Stable owners out for a Conquest
8 April 2015
BGS Homes Inc. owner looks forward to the opening of Woodbine this weekend and building on his second place finish in wins last year.
TORONTO - When we discuss horse people, most of our attention is on trainers and jockeys.
We don’t usually talk about owners. And Woodbine has had a history of great stables.
In the old days, it was all about E.P. Taylor and his Windfield’s Farm. In the 1970s, Jean-Louis Levesque and Jack Stafford produced champion after champion. After that, the on-track rivalry usually involved Kinghaven’s blue and white vs. Sam Son Farms’ red and gold.
Owners of large operations are often the rich and powerful. Easy to bet on, but not always easy to root for.
Conquest Stables just seems different. And we’re sure to see a lot from them at this year’s Woodbine thoroughbred meeting, which begins Saturday.
In 2013, we caught a glimpse. Their two-year-old, Conquest Titan, finished the year strong and was put on the following winter’s Kentucky Derby trail while My Conquestadory competed at the Breeders’ Cup after a spectacular run in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland.
In 2014, Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell really took this sport by storm. The partners from Highland Park, Ill., enjoyed great success locally, dominating the early season two-year-old stakes with Conquest Tsunami, getting a stakes win out of Conquest Boogaloo and enjoying their biggest day in September when Conquest Harlanate and Conquest Typhoon, both Ontario-bred, qualified for the Breeders’ Cup by winning the Natalma and Summer Stakes, respectively. In addition, Conquest Top Gun won two stakes for three-year-olds.
They also took their act to California, where Conquest Eclipse competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Conquest Two Step won a Grade 2 stake at Santa Anita earlier this year.
Among the goals for this year: The Queen’s Plate, where Conquest Typhoon is among the three most highly regarded contenders with Ami’s Flatter and Danzig Moon.
But there’s more to this story. Semersky, an investor and owner of high-end car dealerships and his business and life partner Newell only discovered a love for the sport when attending the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Two months later, they were introduced to Mark Casse, who became their trainer. From there, they just spent, building their operation, but according to their website, do so with great attention to detail both in selecting horses and making sure they are well cared for.
Ah yes, the website, and even more impressively, their Facebook page and their Twitter account.
They already stand out, with silks that sport a turquoise and orange checkerboard pattern with a red emblem in the middle. In addition, when Semersky, 64, is seen at the track, he sports suit jackets are just one level on the loud meter below those of Don Cherry.
But their social media presence is most impressive. They promote their horses’ accomplishments and coming races in ways not seen before, almost on par with any professional sports team. And let’s just say whoever is in charge of keeping these up to date sure loves photos and Photoshop.
It’s a fresh approach to a sport that seems all-too-often to be stale. They’re trying to inject some fun into an old sport, with increasingly old fans, that is always in danger of becoming more irrelevant in the general sports landscape.
Everyone involved in horse racing loves the game, but the way Conquest Stables is showing their love, it could become contagious.
Top owners at Woodbine in 2014 by wins
John Oxley – 30
Bruno Schickedanz – 27
Frank Di Giulio, Jr. – 27
Bear Stables – 23
Sam Son Farms – 20
Tucci Stables – 20
Top owners by earnings
John Oxley – $2,442,683
Sam Son Farms – $1,807,655
Gary Barber – $1,571,101
Frank Di Giulio, Jr. – $1,457,995
Tucci Stables – $1,259,737
Bear Stables – $1,198,237
Conquest Stables – $1,193,569