Posted on April 22, 2014

    Danza as a yearling

    That’s the tagline on all the promotional materials for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and the philosophy paid off with Danza. Although he was a shocker in the Arkansas Derby with odds of 41-1, Eclipse president Aron Wellman had been hoping the colt would be the ownership group’s ticket to the Kentucky Derby since 2012.

    Eclipse has been in operation for just under three years, and Wellman said that Danza’s $105,000 purchase out of the Keeneland September Yearling sale was the first time the group had sought out a colt with such a lofty goal as a trip to the Derby.

    “I can’t say that he was bought as a Derby prospect; he was just bought with the potential of being a high quality athlete,” said Wellman. “I don’t know how anyone could calculate the odds on that [getting a Derby starter on the first focused attempt] but I’d be lying to you if I said that we could have predicted in September of 2012 with the one shot that we fired with a colt at that sale that we’d be 15 days out from the Derby with a leading contender.”


    The goal when Wellman and co-founder Lee Midkiff started Eclipse was to have horses running at graded stakes levels, allowing shareholders to get a high-end experience without a huge investment. So far it has worked: the group has campaigned the likes of graded stakes winners Capo Bastone, Byrama (GB), In Lingerie, and Silsita among others.

    “We do believe big, and we believe that translates into big things,” said Wellman.

    Wellman and Midkiff were both involved with 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom (Midkiff as one of the horse’s owners, and Wellman as a member of the Team Valor team), so Danza’s trip to Louisville will not be their first in the Run for the Roses. For Wellman, it will be the first time he has gone as an owner and as they say, ‘heavy lies the head that wears the crown.’

    Danza as a 2-year old

    “The lead-up to the Derby with Animal Kingdom was significantly different because he won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park six weeks out from the Derby,” said Wellman. “He was very much under the radar all the way up to the week of the Kentucky Derby.

    Danza as a 2-year-old

    “This experience has been different, of course … Danza was basically off the map until he ran away with the Arkansas Derby. It has created a much more intense experience already for us. I think it’s only natural for people in this position to be nervous to some degree. You just want everything to go smooth every minute of every day until they cross the wire. There is no margin for error.”

    Danza’s journey is an even bigger first for Micah Feingold, a Kansas City commercial real estate agent who is one of the partners in the horse. Danza is the first horse lifelong racing fan Feingold has ever invested in.

    “It’s been unbelievable,” said Feingold. “It’s just been so much fun to follow a horse and see him when he’s running and hope you get your picture taken.

    “For people who are thinking about doing this, it’s been an awesome way to get into the sport.”

    Now, Feingold owns small percentages in six horses through Eclipse, and three of them are running on Derby weekend. After he traveled to New York to see Danza finish third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, he booked a ticket package to the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

    Danza as a yearling at Keeneland September

    “I didn’t know [he’d go] but I knew if he was gong to be there I wanted to make sure I was there,” he said. “You don’t dream that high, you know? But you’re hoping. This is just a dream, particularly for someone who loves horse racing like I do.”

    Wellman said it has been rewarding for him to see partners excited about the journey, especially first-timers like Feingold. Although he wasn’t counting his roses quite as soon as Feingold did, Wellman recalled having Derby on the brain after Danza’s third place effort in an allowance event at Gulfstream in March. The horse was coming off a seven-month layoff for a minor injury sustained in the Special, and Wellman and trainer Todd Pletcher believe the time off did him good.

    “He was a horse we thought highly of from the very beginning,” said Wellman. “He’d gotten a little wise during his time off.”

    Danza as a yearling at Keeneland September

    Despite missing the allowance wire by seven and a half lengths, Danza became sharper than ever in morning works, and the connections sent him to the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby believing he had a serious shot.

    “He certainly thought he was on top of the world and he went out and proved it,” said Wellman. “That confidence going into the Arkansas Derby has maintained, if not enhanced itself.”

    For Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, the confidence is contagious.

    Read More
  • Total Eclipse Newsletter: 2013 In Review & Look Ahead To 2014

    Posted on January 1, 2014


    Total Eclipse Newsletter:  2013 In Review & Look Ahead To 2014


    Read More
  • Eclipse Program To Provide No Cost Mammography Screenings At Turfway Park On December 27th

    Posted on December 20, 2013


    Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Expanded Charitable Partnership with the Susan G. Komen Greater Cincinnati Affiliate Brings No-Cost Mammography Screening Services to Turfway Park on December 27th

    Graded stakes victories by Eclipse fillies running on behalf of Komen Cincinnati in 2013 will bring no-cost mobile mammography screening services to women in the Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky area starting December 27th at Turfway Park

    Silsita, Byrama & Charlie Em

    December 20, 2013: Springboro, OH:  In 2012, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners formed a charitable partnership with the Susan G. Komen Greater Cincinnati Affiliate whereby a percentage of race earnings won by the company’s star filly, In Lingerie, were donated to the charity. As In Lingerie put forth victories in the Black Eyed Susan and Spinster Stakes she helped execute on Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ vision of raising money for the Cincinnati Affiliate. In all, In Lingerie’s success helped raise approximately $30,000 for the Greater Cincinnati Affiliate in 2012.

    In an effort to continue 2012’s success, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners expanded its’ partnership with the local Komen affiliate in 2013. Under the 2013 partnership, any time an Eclipse filly won a Graded Stakes race, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners agreed to underwrite the cost of providing a day of no-cost mobile mammography screening services to women in the Tri-State area; including programs for thoroughbred industry workers located in Northern Kentucky. Different from the prior year’s partnership, this program applied to all fillies in the company’s stable, as well as underwrote a specific program within the Komen Affiliate’s geographic area.

    With Byrama, Charlie Em and Silsita all winning Graded Stakes races for Eclipse in 2013, the partnership has again proved successful as Eclipse will now underwrite three days of no-cost mobile mammography services for women within the area.  With a desire to focus on those within the thoroughbred industry, the first day of no-cost screening services is slated to take place at Turfway Park on December 27th.

    Lee Midkiff, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Chairman, commented, “We are ecstatic with the performances put forth on the track this year by Byrama, Charlie EM and Silsita. While their victories gave our partners a phenomenal thrill, they also enabled us to execute on our goal of bringing screening services to uninsured women in the Tri-State area; including those working in the thoroughbred industry. We are delighted that the first screening day is able to take place at Turfway Park. Not only is the track located in close proximity to our headquarters, it is also the location of our company’s first graded stakes win, as well as Silsita’s win in the Bourbonette Oaks this year that helped contribute a day to this program.”

    No-cost screenings facilitated by St Elizabeth Health Care will take place at Turfway Park on December 27th between 1:30 and 5:30 PM. Those interested in scheduling an advance appointment may call 859-655-7400. 

    Read More
  • Eclipse Proud To Support Saratoga War Horse

    Posted on December 6, 2013

    Ramon Dominguez and Saratoga WarHorse

    Courtesy: Bloodhorse

    It has only been in recent years that our society has recognized post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in combat military personnel returning home from war and anyone else exposed to an extreme traumatic event that has altered their life. Going back to World War I, this disorder was trivialized with the term shell shock.

    There are a number of therapeutic programs and medications now to treat this disorder that has disrupted and often ruined so many lives. While the success rate of these programs can vary, most of them unsuccessful, there is one, on a smaller scale, with a 100 percent success rate that is still in its fledgling stage and seeking the means to expand. 

    The difference between this program and others is that this one bypasses the traditional psychotherapy and medication and goes directly to one’s soul. And what has touched the human soul for centuries? Horses.

    There lies the foundation of Saratoga WarHorse, based in a small facility in Wilton, N.Y., some 15 miles north of the horse Mecca of Saratoga Springs.

    Bob Nevins, a former medevac helicopter pilot with the 101st Airborne who was wounded in Vietnam, founded Saratoga WarHorse several years ago after retiring as an airline captain and knows how the horrors of war can damage a young person by wiping out all the beauty and innocence of youth and creating a vacuous view of life that is remedied only through escape. That escape often manifests itself in depression and even a suicide attempt. 

    “You can wave the flag and send a kid to war with a nice clean uniform, and when he comes home he’s gone from high school basketball star to killing some 15-year-old kid accidentally in Afghanistan or doing something that is totally against what he’s been raised to do and believe,” Nevins said.

    “I’m not trying to be all things to all veterans. I’m taking that percentage of kids who are on track to kill themselves and I have to reach out to them as a veteran and gently coax them to take a chance on coming here. I don’t use words like therapy and all the buzz words the military wants you to use, like building resiliency. A guy sitting in the dark with a gun in his mouth doesn’t want to hear your happy chat. I just want to do what I do quietly, because it’s so powerful and really helps the veterans. I’m talking about kids who are suicidal. The turnaround is so dramatic, but I have to protect them at the same time. You don’t want to be talking about someone who’s going through the darkest period of their life. So we try to keep it on a personal one on one level.

    And that one on one level is with a horse. Winston Churchill said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” That is the key to Saratoga WarHorse. Nevins has shown that all the medication and all the therapy cannot compare to a simple look into the eyes of a horse. For centuries, as long as man has bonded with the horse, those eyes have served as a mirror to the soul.

    “When you make this connection with the veterans, they are so emotionally shut down they can’t feel anything,” Nevins said. “But when the connection with the horses takes place it’s like a rush of oxytocin (the hormone that is released when we express our love for someone) that floods their brain, and that is the trigger that shatters the walls that they’ve been hiding behind. So there is actually a medical and scientific reason why this works. 

    “So many people want to project love onto the horses, which is fine, but horses are really animals of instinct. So we’re engaging them and working with them where they’re most comfortable, while teaching the veterans the horses’ language. As a result, the horse bonds with them and they feel as if the horse understands them. That’s what the veteran needs. It’s internal, because they finally feel accepted.”

    The process and results of Saratoga WarHorse can be witnessed in videos and stories presented on their website ( To get the full emotional impact of what transpires there you just have to watch the horses, all of whom are rescued Thoroughbreds, come to the veteran in the round pen and then follow him around. This is accomplished by several movements and gestures that are taught to the veteran by accomplished horse whisperers. The results are startling, from the look on the veteran’s face when the horse comes to him to his emotional reaction to the entire experience.

    “Because of how vulnerable and sensitive these guys are, I have to do this in a very short period of time, which we can do because the secret takes place in the round pen,” Nevins said. “I don’t need them for three weeks or 10 sessions. I just prep them, they go in, they have the experience, and to them it’s life changing. We just stand back, and when they come out crying we just give them a couple of hugs and send them back to their family. There was one guy who didn’t cry and I really expected him to. When I brought him back to the airport, he put his bags down and looked at me and just broke down crying and kept thanking me. It’s all about this release in the mind.”

    Saratoga WarHorse is not only about veterans. It is about anyone dealing with an emotional, life-altering trauma who needs to regain their focus in life. That is where recently retired jockey Ramon Dominguez enters the picture.

    Dominguez was at the peak of his career as one of leading jockeys in America when he was involved in a spill at Aqueduct on Jan. 18, in which he suffered a traumatic brain injury that forced him to retire. To suddenly give up the only thing he knew how to do and what he loved the most left a deep emotional scar that was difficult to deal with.

    Anne Campbell, wife of Dogwood Stable owner Cot Campbell, is on the board of Saratoga WarHorse and was amazed at the results when Dominguez went through the program.

    “Ramon was doing everything he was supposed to do, but you could tell looking in his eyes he was depressed,” she said. His wife, Sharon, urged him to try Saratoga WarHorse, and he agreed and was extended an invitation to go through the program. On Nov. 18, he went through a session with some Vietnam vets, so they were older guys. I talked to Bob Nevins the next morning, and he said the first day Ramon went through the program he was smiling and feeling better, and he talked about his feelings a great deal at the de-briefing session. The next morning, Bob took him to the train station to go back to New York and Ramon told Bob he could not believe what had happened to him. 

    “He had been texting Sharon the whole time he was there and kept saying, ‘I can’t believe this; I’m feeling so much better.’ He told Bob he wanted to be the poster boy for Saratoga WarHorse, because it had changed his life so dramatically. It’s such a big boost for WarHorse. Ramon is doing well following the trauma of such a life-altering event. Ramon said, ‘I’ve been around horses all my life. I know horses. But I’ve never had the kind of experience as when that horse turned around and looked me in the eye and followed me.’”

    For Dominguez, who has been in love with horses his entire life, this was a different type of bonding that gave him a tremendous sense of accomplishment. This was not the exhilaration of a head-and-head stretch duel or leading a horse into the winner’s circle. This was an awakening that was more about the horse itself than a victory on the racetrack.

    “It was very different from anything I’ve ever done with horses before,” Dominguez said. “It was a very positive experience for sure. My wife and I were in Saratoga and she met one of the people involved in the program. They were talking and asked me if I wanted to do it. I thought it would be very exciting. I went there with no expectations. I knew it would be something different than riding racehorses, but I don’t think anything can prepare you for the bonding and the connection with the horse that you experience. Regardless of your experience in horse racing, whether as a trainer or a jockey, this is something totally different that was very very exciting for me to have done it. I can say the same thing for the veterans that were there. We all had a great time.

    “It was something that was touching and one of those things people have to experience in order to really appreciate just how wonderful it is. I can’t emphasize enough what a positive experience it was. Horses are wonderful animals that I absolutely love and to get to interact with them on a different level was very special — from being in the round pen with them to having them follow you around. It gave you a sense of accomplishment to be able to connect with the horses and have them listen to you and respond to you, and basically follow you around like a dog. It was a beautiful thing to experience.”

    Nevins added, “Ramon said to me, ‘I can’t tell you what you’ve done for me. If I can do anything for you; if you want me to talk to anybody or use my picture I’ll be glad to help.’ There’s a real parallel between a jockey and a soldier. Every time that gate opens you don’t know if you’re going to make it around the track. That’s what happens with the soldier. It keeps playing on your mind over and over again. ‘Is my luck going to run out?’ When you’re young and dumb you don’t think of those things. But after you’ve been wounded in combat or injured on the racetrack, it really makes it a lot harder. The horses, the jockeys, and the veterans all have one thing in common. Just because their career ends it doesn’t mean their life is over. They just have to find a new purpose.’”

    Nevins said it costs him $2,500 to put a veteran through the program, but that is cheap compared to the millions it costs taxpayers to put them on disability through the VA (Veterans Administration). So far, there have been close to 100 veterans who have participated in the program and the success rate has been 100 percent.

    That success rate is due in good part to the generosity of people in the racing industry and corporate people wanting to do something meaningful and with purpose on a more immediate level, rather than simply writing checks out to a particular charity. During the Sararoga meet, trainer Bill Mott and his wife Tina put on a dinner for the veterans at the conclusion of the program.

    Nevins says the medication and psychotherapy doesn’t work and the government knows it doesn’t work, which is the reason why the VA has such a high failure rate. He finds it frustrating that they don’t look outside the box. The American Legion recently completed a two-year study that came to the same conclusion as Nevins.

    “The vets feel like throwaways and complain they’re being medicated to death,” Nevins said. “They know talk therapy doesn’t work because there’s no way to release that oxytocin through verbal conversations. It’s got to be an emotional jolt. We don’t tell the veterans any of that. We just teach them the horse’s language and the horse bonds with them and they get this rush. Their reaction is always the same – “I don’t know what happened.’”

    “We tell them we don’t know what happened either. They go back to their families, and their wives call and thank us, or psychiatrists call and ask, ‘How did you do that? I’ve had this kid for two years and I haven’t been able to break through.’ So were going to just keep doing what we do and let the government catch up to us. We pay for everything, because if you give them an excuse not to leave their house they’ll take it. We tell them we have people in the Thoroughbred industry that have already paid for their plane ticket and their hotel. All they have to do is show up. And that’s why it works.”

    One of the reasons Nevins has been able to fund the program is that the facility he uses is owned by his attorney, and when he saw what Nevins was attempting to accomplish he turned the place over to him. That was how he was able to keep operating for the first two years. Once the money ran out he began to look elsewhere.

    As for the horses, the more Saratoga WarHorse grows the more horses will be needed. And the more horses are needed, the more horses they can rescue.

    Ramon Dominguez has come to terms with his fate and his life and has broken through that barrier of denial he built following his injury.

    “At this point in my life I’m doing OK,” he said. “I’m very happy and looking forward to the future.”


    Read More
  • Passion
  • Integrity
  • Excellence