The Hronis Racing operation of brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis enjoyed the best season in its short history in 2016 and a significant peak was scaled when Stellar Wind took home a championship during last weekend's 45th annual Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park.
Stellar Wind was an overwhelming winner in the voting for champion 3-year-old filly, earning 108 of a possible 260 votes in the division and 61 more than runner-up I'm A Chatterbox. She was part of a strong stable of successful runners that helped Hronis Racing earn $2,846,652 in purses and win seven graded stakes. The group included three that won Grade 1 stakes in 2015 - Stellar Wind, Hard Aces and Talco.
A few weeks before traveling to South Florida with family and friends, Kosta Hronis talked about the horse who paved the way and the relationship with trainer John Sadler.
The horse was Lady Of Shamrock, a private purchase out of a Churchill Downs maiden race on the grass in November 2011 who went on to win six graded stakes and $920,300 for Hronis and Sadler. The good fortune got even better when she sold for $2 million at the 2013 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Here's Kosta Hronis' horse, in his words:
"We're very diversified in our farming so we thought we'd do the same thing in racing (when we first got involved). Little by little and with good expertise, guys like John and with good bloodstock agents like David Ingordo, we've built the barn.
"But it was Lady Of Shamrock that made us famous. It was her 3-year-old campaign, what she did and everything she made and then she went to the auction, what she brought there we invested back in and built the barn. We owe Lady Of Shamrock for everything that's happened from the day we got into this business.
"She's another one we bought super cheap, just at the right time and poof, away she went. ...
"She put us on the map and really wowed us with her style. She'd come from 12, 14, 15 lengths back at the half-mile pole and you'd just anticipate she'd come with her run, get a spot to get into. She was a brilliant filly who put Hronis Racing on the map.
"We started in this business in 2010 and kind of reinvested back in. We've bought here and there, we've bought at the yearling sales, we've bought 2-year-olds, we've done private sales, some Euros, we've claimed some horses. We claimed Iotapa, who ran in (the 2014 Breeders' Cup) Distaff. She outran her numbers. We're still building the barn. We look forward to the future, we love what we do.
"I was shocked to even get (Sadler). Me and my brother were at the track one day and I decided I was going to buy a horse. The usher, like I've said, we've been going there for years and we've known him for a long time, we handicap, we have a box (at Santa Anita). The usher said, 'don't do anything, don't buy anything, let me set up an appointment.' So we came in the next weekend and he said, 'I'm going to let you talk to John Sadler between 4 and 5 because he races in Race 3 and doesn't again until Race 7. I'm like, 'yeah, right, John Sadler is going to take me. At that point he had Jenny Craig, Ike and Dawn Thrash, he had (Marty and Pam) Wygod, CRK Stable, he's not going to talk to us. But I got lucky and we hit it off.
"We talked that day, then I went down the following week and we had lunch together. I think he liked what he heard. I remember him asking me, 'you probably want to go to the Kentucky Derby don't you?' I said, 'no, I really prefer the Breeders' Cup if I had to pick.' He kind of looked at me kind of odd like, 'that just doesn't come out of owners, everybody wants to be in the Kentucky Derby and be on TV.' The Breeders' Cup always made more sense to me. You can be a sprinter, you can go two turns, you can go grass, boy, girl, all kinds of variances. A Breeders' Cup if I was to point at something, and I think that kind of conversation made him like, 'hmmm, ok, this guy knows a little bit about the sport.' "
(Editor's note: The Horse Who Changed Everything is a new feature at This Is Horse Racing. If you'd like to share the horse who got you interested, hooked or reinvigorated in racing, check out our contacts page and drop us a note.