Slipstream gives NYRA board member Steve Duncker another shot at Breeders’ Cup prosperity

October 30, 2021

ELMONT, N.Y. – When Jump Sucker Stable co-owner Steven Duncker goes to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, he will be doing so with a chance at redemption as Slipstream seeks a breakthrough victory in the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. 

Trained by Christophe Clement, Slipstream will attempt to stretch out to one mile off a victory in the six-furlong Grade 3 Futurity on October 10 at Belmont Park. 

Duncker, a former NYRA chairman and current member of the NYRA Board of Directors, arrived at the 1999 Breeders’ Cup as the standalone owner of Middlesex Drive, who went to post in the Mile as the 6-1 third choice in a field of 14. 

Unfortunately, the three-time graded stakes winner suffered a bad trip throughout, finishing tenth beaten five lengths. 

“He was a speed horse who broke last and that was it for him,” recalled Duncker. 

Duncker will not be flying solo this time around as he will be joined at the Breeders’ Cup by his Jump Sucker Stable co-owners George Walker, George Loening and Kevin Warsh. 

Duncker’s introduction to racing began in St. Louis with trips across the Mississippi River to Fairmount Park in eastern Illinois with childhood friend Ted Levis, igniting a lifelong love affair with the sport. 

Duncker bought his first racehorse with Levis, a filly named Informal Affair, who they acquired privately during their senior year of high school with money made from tarring driveways. 

Informal Affair broke her maiden at Fairmount at first asking for Duncker and Levis in May 1976.

“She had been running unsuccessfully at Keeneland and we thought she would be very competitive at Fairmount,” Duncker said. “Ted and I went to Cahokia Downs and had the third leading trainer [Michael Fingerhut, Jr.] paged to come into the racing office. When he got there, we stuck out our hands and asked if he wanted to train for us. We were 17 and he thought it was a joke.”

With the money earned from Informal Affair, Duncker bought Cordial Affair, who won at Cahokia Downs in the first parimutuel wagering event to be called by legendary track announcer Tom Durkin – the former longtime voice of the NYRA circuit. 

“The next day the newspaper said, ‘Energetic young Irishman Tom Durkin made quite an impression on the fans. We think he’ll be around to stay,’ and they were right about that,” Duncker recalled. “When Tom was inducted in the Red Jacket Ceremony at Saratoga, I was honored to introduce him.”

Duncker has enjoyed great success as an owner. In addition to Middlesex Drive, he campaigned stakes-winner and multiple graded stakes-placed Cloak of Vagueness. 

But with his stock dwindling, Duncker was contemplating leaving the ownership game before he was eventually convinced to join forces with Walker, who he met years earlier when working at Goldman Sachs. Both were partners in the company and bonded through their St. Louis roots and memories of going to Fairmount Park to cheer on future Hall of Fame rider Dave Gall. 

“Of all the kids who grew up in St. Louis, Steve and I are amongst the few who, as soon as we turned 16, would find a way to make the 30-minute drive to Fairmount Park in Illinois,” Walker said. “He and I grew up watching Dave Gall win races.”

Through Walker, Duncker met Loening and Warsh, and in 2006, Jump Sucker Stable was born. 

“He said, ‘I’ll buy horses but only if you come in with me’. Then we wooed in our other two friends,” Walker said. 

Several years before forming Jump Sucker Stable, Duncker met Clement through NYRA co-chairman Peter Karches, who owned horses with the veteran conditioner at the time. 

“The questions Christophe would ask about racing were so educated that I said to myself, ‘This is a really smart guy’,” Duncker said. “I said if I ever got back into the game in a bigger way, this would be my guy.”

Jump Sucker Stable made their first trip to an American Classic when Governor Malibu finished fourth in the 2016 Belmont Stakes. One month later, they earned their first graded stakes victory when Blacktype captured the Grade 3 Oceanport at Monmouth Park. 

“He’s the best communicator I’ve ever seen as a trainer,” Duncker said of Clement. “He realizes that a lot of the fun in owning a horse isn’t just showing up on race day. His whole operation is geared toward winning. The second most important thing are their owners getting the full experience of ownership. I appreciate the extra effort that his team goes through to make it a great experience.”

Duncker and company are indeed having a great experience with Slipstream, who won third-time out sprinting seven furlongs at Belmont Park. 

Although the son of veteran stallion More Than Ready earned a “Win and You’re In” entry into the five-furlong Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint via his Futurity score, Slipstream will instead compete in the one-mile Juvenile Turf.

“Going from the deeper turf courses of the east, to out west, it’s a lot easier to carry speed and Christophe would rather have a horse stretching out into the mile race than cutting back,” Duncker said. “I’m not sure if Slipstream is a classic stayer by any means but Christophe feels that a mile should hit him right between the eyes. Christophe has always liked Slipstream. He didn’t run too well in his first two races, but Christophe kept saying he was such a nice horse.”

Duncker said he credits his experience with Jump Sucker Stable for rejuvenating his enthusiasm for owning thoroughbreds. 

“This group got me energized again,” Duncker said. “The amount of fun I’ve had with these guys is ten times more fun than I ever had by myself. They’re passionate, they’re good sports, and it’s so much fun to have good partners. I wouldn’t own horses right now if it weren’t for those three. It’s so much fun, more fun than owning on my own.

“It’s incredibly special. It’s magical to be able to be able to share this with people you love spending time with,” Walker added. 

Duncker said he hopes Slipstream will have a much cleaner trip than that of Middlesex Drive. 

“The way I see it, if the racing Gods are up there, they may owe us one,” Duncker said. “It just shows how important it is to break going a mile. Hopefully, Joel Rosario gets him out of there in fine fettle and we can run our race with a big chance.”

Clement said Slipstream is entering the Breeders’ Cup with a winning chance.

“It’s a fun group and they’re a good group of owners to train for,” Clement said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a really good horse, so I’m delighted about this one. The horse is doing well at the moment, so it’s exciting.”

While Jump Sucker Stable makes their Breeders’ Cup maiden voyage, Clement has registered 40 Breeders’ Cup starters and is still in search of a Breeders’ Cup win – a stat that Duncker said he would dearly love to help change. 

“It’s going to happen someday, and I’d love for it to be with us,” Duncker said. “Christophe is at the very top of his profession in every way. I’ve loved owning horses that he trains. His whole team is sensational. His son and assistant Miguel has been a huge part of the team as well. He’s the head man, but the exercise riders, grooms and everything is all first class.”

For info on the Best Breeders’ Cup Seminar click HERE.

Ryan Martin/NYRA Press Office

Photo Slipstream winning the Futurity Stakes at Belmont under Joel Rosario on Oct. 10, 2021 (Chelsea Durand)

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