Richard Santulli loves everything about the Thoroughbred industry and it comes out in a lot of ways.
Whether it’s the horseplayer in him trying to solve the riddle that is handicapping, the breeder figuring out the best mates for his mares, the owner weathering the inevitable body blows and uppercuts while savoring the victories, or the advocate working with the game’s most influential groups and paddling against the waves in the sport’s sea of negativity.
Simply put, Santulli really loves it.
A lot of people seem like they love it. Others say they love it. More even say and act like they love it. But few love it like Santulli.
Santulli’s passion comes out even more so than the ways mentioned above, since he’s also the owner of a training center and has supported the industry in the boardrooms with his razor-sharp business acumen but also through corporate sponsorships. He added another accomplishment May 18 when Oxbow, a colt he bred in the name of his Colts Neck Stable, won the Preakness Stakes for owner Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm.
“I like all parts of the business, I really do,” Santulli said from his office at his Colts Neck Stable training center in Colts Neck, New Jersey. “Whether it’s babies, watching 2-year-olds train, older horses train, breeding, there’s not a part of the business that I don’t like. I’m lucky that way. Most people do one thing, and that’s fine for them, but I like it all.”
Santulli, widely credited with shaping the modern aviation leasing business through the founding of NetJets, plans to attend Saturday’s Belmont Stakes to see if Oxbow can become the first 3-year-old to win the second and third jewels of the Triple Crown after losing the Kentucky Derby since Afleet Alex in 2005. Eighteen horses completed the Preakness-Belmont double, including 11 who lost the Derby.
Hockey games and dance recitals kept Santulli at home for the Preakness, a race he had a few rooting interests in.
Being a fan of the game and a staunch supporter of it as a Jockey Club Steward, NYRA trustee, and Breeders’ Cup board member, and also a friend of fellow Stewards Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps and Stuart S. Janney III, Santulli was rooting for Derby winner Orb.
Being the breeder of an Awesome Again colt he bred out of his mare Tizamazing-a Cee’s Tizzy mare he bought as a yearling a decade ago for $1-million-he was rooting for Oxbow.
“Oxbow ran a great race in the Derby; he never really gave it up, and ran hard to about the three-sixteenths pole,” Santulli said. “Of all the horses pressing, none of them finished better than 15th. I thought he’d run very well in the Preakness.
“As I’ve also said, I know Dinny and Stuart very well and I thought Orb was a very good horse. For the industry, nothing creates more excitement than the Triple Crown, or at least the potential for the Triple Crown. I said to my wife before the race that I hoped Oxbow runs good and we get a piece. … Then watching the race, he was doing it all on his own, nobody pushing him. At the top of the stretch I stopped rooting for Orb and I started screaming. I said, ‘we’re going to win the race!'”
Oxbow did of course win, by 1 3/4 lengths over Itsmyluckyday with Mylute third and Orb fourth. The victory was the first Triple Crown win for all-time classics leader D. Wayne Lukas and completed a magical comeback story for Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.
“Wayne Lukas is good, for people to count a guy out like is absurd,” Santulli said. “What did he do, forget how to train? He may run them more often than some people want, but he wants to play in the big dances. It was fun to watch. In fact I’ve watched it a couple of times since.”
Richard Santulli bio.
Story from 2010 on Santulli’s decision to leave NetJets.