By most measures, Lee Einsidler lives an enviable life. The grandson of a man who ran a speakeasy during prohibition, he worked in his father’s liquor store, then rose to the top of the liquor distribution business, first as the CEO of Sidney Frank Importing Company, which created and launched Grey Goose vodka, and now as the CEO of Casamigos, the premium tequila company founded in 2013 by actor George Clooney, former model Randy Gerbe, and businessman Mike Meldman.
He grew up going to the races with his father; when his high school friends went to watch the Mets or the Yankees, Einsidler would head to Belmont or Aqueduct for Thoroughbreds, Yonkers or Roosevelt for harness racing.
“Over the years, the track has always been like the great escape for me,” he said this week. “I get to the track and I leave the trials and tribulations of life behind. The whole world could be on fire and I’d have no idea if I were at the track.”
The one-time $2 bettor whose first trip to the track was a winter card at Aqueduct never imagined that one day he’d own horses, much less win some of the most prestigious races in the industry.
“My dad worked six days a week, so we’d go on Sunday,” said Einsidler. “There would be 35,000 people there. I was a little kid, but I loved it.”
Winter at Aqueduct is a far cry from the Keeneland September sale, one of the premier Thoroughbred auctions in the country, and the sale at which, in 2005, Einsidler paid $3.9 million for a yearling, buying as Circle E Racing.
Though he wouldn’t quite recoup that purchase price, that yearling, named Mr. Sidney for the liquor company Einsidler ran, returned to Keeneland four years later to win the Grade 1 Makers’ Mark Mile.
Twelve years after purchasing Mr. Sidney, Einsidler was back at Keeneland, this time paying $105,000 for a colt that, continuing the tradition of naming horses after his business, he registered as Casa Creed, joining the name of the horse’s sire, Jimmy Creed, and Casamigos.
In 2018, Casa Creed broke his maiden at Saratoga for Einsidler and trainer Bill Mott, and he earned his first graded stakes win a year later in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes (G2). In 2020, Einsidler and Mott, along with radio host Mike Francesa, who had become a partner in the horse through his JEH Racing Stable, entered Casa Creed in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Stakes on Aug. 14.
Three days before the race, Einsidler learned that his 34-year-old son Aaron and his wife Sara had died unexpectedly at their Westchester County home. Three weeks earlier, Sara had given birth to the couple’s first daughter, Allie.
“It was beyond devastating,” said Einsidler. “It sits on your shoulder and talks to you, all day long and every night.”
Grieving, Einsidler came to Saratoga for Casa Creed’s race.
“It was the height of COVID, and you couldn’t go to the track unless you had a horse running,” he said. “I walked into the paddock that Saturday to see Casa Creed and Bill [Mott], and for the first time since Aaron’s death, I felt a little bit of normalcy in my life. That’s what the track has always been for me.
“Bill gave me a hug. He was crying, I was crying, and I thought, ‘I think I can get through this.’”
Casa Creed finished third that day, and he was second in the Fourstardave last summer. This year, the third time was the charm.
On Saturday, the 6-year-old bay horse rallied under jockey Luis Saez from last to first with a breathtaking stretch run, closing to win by a length and a half. Einsidler had observed the second anniversary of his son’s death two days earlier.
His granddaughter Allie turned two in July, and Einsidler sees her regularly. She was legally adopted by her mother’s brother, and she loves to spend time at Einsidler’s North Salem farm.
“She gets on the horses, she feeds the chickens, she runs around like a lunatic,” said Einsidler. “She’s doing awesome.”
Two days after Casa Creed’s Fourstardave win, Einsidler was up at dawn on a cool Saratoga morning. He’d watched the race replay, he said, “dozens of times.”
“Being at the races, especially in Saratoga, gives me a little bit of a reprieve from thinking about the tragedy we’ve experienced in our lives,” he reflected. “My son Jeffrey loves the races and he’s a terrific handicapper, and on Saturday he asked me, ‘Dad, do you really think we can win?’”
“I told him, ‘With your brother smiling down on us, it’s not going to be that hard.’”