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By Christie DeBernardis

When Len Green went to his first horse race in the 1980s and watched his friend’s horse win, the CPA thought he had just discovered the “easiest business in the world” and decided to jump into the horse business himself. He quickly discovered that succeeding in the world of horse racing was anything but easy. However, once Green began to apply the business savvy and entrepreneurial spirit that had served him so well in his professional life to his latest endeavor, he turned his D. J. Stable into his latest success story, which now includes a Breeders’ Cup victory thanks to Jaywalk (Cross Traffic).

“It’s been a very exciting ride,” Green said while seated in his conference room, which is covered in racing memorabilia. “The horse business has a great learning curve. Many businessmen believe because they’re successful somewhere else, they can just walk into the horse business and do it. The problem is, the horse business is not regulated, so, in many ways, you have to learns all the things you do and don’t do.”

The Babson College professor continued, “Having the advantage of being a taxman, at least I knew the government was going to pay for 50% of any losses that I took care of, but that is no fun unless you win. So, we started winning in an interesting way. We got into claiming and ended up winning four different titles for owners at different tracks for most wins, but we were losing money every single year.”

Green decided to claim fast fillies with the goal of breeding them to sires who were distance runners. He accumulated 72 mares and sent their pedigrees to Ken McLean, manager of the mighty Storm Cat. Green’s wife, Lois, thought he was crazy, but sure enough McLean called and invited Green to meet him in Kentucky.

“I was in heaven,” Green recalled. “Suddenly, I thought I really had made the transition from being a businessman to being successful in the horse business because Ken McLean was interested in breeding some of my mares to Storm Cat, who at the time was the number one horse.”

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McLean chose just two mares, but both matings produced top horses with Princess Alydar foaling MGISW November Snow and Kermis producing Senate Appointee, winner of 14 stakes.

“After those two, he suddenly stood up and walked out the door,” Green said of his meeting with McLean. “I said, ‘Where are you going? I’ve got more mares.’ He said, ‘Where are they?’ I said, ‘New Jersey.’ He said, ‘No, where specifically?’ I said, ‘They are in different fields.’ He said, ‘Open the gates,’ which was a nice way of saying to me that they were worthless and to get rid of them. That was my first big shock in the business, but you learn over a period of time that this is a business, so you have to cut down the odds of failing to increase your odds of winning.”

Over the years, with the help of his son Jon, Green has done just that. He has built a broodmare band whose foals are worthy of Books 1 and 2 in the yearling sales and put together a team of trainers, short listers and partners that have increased his stable’s success. The Greens have also been smart about letting go of horses when necessary and putting them in spots that give them their best chance of winning, even if that spot is in a claiming race or at a second-tier track.

“I think we are successful because, for one, we certainly know the tax world better than anybody else,” said the Founder and Chairman of The Green Group, an accounting and equine advisory firm that has over 400 clients in the racing industry. “Two, we associate ourselves with very good trainers who we can trust and who know the game. We have consignors that we know well. We also have partners who have the same philosophy we do. Aron Yagoda has been a great help because he knows an awful lot of people in the business. Chuck Zacney has been a great partner to have because we see eye-to-eye on what to do and where to go, etc.”

Green has bred or owned the likes of Songandaprayer, Do It With Style, Rhum and Hoppertunity over the years, but he teamed with Zacney for a career high just last month when winning the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Jaywalk (video). The John Servis trainee also upended Belmont’s GI Frizette S. Oct. 7 with a front-running 5 3/4-length score at odds of 10-1 (video).

“Every once in a while, you get something like Jaywalk and that changes everything,” Green said. “It’s easy in hindsight to say the game plan was followed. She kept on improving and improving and we wouldn’t have gone to a Grade I [in the Frizette] unless we felt we had an opportunity to win. We took a shot at the Breeders’ Cup and we were the fourth favorite. The horse had a mind of her own and broke with [Joel Rosario] and never looked back. How far can she go? We will find out, because now we have a ticket to go to what is the [female] equivalent of the [GI] Kentucky Derby, the [GI Kentucky] Oaks.”

This was the first Breeders’ Cup victory for D. J. Stable and Green hopes it is just the first of many.

“I saw first of many because I spoke to Peter Brant, who has won four Breeders’ Cup races,” Green said. “I asked him, ‘Which was the most exciting one?’ And he said, ‘The next one.’ I think that is great. It was very, very exciting to go down there and it was more even more exciting to go with my family, both my immediate family and my extended family [from racing], like Aron Yagoda. It was a very big thrill. ”

With two Grade I wins, including the Breeders’ Cup, under her belt, Jaywalk also looks primed to become the operation’s first Eclipse winner at next month’s awards ceremony.

“She has proven herself to be the best in the business,” Green said. “The other horse that won the turf race [GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Newspaperofrecord (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire})] is also a very good horse. Chad Brown is a much better known person. He is also a client. So, you never know how they are going to vote. But, it certainly would be nice and I think Jon Green has got an acceptance speech ready to go.”

D. J. Stable and their partners have many other talented horses in the barn such as MSW & MGSP Diamond King (Quality Road), a full-brother to MGISW Bellafina; and comebacking Tap Rap Strike (Tapit), an $875,000 OBSMAR buy owned with Zacney’s Cash is King. However, it is another filly that holds some pretty high esteem in the Green household, two-time stakes winner and MGSP Sower (Flatter), who was named by Green’s wife.

A decisive winner of Belmont’s Jersey Girl S. June 10 (video), the Linda Rice pupil completed the trifecta in both the July 8 GIII Victory Ride S. and Sept. 22 GIII Charles Town Oaks. The chestnut went wire-to-wire for an impressive 5 1/4-length success in Belmont’s Pumpkin Pie S. Oct. 28 (video) and was third last time in Aqueduct’s Garland of Roses S. Dec. 8.

“It’s exciting because Lois named her, same as Jon named Jaywalk, so there is a connection with those horses,” Green said. “The horse keeps getting better and better. Linda is very, very good in the sense that her training methods are different than John [Servis]’s or other trainers we’ve had. You never see any bullet works for Linda. She has her way of doing it every couple weeks, so it’s steady. She keeps gas in the tank.”

With a stable full of talented runners, a possible Eclipse Award and a Breeders’ Cup winner with a bright sophomore campaign ahead of her, Green has plenty to look forward to, but he is taking it all in stride and trying to enjoy each moment.

“I am taking it step by step and enjoying everything,” the New Jersey resident said. “Each of these things is a thrill as long as you enjoy the moment and I’m enjoying the moment. I think you enjoy things that you’re doing because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. So, that is what I do. I get up at 4:00 in the morning and say, ‘Hey, Lord. Thank You.’ Then I work out and I can come [to my office] or fly up to Babson. I say to myself, ‘That’s wonderful, too,’ because I am influencing future generations.”

The author and regular Boston marathon participant continued, “Somebody asked me a long time ago, ‘What keeps you young?’ I said, ‘A good 2-year-old and teaching,’ because both of them can give you challenges. The horse business is a great game. I think the people in the game, if you get to know them, are very exciting. Even though we are competing against each other sometimes, you get to know the real person and it is a very, very exciting business.”

 

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