Michelle Borisenok may have raised a few eyebrows with her comments at a conference for new and existing racehorse owners last week.
“It’s not so much about winning,” she said of Brown Road Racing, a partnership that she founded in 2018. “For us, it’s about education and it’s about the experience.”
A week later, talking at her farm overlooking Saratoga Lake, she elaborated on that mission.
She created Brown Road Racing to attract and educate women about the experience of thoroughbred ownership, a natural progression from the women’s leadership work she’s been doing for decades. A graduate of the College of Saint Rose in Albany, she is an honorary member of the college’s Women’s Leadership Institute, to which she and her husband Walt donated $1.2 million to renovate the Institute’s Albany headquarters, which is now named the Michelle Cuozzo Borisenok ’80 House. Among the building’s uses is as housing for BOLD Women’s Leadership Network Scholars. Through centers at six Northeast institutes of higher education, BOLD “cultivates courageous leadership” for students and graduates of the member institutions.
The Borisenoks live at Old Tavern Farm in Stillwater, where they breed and raise thoroughbreds and prepare yearlings for the summer sales in Saratoga. Michelle’s first ownership endeavor left her frustrated.
“I was partners with two men,” she said, “and they left me out of a lot of the decision-making. So I looked around the backstretch, and I thought, ‘I don’t see women. There’s nobody here to represent women.’ And I wanted to be the vehicle for women who are interested in racing and don’t know how to get involved.”
She bought her first horse at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton sale of preferred New York-bred yearlings, paying $35,000 with a partner for a daughter of New York stallion Freud out of a Louis Quatorze mare named Chamonix. Her name, Gotta B Bold, honors Saint Rose’s BOLD scholars. She raced three times and retired winless and is now on Borisenok’s farm, expecting her first foal next spring.
Just inside the barn stand several jockey statues. There’s one painted in the silks of Old Tavern Farm. There’s one representing the Borisenoks’ daughter Nicole and her winery that is based on the farm. There’s one for Twin Farms, a partnership of which Michelle used to be a part. And then there’s the statue for Brown Road Racing, painted in the partnership’s colors. It’s a twin of the statue that represents Brown Road Racing in front of the National Museum of Racing, right down to the braid that draped over his right shoulder. The statue itself is an exemplar of women partnering, thanks to the efforts of Robin Schumacher, a local woman known as “the Saratoga Jockey Painter.”
“There was an opportunity to support the Museum, and I asked Cate [Masterson, the Museum’s director] if it would be possible to put a female jockey there,” said Borisenok. “I was honored, and I asked Robin to secure one and paint it. It’s been a team effort, to support the Museum and other women in racing.”
The relationship with the Museum is fitting, given the role it has played in inspiring Borisenok.
“There was an exhibit about women in racing,” she explained, “and as I walked through it, I saw so many pioneers, so many women who went through a lot of headwinds to get where we are today. I respect that, and I’d like to work to continue to open doors for other ladies.”
On July 30, the Brown Road Racing silks made it to the winner’s circle at Saratoga Race Course. Three-year-old Union Dolly is co-owned by Brown Road with four other entities, including Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, established by Saratoga native Dave Lyon. A 10-1 longshot, she won by 2 3/4 lengths out of the barn of trainer Ray Handal.
“He’s got several of our horses,” she said. “He’s transparent and he communicates well, and he’s a great educator. We talk about the long- and short-term goals of the horse, and he cares about the horse, which is important to us.”
Any trainer with a Brown Road horse has to be committed to the partnership’s mission of education. Borisenok insists that the women who participate—and all of her offerings have been fully subscribed—learn about every aspect of the industry, from breeding and buying to training and racing and responsible retirement.
She may be the managing partner, but even the partnership’s decision-making operates under the education model.
“I ask them what they think because I want them to learn,” she said. “I do make the major decisions, but we communicate within ourselves. What makes me happy is to see the partners learning. It’s about the journey to see that horse travel to the starting gate and break, where all the stars align and the horse looks like an athlete and maybe makes it to the winner’s circle. My happiness is seeing the happiness of my partners.”
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Categories: At The Track, Sports