Q & A with Chris Randall: owner of Breeders’ Cup horse Gallant Son

When Chris and Dianna Randall of Bellevue bought the yearling Gallant Son for $9,000, never did they believe they would soon rub elbows with the most famous horse racing owners in the game.

When Chris and Dianna Randall of Bellevue bought the yearling Gallant Son for $9,000, never did they believe they would soon rub elbows with the most famous horse racing owners in the game.

But when Gallant Son ran in the $200,000 Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita that began yesterday and continues today, that’s exactly what happened.

Chris Randall, the CEO of National Speciality Underwriters, Inc., a Bellevue-based commercial insurance brokerage, and his wife, Dianna, were the leading owners at Emerald Downs in 2008 with 15 wins and $365,457 in purses.

Randall was initially drawn to horse racing because of all the nuances involved with handicapping thoroughbreds and, as an owner he has applied business principles towards running his string of horses with trainer Frank Lucarelli. The Randalls attend yearling sales in Kentucky and Washington, shying away from the blue-blood pedigrees that cost big bucks while seeking less-fancied runners that have the potential to develop.

With stakes winners such as Gallant Son and Fear No Evil and stakes-placed All the Rage, Randall and Lucarelli may just up on to something.

Joe Withee of Emerald Downs paid a visit to Randall’s 11th-floor office in the Skyline Tower in downtown Bellevue to ask the owner about Gallant Son and being a thoroughbred owner.

JW - Why do you think you are so successful as an owner?

CR - In Kentucky, when they sell four or five thousand horses, some horses are going to fall through the cracks. Frank (Lucarelli) has a really good eye for the yearlings and we spend three days back there reviewing the horses. Nobody is going to say it’s easy, but you can make a good buy. Frankly, there’s more scrutiny in the Seattle sale.

JW - You buy virtually all of your horses at yearling sales rather than playing the claiming game.

CR - Ever since Marva Jean (in 2005), that’s been the case. I like to have horses that race at the higher end of the Emerald Downs meet. I track the amount of purse money we race for, and we’ve been up the last three years. Remember, it costs just as much to race a $4,000-claimer as it does to run a stakes horse.

JW - You’re a pretty calm guy, at least on the exterior.

CR - I try to manage expectations, yes.

JW - At what point did you start to think Gallant Son might be special?

CR - (Exercise rider) John Heath kept saying this colt was the real deal, but I mostly discounted it because you hear a lot of things back there. And he finishes fourth in his first race, basically he just ran a little bit in the stretch, and now you don’t know what to think.

JW - We all know what happened next - four wins, three stakes, a romp in the Gottstein Futurity and voted Emerald Downs’ top 2-year-old. When did you start to think about the Breeders’ Cup?

CR - Before the Gottstein, but we still thought he would have to win convincingly and take a big step forward. As I said, you try to manage your expectations.

JW - Has it all hit you yet - you’re going to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a horse you bought for $9,000?

CR - Yes, it’s a great time. At some point you quit managing expectations and have a little fun with it. I think it’s time to get a little excited. Maybe I don’t show it, but I am.

JW - Is your wife enjoying this as much as you are?

CR - Yes, of course. Dianna has a great interest in petting the horses than maybe I do. I’m more interested in racing the horses.