers flooded Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Thursday night as the celebrity chef and racehorse owner hosted a private dinner and live auction— raising $450,000—to benefit two racehorse-related nonprofits. With the Belmont Stakes just a day away, DuJour caught up with Flay—who was honored that evening with the Earle I. Mack TRF Champion Award—to talk about his charitable involvement, why he’d never ride a thoroughbred, and which contender he favors to win this year’s race. Surprisingly, it’s not Orb.
When was the first time you rode a horse?
Probably in camp, I was 13 or 14 years old. It was scary as can be. I mean, I wouldn’t ride a thoroughbred, they’re like bullets.
How did you get into owning and breeding horses?
I just fell in love with it. I went to Saratoga Springs when I was a teenager and I’ve been going there every year for the last thirty years or so. Once I became an adult and started making my living I thought it would be really cool to actually own a horse. I started taking a piece of a horse here and there as a partner and as time went on I started my own program.
How did you get involved with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation?
I’ve worked with TRF for a long time probably for the last ten years or so. I think it’s really important to be responsible. If you’re going to race horses you need to be responsible for their aftercare as well –in some way shape or form– whether its financial or practical. TRF does a really fantastic job looking after these horses that need to be retired. They need funds because not everybody does what they’re supposed to do.
Where do horses go when they retire from the track?
Sometimes if a horse is injured from a race they can’t really be repurposed as a jumper or a riding horse. There are actually prisoner programs where [inmates] are taught to take care of horses. It gives the prisoner a new friend. It’s an amazing program. If they are still sound, they can be repurposed as work horses or riders for police.
Orb is this year’s Belmont Stakes favorite, who are you betting on to win?
I think Orb is going to have a very good chance but I also think Overanalyze is ready to have a really good race. The guy that owns Overanalyze is a friend of mine, Mike Repole who used to own Vitaminwater and he’s an enthusiastic horseman.