MICHAEL DUBB was the leading owner by wins at the New York Racing Association’s three racetracks in 2010, but his entry into Thoroughbred racing came through children first, and horses second.
Dubb, a Long Island real estate developer, oversaw and donated much of the Belmont Park building that houses Anna House, a pre-school day-care center for the children of backstretch workers. By the time Anna House opened in January 2003, Dubb had decided to dive full-bore into developing a racing stable.
A connection with Racing Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey was instrumental on both fronts. Bailey and Dubb had developed a friendship through common ties with their children and wives, and Bailey’s wife, Suzee, helped hatch the concept for Anne House.
“It started with Suzee’s and Tina Mott’s Bible group giving Christmas gifts to these kids of employees of the backstretch, kids of hot walkers, kids of grooms, kids of exercise riders,” Jerry Bailey said. “It was December and we’d see all these kids in cars at five in the morning, with the heat running. We asked around and there was just no place to put them. Their parents would take them to the track and keep them in the car for two or three hours. That’s what started the idea.
“In putting all this together, I had just met Mike, and he used to come over for Monday Night Football. We’d rotate houses, his house, my house, and two other friends. We threw this out to him and he said ‘I want to get involved. I do this, I deal with these people all the time, let me help you get through this.’ He just took the ball and rolled with it, and he didn’t stop until the thing was done. Without him it wouldn’t have been done.”
The experience renewed Dubb’s interest in getting involved as an owner. He had raced Standardbreds in the past and dabbled with a few Thoroughbreds in the 1980s, but even before the doors of Anna House opened, he was ready to take a bigger leap into New York racing.
“I was a lifelong fan of horse racing, and I had thought about getting back into it, but I was waiting for Jerry to retire because he was such a good friend and I thought it would be awkward if I was claiming a horse he had been riding or if I was running against him,” Dubb said. “I ended up not waiting until he retired to get started, and it was fine. Jerry and I are still the best of friends.”
One of Dubb’s first prominent horses, Alysweep, exemplified the successful path he has established with an operation that now numbers around 50 horses.
Dubb, through trainer Pat Reynolds, claimed Alysweep as a two-year-old in December 2002 for $75,000. Two races later, Alysweep won the Fred “Cappy” Capossella Stakes. Dubb brought in a partner, and Alysweep posted a 4¼-length win in the Gotham Stakes (G3) and finished second in two other graded stakes races before an injury ended his career that summer.
“I wasn’t sold on going to the sales and spending a lot of money on untested horses, so I really became a student of trainers and how a trainers do their business, to the point that I could pretty much tell you what time they go to work in the morning,” Dubb said. “I had a lot of success claiming horse, probably 40 or 50 of the stakes races I’ve won have been with horses I’ve claimed. It’s been with different trainers, so I can’t take all the credit. I employ trainers I have a lot of respect for.”
In 2004, Dubb and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. uncovered one of his best gems when they claimed the two-year-old filly Sis City for $50,000 out of a narrow victory at Saratoga Race Course. Sis City went on to win the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland Race Court, but only after an impromptu trip to Monmouth Park triggered a 16-length victory in the Mongo Queen Stakes at one mile and 70 yards.
“When we claimed her for $50,000, she won by a nose at Saratoga, and I was saying, ‘Oh, man, I wish she had lost, she was really all out to win, where am I going with this horse?” Dubb said. “We were trying to run her back for $75,000 but it was in a sprint, and the races weren’t going, and they called us from Monmouth and said they had a stakes race and didn’t have many horses for it but it was going long. We talked about it and said, ‘What the heck, we’ll try it.’ That’s when we discovered we had a filly who liked to go long. She gave us a lot of fun.”
Another of Dubb’s bountiful claims came with trainer Chad Brown, who snagged six-year-old Silver Timber for $25,000 at Gulfstream Park in April 2009 and transformed him into one of the nation’s top turf sprinters.
Silver Timber posted two graded stakes win 2009 and finished sixth in the Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint. In 2010, the New York-bred Prime Timber gelding added four more stake triumphs and finished fifth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2).
Dubb also was a partner in 2005 Queen’s Plate Stakes winner Wild Desert and in the three-year-old campaign of Stardom Bound that included wins in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G1) and Santa Anita Oaks (G1). He has partners in many of his horses, and they are in the midst of a shift after Dubb led the NYRA circuit with 50 wins last year and finished second in 2009 with 49.
“We’re trying to upgrade the quality,” said Dubb, who has about 15 two-year-olds with trainer Tony Dutrow and races regularly at Delaware Park and Parx Racing in addition to New York. “Usually if we have a horse in a cheap claiming race it’s not by design. I’m not really interested in claiming a $10,000 claimer so I can win for $12,500.”
Dubb also is not standing pat with Anna House, which has been at capacity and will expand from 7,000 to 9,000 square feet with the addition of two rooms in time for the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 11. Dubb is donating and building the new space.
“We’re hoping it will add ten to 15 kids to our capacity,” said Dubb, the chairman of the Belmont Child Care Association. “It’s been incredibly successful. We take them in as young as six weeks, we teach them to speak English, we teach them computer skills, and when we graduate them just prior to kindergarten, they’re ahead of the curve as an asset in their classes as opposed to being behind.”
As a member of the NYRA board of directors, Dubb also is hoping to spur enhancements for stable-area living accommodations at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course once slot machine revenue from Aqueduct begins pouring in later this year.
“There’s housing on the back-stretch, but we’d always like to make it better, and we think right now is a good opportunity to do that,” he said. “We’re looking at the model they used at Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows [Training Center]. We’d like to have it more situated, closer to some of the amenities like the backstretch kitchen, the library, and the recreation area instead of spread out all over the track. We’d like to have a little more sense of community, which is what we try to do in our real estate developments.