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Ascot Victory Adds to a Summer of Fun for Weston

This summer has already been an unforgettable experience for Steve Weston and his favorite part of the season has yet to begin.

For the 76-year-old Weston, summers become magical when the racing season begins at Saratoga Race Course, just a short walk from his “heavenly” Fifth Avenue summer home. Yet this year, June 23 will be remembered as a day when he ascended to a peak higher than the Adirondacks in Thoroughbred racing.

For on that afternoon, Weston joined a small but select group of Americans who can say they stood in the winner’s circle during the famed Royal Ascot meeting in England.

“We always say this sport is about dreams,” Weston said. “You dream about what your 2-year-old will become or how the horse you bred is going to be special. It’s all about dreaming, and now I can say that dreams do indeed come true.”

Weston’s dream became reality when the undefeated 2-year-old filly Porta Fortuna  captured the Albany Stakes (G3) at Royal Ascot, giving legendary jockey Frankie Dettori his 80th winner at the meet and giving the owners—Weston, Medallion Racing (operated by Taylor Made Farm), Barry Fowler, and Dean Reeves—their first taste of victory at a place where pageantry, high society, and top-class racing combine to underscore racing’s reputation as the Sport of Kings—and Queens.

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“It’s an amazing scene,” Weston said. “We only won a group 3 stakes but it felt like we won a grade 1 world championship race. It is so hard to win a race over there and they treated us like royalty. It was an incredible experience.”

To be allowed in the paddock at Royal Ascot, Weston had to put on the traditional morning coat and top hat.

“At first it felt strange being dressed like that, especially with the hat,” he said. “Then after a while, I didn’t want to take it off. I was enjoying it. I felt very comfortable in it because everyone else had one.”

Weston, who races under the Parkland Thoroughbreds banner, and his partners acquired Porta Fortuna when Phil Shelton, the racing manager for Medallion, spotted the daughter of Caravaggio  after her April 16 maiden win at the Curragh for trainer Donnacha O’Brien, the son of legendary European trainer Aidan O’Brien.

“We were impressed with the way she ran up the rail in her maiden win,” Weston said. “We made an offer and were able buy to her at a realistic price with some kickers.”

After the private purchase, a decision was made to keep her in Ireland, and the move was rewarded by wins in the Irish E.B.F. Fillies Sprint Stakes (G3) at Naas and the momentous triumph at Ascot.

Once the first foal from the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor  mare Too Precious proved herself Ascot-worthy in her initial stakes win, it did not require any arm-twisting for Weston to make reservations for a trip overseas.

“I had been to racetracks in Europe, but going to Ascot was something I always wanted to do but I never thought I would have a horse that could run there,” the Florida resident said. “And I never even imagined being able to win a race there.”

While the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita Park is the year-end goal, Weston said Porta Fortuna would remain in Europe for the time being and could tackle boys in the Phoenix Stakes (G1) at the Curragh Aug. 12 in hopes of securing some top-level black type.

“The plan in buying her was hoping she could run in the Breeders’ Cup. But one of the good things about being with Taylor Made and Phil is that we talk things out and everyone is involved in the discussions,” Weston said. “We feel the horse is doing so well with Donnacha in Europe that there is no reason to rush her over here until the fall. She’s comfortable where she is, and if she runs well, we can bring her over later.”

While his filly trains in Europe, Weston and his wife, Debbie, will be spending their summer enjoying all of the wonders the July 13-Sept. 4 Saratoga meet has to offer.

They spend about eight months of the year living in Parkland, Fla., where they fund a scholarship to benefit a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School scholarship to memorialize the tragic 2018 shootings there. But when summer arrives, they head north to their idyllic Fifth Avenue home.

“I’ll be 77 and I really enjoy being here. I’m very fortunate in life,” Weston said about living at the Spa. 

Weston has been a fan of the sport since his teenage days and hoped he would be successful enough in business to own a Thoroughbred. That goal was reached through a career in the pharmaceutical industry that included partnering with Bob Edwards and Joe Anzalone. After Weston’s entry into the sport, both Edwards (e Five Racing Thoroughbreds) and Anzalone (Magic Cap Stables) bought horses.

Among Weston’s stakes winners are Royal Charlotte , Bella Sofia , Espresso Shot , Venti Valentine , and Horologist .

The path to life at Saratoga started about 10 years ago, when Weston and his wife brought her parents to Saratoga Springs. Steve and Debbie loved it so much, they decided to spend their summers there.

Originally, the plan was to rent a house until Weston saw a home up for sale on Fifth Avenue with a scenic backyard that overlooks Saratoga’s picturesque Oklahoma Training Track. One visit convinced him to buy it. Now his mornings are filled with coffee while watching horses train without leaving his home and taking short walks to the nearby barns to check on his horses. 

“You can hear the clip-clop of horses running by at 5 a.m., but it’s a wonderful sound and sight,” Weston said. “It’s good for me in that I walk every morning. It gives me some needed exercise walking to a barn or the main track. Debbie and I love it here.”

In recent years, interest in Fifth Avenue has boomed, owing to its reputation as “Backyard Heaven,” a name Fifth Avenue resident Ken Ramsey gave one of his horses in tribute to the homes there and their proximity to Oklahoma. Weston’s former business partner and friend Edwards bought a home several doors down from Weston, and the block has become upscale with an array of owners that also includes Sol Kumin, celebrity chef Bobby Flay, and Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports fame.

Flay’s 1939 Tudor house was featured this year in House Beautiful magazine.

“The interest in Fifth Avenue has exploded, but you can say the same thing about all of Saratoga,” Weston said. “Summers here have been fabulous.”

You can also talk in the same tones about Weston’s excursion to Ascot, which brought his summer memories to new heights.



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