Best of 2020: Becky Thomas
by Ryan Martin
Just one live race day – the New Year’s Eve card at Aqueduct Racetrack – remains in 2020 to complete a remarkable year of racing action on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit. The NYRA Press Office checked in with a selection of New York-based racing personalities to get their reflections on the memorable campaign.
Becky Thomas is the founder of Sequel Stallions – one of the premier stud farms and thoroughbred operations in New York and a leader in breeding and consigning racehorses. Thomas founded Sequel Stallions in 2000, then known as Lakland North, with Lewis Lakin, with whom she co-owned Grade 1-winner and multiple champion producing stallion City Zip and bred 2006 Champion Female Fleet Indian. In 2011, Thomas re-opened an expanded Sequel Stallions with co-owner Dennis Narlinger on an upgraded facility on 223 acres of land in Hudson, New York.
The pandemic has been tough on everyone. Discuss the effect it had on your operation.
Thomas: When the pandemic first started, it was right around the time that sales season starts. We, fortunately, were able to continue having the OBS Sale in March, but we were so unsure about what was going to happen after that. None of us knew what to expect. But through all of it, sales companies worked together; buyers and consigners worked together, and we all got through it together as smoothly as we could have. We adjusted reserves on some of our horses that were going through the ring. What made it great is that we were able to have any level of commerce at all. We were just happy to get going again. When we had our first sale, it was joyful. We had a sense of relief.
What was the most difficult thing to cope with amidst the pandemic?
Thomas: The fact that everything happened during our busiest season was the most difficult. I’m used to having employees going back and forth from New York to Florida during the sales and I couldn’t go back and forth and inspect the horses myself. There were restrictions. If you went out of state, you had to quarantine for a certain amount of time depending on where you were coming from. No one got sick but it was still very difficult to deal with. Sales companies worked very hard with our state and federal governments. Hats off to them for making everything work. Geoffrey Russell [Director of Sales at Keeneland], Boyd Browning [President and CEO of Fasig-Tipton] and Tom Ventura [President of Ocala Breeders Sales Company] and their teams did an incredible job for making things go as well as they possibly could have.
What has been the highlight of 2020?
Thomas: Simply Ravishing winning the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga. She is a New York-bred by a New York sire in Laoban, who we stood, who won an open company stakes race at Saratoga. She was pretty much dismissed but went on to win a Grade 1 [in the Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland]. Laoban was the most phenomenal thing to happen to us this year. He’s done so well in his first crop and got off to such a great start to his stud career.
You’re obviously very invested in the New York program. What makes it so great?
Thomas: The purse structure is high year-round, and the awards program is the strongest in the country. New York takes a lot of pride in its breeding program, as it should. It is a very good program and it’s the reason I breed in New York.
Looking ahead to 2021, what is one thing Sequel Stallions is most looking forward to?
Thomas: We added a new stallion to our roster for next season in Honest Mischief. I’m pretty excited about him. He looks like a big rubber stamp of his sire Into Mischief, who really stamps his progeny. He has good length in his back, a good shoulder, a good hip and a nice and clean neck. We were delighted to have been chosen to stand him.
The 2020-21 winter meet at Aqueduct returns to action on Thursday, December 31 and continues through Sunday, March 28.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the winter meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
For additional information, and the complete winter meet stakes schedule, please visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/stakes-schedule.