Barbara and Donnie Lucarelli were high school sweethearts who graduated from Mont Pleasant High School in 1971.
Donnie’s family business, Bellevue Builders Supply, grew and grew, to the point where they could begin to think about owning racehorses someday.
Perhaps symbolically, one of their most memorable Travers at Saratoga Race Course was in 1991, when Corporate Report won.
“That was a big day for us,” Barbara said on Sunday. “He and I both picked the name because of the business, and he won.
“Yeah, we celebrated,” she said with a laugh.
The lumberyard got to the point where the Lucarellis could sell it and spin off into a new venture, joining forces with Jack and Laurie Wolf in Starlight Racing. They’ve operated under a responsible, forward-thinking business model that buys and races horses at the highest level, never forgetting that this is supposed to be fun, too.
So it seems only natural that another ownership idea could branch out from the relationship between the Lucarelli and Wolf families, and sure enough, here comes StarLadies Racing.
With Barbara Lucarelli and Laurie Wolf as managing partners, and Donna Barton Brothers as COO in charge of partnership development and client relations, StarLadies is an all-female ownership group that will buy fillies only and race them in silks that closely resemble Starlight Racing’s, except for a stylish logo with “SL” and a small shooting star replacing the big yellow star inside the yellow circle.
Their first target will be the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale next Monday and Tuesday.
“We’re trying to find the next big filly, really,” Laurie Wolf said.
Starlight Racing has found a few of those already.
The Wolfs raced two-time Eclipse Award winner Ashado in partnership with Paul Saylor and Johns Martin under the name Starlight Stables in 2004-05.
By then, the Lucarellis were in the process of teaming up with the Wolfs, and the reconfigured partnership became Starlight Racing, which discovered a star filly of its own — Octave — who gave the
Lucarellis their first win as owners at their hometown track, and a graded stakes, to boot.
Octave won the Grade II Adirondack at Saratoga in 2006, and was an Eclipse finalist in 2007 after winning two Grade I races.
When StarLadies Racing hits the Fasig-Tipton auction pavilion for the first time on Monday, they’ll be equipped with many of the same tools, resources and strategies that have made Starlight Racing so successful.
Starlight Racing bought a Lemon Drop Kid filly and a Warrior’s Reward colt at the Fasig-Tipton July sale in Lexington, Ky., and besides Saratoga, they and StarLadies will be a presence at the Keeneland September sale.
Brothers, the former jockey who works as a TV reporter and analyst for NBC and TVG, is married to bloodstock agent Frank Brothers. The former trainer is reponsible for picking and bidding on all the Starlight yearling purchases, and this time, he’ll do it for both groups.
“We know how much money we have in the partnership, and then we try to divide that up between four, five, six horses,” Donna Brothers said. “But it’s hard to tell how many horses you’re going to end up with for that amount of money because of what they go for.”
“Keep the m.o. the same,” Laurie Wolf said. “Frankie is still the buyer who will pick out all the horses. We’re not re-inventing the wheel on this. We have a program that works. The only thing that’s changing is it’s a ladies-only partnership that will only have fillies.
“We’ll go in there and see what horses we really like, because that’s where it comes from. Once we do all the vet work and Frank finds out what he likes, we try to zero in on what we want to do.”
StarLadies consists of eight partners, many of whom are already involved with Starlight Racing, and hail from all over the country.
While Barbara Lucarelli and Laurie Wolf will serve as managing partners, Donna Barton Brothers will “act as the liaison,” she said.
“Their partners will have questions that I know the answer to, instead of Barbara and Laurie getting 20 emails a day with questions that are sort of repeat questions,” said Brothers.
Besides the fillies-only component, another part of the StarLadies identity is to donate a percentage of earnings to charity, once they get some fillies out on the track racing, which won’t happen until the first batch of yearlings they buy this year reach 2 next year.
They’ve designated New Vocations as the organization that will receive 1 percent of purse money earned by StarLadies fillies.
“It’s 1 percent of earnings, not 1 percent of profits, because that’s a little hard to come by in this game,” Brothers said.
New Vocations opened a farm in Ohio in 1992 to provide aftercare for retired thoroughbreds, and has grown to six facilities in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Serving over 40 tracks, the program leads the nation in racehorse adoptions and finds new homes and careers for 400 horses a year.
“We are very honored to have StarLadies Racing supporting our efforts at New Vocations,” program director Anna Ford said in a post on the Starlight Racing website. “We truly appreciate their support, as times are tough in the aftercare industry because there are so many horses needing our services. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Barb and Laurie for many years, and you couldn’t ask for two classier ladies. We look forward to watching their horses run and wish them much success.”
“They really have a great program,” Laurie Wolf said. “We’ve known them for quite a few years, and they’ve helped us give our horses who didn’t have another option another career.”
With all that in place, now all StarLadies Racing needs to do is find some future stars.
Then the real fun begins.
“We want to win at the highest levels,” Laurie Wolf said. “That’s why we’re not going to do anything different. We’re going to have the same vets look at them, the same guy that finds them, the same guy that breaks them, and then we’re going to send them to Todd [Pletcher].”
“They’re [races] all exciting,” Barbara Lucarelli said. “We just get so excited that the laryngitis comes on. The family joins all in. We’ve got a lot of support.”
For more information on New Vocations, visit www.newvocations.org.