Local resident thrilled by ‘Super Bowl of racing’ win
By Julie Sarno
Though the Breeders’ Cup was the first weekend in November, Bill Strauss is still bubbling over with excitement about winning the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) with 4-year-old filly Mizdirection.
“We had won three or four Grade 1 races with Turbulent Descent, but there is nothing that compares to this,” said Strauss. “It was just amazing. This is the Super Bowl of racing.”
The 4-year-old filly’s come-from-behind victory in the final strides against colts at Santa Anita in the Turf Sprint was a thrill for Strauss, trainer Mike Puype and co-owner Jim Rome, a sports radio talk show host. Rome races as Jungle Racing, named after his show “The Jungle.” Mizdirection was ridden by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, who this year won two to bring his career total to 17, the most for any jockey in Breeders’ Cup history.
Jubilant owners Strauss and Rome led Mizdirection into the winner’s circle after the race. Strauss noted that on the East Coast, many owners lead their runners into the winner’s circle after a big win. He liked the tradition, so he and Rome have adopted it.
When Strauss was interviewed by the media along with Rome and trainer Puype, he enthused, “It’s really an amazing feeling. My voice is gone, I was tired, I was sweating, I felt like I rode the horse and ran the race myself. It’s just an exhausting feeling. But there is no feeling like it for that exact second.
“There’s greater moments in your life, like when I married my wife and the birth of my children,” continued the winning owner. “But in that instant when that horse crosses that finish line in front and the way she did it, not knowing until the last jump that we had won, there is just no immediate feeling in the world like that.”
On Breeders’ Cup day, Margie was with him. Their son, Stephen, stayed in New York where he is a senior at Columbia University. Daughter Allie also remained in New York where she works. Brother Jeffrey Strauss, chef and owner of the award-winning Pamplemousse Grille locally, was at Santa Anita but not in the winner’s circle. He was catering an event for the Breeders’ Cup and was busy with his event.
Mizdirection came into the race off a five-and-a-half-month layoff, stepping up into top company against males. She was one of two fillies in a 14-horse field of males. Unbridled’s Note, the favorite, finished second and Rennesgotzip, the other filly in the field, was third. Earlier in the year, Mizdirection had won three stakes races including the Las Cienegas Handicap (G3) in April and had not started since a second-place finish in the Great Lady M at Betfair Hollywood Park in May.
The Strausses divide their time between their longtime home in Del Mar and their home in Santa Monica. Strauss became interested in racing by going to the races at Del Mar with friends and his brother Jeffrey. Bill and Margie became friends with jockey Alex Solis who encouraged them to become owners. They bought into their first racehorse in 2008 with the help of Alex Solis II, son of the prominent jockey.
In fact, the younger Solis bought Mizdirection for $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale in 2010 and put the partnership together. Solis was at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup victory as well. Strauss owns a 25 percent interest in Mizdirection. Currently, he owns pieces of 15-20 horses including horses in training, babies on the farm, a yearling he just purchased at the Keeneland September sale.
Prior to Mizdirection, the best horses Strauss campaigned included multiple Grade 1-winning filly Turbulent Descent and The Pamplemousse. Named for the restaurant, The Pamplemousse was an early favorite for the 2009 Kentucky Derby but was sidelined by an injury.
A serial entrepreneur, Strauss was co-founder and first employee of ProFlowers. He then became president, chief operating officer and a member of the board of directors of Provide Commerce, which owns a number of e-commerce brands (companies which do business on the internet but do not have stores). Provide Commerce’s best-known brands are ProFlowers, RedEnvelope and Shari’s Berries.
In early fall, 2011, he was tapped to become CEO of ShoeDazzle.com, an online shoe, handbag and costume jewelry company founded by celebrity stylist and businesswoman Kim Kardashian. Strauss since has left ShoeDazzle. He was a founding board member of the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, which helps support the families of fallen Navy Seals.
Strauss says plans call for Mizdirection to race at five: “It’s just a pleasure to work with Mike Puype. He trains all my race horses. He’s an awesome trainer, very hard working. It’s just a pleasure to have horses with him. He has become a friend as well.”