LAUREL, Md. – Robert Masiello, a graduate of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and Manhattan-based equities trader who discovered his love for Thoroughbred racing at Pimlico Race Course, purchased impressive Laurel Park turf sprint winner Fiya for $400,000 out of Wanamaker’s July auction.
Launched in June, Wanamaker’s.com is host to a monthly non-traditional auction where live bidding continues from when a catalogue goes live until the final day of the sale. Bidding on Fiya started at $100,000 July 22 and concluded July 30.
Bred in Maryland by Ann Merryman and trained through his first four starts by her son, Michael Merryman, Fiya is a gelded 3-year-old son of Friesan Fire who has raced exclusively at Laurel and is a perfect two-for-two in 2020, capturing a waiver maiden claiming event in his seasonal debut June 26.
Last out, Fiya sprinted to a three-length allowance victory July 17 in 1:00.99, just .25 off the Exceller turf course record for 5 ½ furlongs set last April by Wet Your Whistle according to Equibase. He earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort, the second-fastest number given to a 3-year-old on grass this year.
“I thought both of his races this year were impressive. He’s just a really fast horse, and I love his action. I feel like he covers a lot of ground. He’s a big, good-looking horse,” Masiello said. “It certainly seemed like there was plenty left in the tank when [jockey] Feargal [Lynch] asked him at the eighth pole in both races.
“In his last race, it looked like he was breezing, just the way Feargal was sitting on him on the turn. He was absolutely just cruising around there, but he was going in 43 and change against a pretty good field,” he added. “We spent a decent amount of money on him. The question is going to be, ‘Can he take that to the next level?’ We’ll find out at some point, but when they do that they’re giving you an indication that they might be pretty special.”
Masiello said Fiya was sent over the weekend to trainer Tom Albertani’s string in Saratoga. Among the turf stakes being considered for his next start are the 5 ½-furlong Mahony for 3-year-olds Aug. 26 at Saratoga, the 6 ½-furlong Franklin-Simpson (G3) for 3-year-olds Sept. 16 at Kentucky Downs, and the $100,000 Laurel Dash for 3-year-olds and up sprinting 5 ½ furlongs Sept. 7 at Laurel Park.
“I shipped him up to Tom Albertrani. I’ve had horses with Tom for a long time and I think Tom does really well with these types of horses. He had Final Frontier last year who won the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational. He keeps them sound and I think he’ll be a good fit for Tom’s program,” Masiello said. “He’s been jogging the last couple days and he might be galloping now. It’s a little too early to say if Tom’s ready to run him yet.
“I always try to look at the upside and downside of buying a horse. The fact that he’s a Maryland-bred is a good upside and the fact that he’s eligible for the Claiming Crown at Gulfstream,” he added. “I hope that he’s the type of horse that’s running in the Jaipur [G1] next year and the big turf sprints, but if he’s not between the Maryland-bred stuff and all his starter and open conditions, there’s a lot of options there. We’ll stay flexible. I do know that he likes Maryland and he’s a Maryland-bred. Tom will ship horses down there and we certainly wouldn’t be opposed to doing that.”
Masiello credited Fiya’s former connections for their work with the horse, who was raised at The Orebanks, the family’s farm in Sparks, Md., located 20 minutes from Pimlico where Mike Merryman is based.
“I have to give a huge shout-out to the Merrymans. He’s a big, good-looking horse and Tom was really happy with him when he got to the barn,” Masiello said. “I really appreciate how they took such good care of this horse and hopefully we can keep it going. They raised a good horse. We were very impressed.”
Masiello, 39, is a native of Oradell, N.J. whose first racehorse ownership came in 2005 through the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate, partnering in such horses as Grade 1-winning millionaires Twilight Eclipse and Ring Weekend and Grade 2 winners Justwhistledixie and Freedom Child.
“I have a huge soft spot for Maryland and Maryland-breds. I grew up in New Jersey but I went to school at Johns Hopkins in the early 2000s and used to go to Pimlico and that’s really where I got my love of racing. Xtra Heat, probably still to this day, is my favorite horse,” he said. “I love having Maryland-breds and racing in Maryland. I like to go back to Pimlico whenever I get a chance. I love the people. They’re very passionate in that clubhouse and I love it. Obviously, the history too. It’s always a place I enjoy going.”
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Fiya wins his second straight race. Credit: Screen grab