Derby winner owned by Louisvillians (for the first time in 100+ years)

2018 Kentucky Derby winner Justify is owned in part by Louisvillians, including local attorney Ed Glasscock, center, in black cap. His granddaughter Sarah celebrates in front, center, holding a rose. | Courtesy of Frost Brown Todd

For the first time in more than a century, the Kentucky Derby winner was owned, at least in part, by Louisvillians.

Ed Glasscock

Louisville attorney Ed Glasscock, who has an ownership stake in the colt Justify through the Kentucky racing syndicate Starlight, told Insider that he’s been floating on a cloud all weekend.

“It was just so much fun,” Glasscock said. “There’s nothing like it.”

Starlight also includes Louisvillians Jack Wolf and Ted and Mary Nixon. The syndicate owns Justify together with WinStar Farms, Head of Plains Partners and China Horse Club.

Churchill Downs told Insider that the last time a Louisville-owned horse crossed the finish line first at a Kentucky Derby was in 1914.

“It’s nice to have the Louisvillians win for a change,” Glasscock said.

The chairman emeritus of Frost Brown Todd has been waiting for the victory for about 20 years. Before Saturday, he had an ownership stake in three horses in The Derby, though none finished higher than ninth.

“People don’t understand how difficult it is,” he said. “To win The Derby is just an incredible achievement for the owners and trainers and jockeys.”

Even getting a horse into The Derby comes with very long odds: Only 20 horses out of about 20,000 foals a year even make it into The Derby.

Glasscock said that for this year’s event, the owners had rented a suite and invited about 40 guests, including family and clients. As the race neared, Glasscock and his son, Clinton, headed toward the barn to walk Justify and rival Audible, which Starlight also owns, in front of the crowd. The father and son then headed to the paddock, where they were joined by the rest of the family before taking seats in the owners box.

Justify ran “an incredible race,” Glasscock said. And Audible nearly came in second.

“It’s one of the most exciting days that you’ll have,” he said.

Glasscock talked about the race almost like a play-by-play announcer, from an analysis of the starting positions to the times Justify posted in each of the quarters and how the jockey gave the horse a break in the third quarter to enable a strong finish.

The starting position, post #7, Glasscock said, was crucial, because it allowed Justify to run to the front and avoid getting covered by mud from the hoofs of horses in front of him. Some horses, the attorney said, just get really upset if they get mud on their faces.

After the race, jockey Mike Smith tossed his goggles to Glasscock’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Sarah.

“Not a drop of mud on the goggles,” Glasscock said.

Courtesy of Starlight Racing

Justify’s size and strength certainly paid off on the slippery surface, he said. And running on the inside allowed the colt to run on less slushy ground.

After the race, the owners, family and friends attended the celebration at The Derby Museum, then Glasscock said he enjoyed dinner with family and friends at a nice restaurant.

Starlight typically spends about $2.5 million to $3 million on yearlings per year, and while the owners hope to generate a return on their investment, Glasscock said, “Mainly, it’s about horse racing.”

“If it was not for the sport of racing, you might find other investments where you could reduce your risk,” he said.

The group paid $500,000 for Justify, and while his current value is difficult to pinpoint, Glasscock said it has reached “multiple millions.”

And, he said, he expects the horse’s value to rise even more over the next few weeks. Glasscock plans to travel to Baltimore to watch Justify go for the win in this year’s Preakness, on May 19.

And with any luck, he said, both Justify and Audible will return to Churchill Downs for this year’s Breeders’ Cup.