Girls just wanna have fun

Horse racing may be the Sport of Kings, but on Saturday an ownership group at Arlington Park might raise an eyebrow or two. When Dance Team takes to the track, she will do so on behalf of the syndicate It's All About the Girls.

Dance Team, a 3-year-old filly by Dynaformer, appears to be an honest sort of runner. She has only won once in seven starts, but she has been second or third five other times. It's this ability but perhaps not greatness that led to her being the first horse campaigned by It's All About the Girls.

The excitement of the races is simply an added bonus. That is why I wanted to create not only a racing syndicate but a social club for women to network and have a good time.

-- Syndicate manager, Anna Seitz

For you see, Dance Team began her career for B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm. About the same time, Anna Seitz was trying to get an all-female racing syndicate going. She ran into Spendthrift's general manager, Ned Toffey, at a sale and told him about her new venture.

"Dance Team is well bred and her owner was going to retire her to his broodmare band where she would be bred in 2014 to support one of his stallions," said Seitz. "Mr. Hughes likes to compete at the highest level of the game. He also likes to promote the sport, and he liked my idea."

So, for the remainder of her race career, Dance Team is being leased by It's All About the Girls.

"We had originally planned on buying some yearlings in the fall, but when Ned told us about this 3-year-old filly who was hitting the board in all but one start, I thought she would be a good fit for our syndicate, as she would provide instant action for the girls," said Seitz. "We would get a ready-made horse and if she won a few races, it would increase Dance Team's value as a broodmare. A win-win, right? So far, it has worked out well."

Well might be a bit of an understatement. Dance Team was transferred to Wayne Catalano's barn at Arlington, and she won her first race one week later. Needless to say, that is a good way to get people interested in your syndicate.

This isn't the first syndicate Seitz has organized, but it is the first one exclusive to women. Well almost exclusive. She credits her husband, Evan Ciannello, for helping to keep her organized and for keeping the books.

Seitz' regular job is as marketing assistant/client coordinator for Fasig-Tipton, the thoroughbred auction company. Inspiration for It's All About the Girls came while on a business trip last year.

"I was in Australia promoting Fasig-Tipton, and I noticed how popular syndicates were and how much fun people were having," said Seitz. "The women get really dressed up for the races, and they drink champagne and it is more of a social event. The excitement of the races is simply an added bonus. That is why I wanted to create not only a racing syndicate but a social club for women to network and have a good time. I wanted to make horse racing fun for new people, and I wanted to make it about fashion, horses and networking. That's where idea was conceived."

Seitz also noted that entering the horse racing industry can be intimidating for someone who is new, while syndicates provide a fun, less scary alternative to being an individual owner. Not to mention, it makes it more affordable. Furthermore, jointly owning a racehorse provides a reason to get together.

"I feel that there are a lot of ways men get together and network and socialize but not really many options for women," said Seitz. "We plan to meet up at different racetracks around the country even if we aren't running to get together and go to the races. We had our first party in Kentucky to 'launch' the syndicate, introduce the women to each other and watch our filly's winning replay. We have women in our group from all over the country, so it works to do multiple events in different places.

"What good is being a part of a social club if you aren't having parties? I want these women to network and teach each other about what they do. We have an incredible group of women and almost every single one does something different. I would love to use this syndicate to help promote their businesses. We are setting up a website www.womenssyndicate.com that will have info about the horses but also about our businesses."

Hughes isn't the only industry heavy weight to assist in Seitz' efforts to get It's All About the Girls off the ground. Barbara Banke, who owns Stonestreet Farm and is the widow of wine mogul Jess Jackson, has agreed to be the official wine sponsor for the group's events.

Because the syndicate is still in its infancy, for now the plan is to have no more than two horses in training at a time. The current thought is to buy another filly in the fall at a yearling sale. This will expand the stable and also provide the partners a chance to go to a sale, inspect yearlings and learn about the selection process. Seitz also is hoping to one day have a filly in training in France. After all, she has the connections there to make it happen and how many women would love an excuse to go to France?

Starting up a partership also allows for creative opportunites. For instance, the group's new silks will be unveiled this weekend at Arlington Park when Dance Team takes to the track.

"Just designing the silks and logo was a blast, and we all did it together," said Seitz. "It is something small, but it is something where the girls can contribute ideas and really feel involved. This is sort of a male-domiated sport, and men are generally more competitive. Sometimes, they forget that it is supposed to be fun.

"I am fortunate enough that my job allows me to travel and attend the best races in the country. The Travers at Saratoga and the Preakness near Baltimore are really exciting events held in really fun cities, and everybody is there to enjoy themselves. If we can get lucky and run our horses on these bigger days, it only adds to the excitement of the day. There is no greater rush than owning a horse--or even a small piece of one--and cheering for your horse in the stretch run. I cannot describe it in words."

On Saturday, Dance Team will be competing in an allowance race, going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Part of the syndicate will be in Chicago to cheer her on as she tries to make it two-for-two for It's All About the Girls. No matter what, they are excited about the filly's future.

"It is always tough when a horse breaks their maiden and they have to face winners for the first time, but we think she will be up to the challenge," said Seitz. "She is a pretty filly, and she is a dark bay with no markings. I haven't spent too much time with her yet other than when she got off of the plane from California. She seems to be easy to train in the mornings as she has a good mind."

As for the future of It's All About the Girls, Seitz has a simple but critical goal that stretches beyond just this group of women and expands into the sport as a whole.

"My whole family is invested in this industry, and I really love the sport and have always wanted to own horses but couldn't afford it by myself, hence the beauty of multiple owners," she said. "My main objective is to grow our ownership and fan base for horse racing because we definitely need new owners."

Any women interested in learning more about It's All About the Girls can contact Seitz at aseitz@fasigtipton.com for more information.

Amanda Duckworth is a freelance journalist who lives in Lexington, Ky. Among her other duties, she is an editor for Gallop Magazine. Write to her at amanda.duckworth@ymail.com.