David Heerensperger & Jose Maria Nelson

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Winning Prize, Frank E. Kilroe Mile, Santa Anita, 2nd March 2014

Trained by Neil Drysdale, Sire: Pure Prize. Dam: Winning Ways

Trainer Neil Drysdale arranged David Heerensperger and Jose Maria Nelson’s 50-50 partnership on Winning Prize, who was imported from Nelson’s home country of Argentina, which is where Winning Prize will stand when his racing career is over.

Heerensperger, a 67-year-old native of Longview, Wash., retired as CEO of Pay ‘n Pak Hardware Stores in 1989 and founded Eagle Hardware and Garden. “He had always wanted a chain of stores that were bigger and better,” Jill said. After Eagle Hardware and Garden grew to more than 30 stores in the western United States, he retired again in 1997, nearly two decades after he and Jill got involved with Thoroughbreds.

After they purchased a trip to the Kentucky Derby at a charity auction, Jill, who had grown up showing Saddlebreds and Quarter Horses, suggested to her husband they buy a Thoroughbred. On a whim, they attended a horse sale in Washington in 1979 and wound up buying the sales topper, Flame Commander, who bowed a tendon and never raced. The Heerenspergers dove into Thoroughbred racing anyway, not just as owners and breeders, but also as significant investors in Emerald Downs, a track in Auburn, Wash., which opened on June 20, 1996. Jill served on the board of the Washington Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association for 13 years.

Their top horses include Grade I winners Artiste Royal and Millennium Wind and Bourbon Bay, who won six Grade II stakes and made nearly $1 million. The couple, who have homes in Bellevue, Wash., and Palm Springs, Calif., usually have up to half a dozen horses in training with Drysdale in Southern California and Tom Wenzel at Emerald Downs. “We both love our horses and we want to give them every chance we can,” Jill said. “We want to do right by them.”

Jose Maria Nelson, a prominent owner and breeder in Argentina, is the president of the Argentine Stud Book which watches over the Genealogic Register of identity and property of all Thoroughbred, Pure Arabian and Anglo-Arabian horses. He is also on the Argentine Jockey Club Committee and a member of the Racing Commission of the San Isidro Hippodrome.