John Sakkos can count on one hand how many horses have carried the colors of his Beach Haven Thoroughbreds stable into the starting XI. The answer is four – one for as many years as he’s in the industry.

If the thoroughbred sport has taught fans and participants one thing, it is that the size of Sakkos’ stable and the age of its operation should hardly justify a trip to the circle of winners at the highest level.

But that’s exactly what happened.

When the three-year-old passion fruit crossed a head in front of the previously unbeaten Malathaat at the American Oaks class 1 coaching club on July 24th, the filly became the fourth winner of four in the race for jackets and brought his first, coveted G1 home win.

“Reality came the next morning when my wife (Tracy) and I woke up and looked at each other and said, ‘Did we really get a grade 1?'” Said Sakkos. “We were all really excited. My wife even lost her voice. It was a natural highlight and when you think of our short career in racing history it was just great. “

Beach Haven Thoroughbreds was born from the friendship of Sakkos and his partner Ara Aprahamian, who named their young business after Beach Haven Island, a small hamlet in New Jersey and favorite vacation spot for the couple and their families. A long-time racing fan who had tried partnerships since the early 2000s, Aprahamian – who runs a pharmaceutical company – turned to Sakkos to set up his own small racing syndicate. Sakkos, who also has a professional background in the medical field, said he agreed to the proposal more or less on a whim.

“The joke between us is that I came into contact with horses purely by chance,” joked Jackets.

While Sakkos traced his ancestors back to Greece, where his family was traditionally farmers, his limited experience with horses came from occasional encounters as a child when visiting his grandparents’ farm. Horse racing, he admits, was outside of his educational scope.

With this in mind, the plan from the start was to keep Beach Haven small. Partners were drawn from a ring of close friends who wanted to participate in the campaign without committing to the often exorbitant expenses associated with the Thoroughbred campaign.

Tracy jackets and passion fruit. Photo courtesy of the Sakkos family

Beach Haven’s first runner was Uncle Benny, a declaration of war colt bought for $ 185,000. The colt – named after Aprahamian’s deceased uncle – proved to be a competent lawn runner and won the six Furlong Futurity on the lawn at Belmont Park in 2018 before finishing second in this year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Next on the list was Sassy Agnes, a New York-bred daughter of Central Banker who won three consecutive stakes in 2018 when she won the Lady Finger and Shesastonecoldfox Stakes, followed by the Key Cent Stakes for trainer Linda Rice. Rice would also take on Newly Minted, another subsidiary of Central Banker who took four wins on the way to a 6-3-1 record of 12 starts and $ 516,738 in purses.

It’s a hit rate that even the most seasoned rider would envy.

While Newly Minted burned the rails on the New York circuit, Sakkos and his partners went to $ 200,000 – more than they’d ever spent before – to secure Maracuja, a subsidiary of Honor Code. The filly trained by Rob Atras impressed early on and it was planned to debut her talent in Saratoga in summer 2020.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on the racing calendar, the decision was made to start the filly at three. The filly broke her young in Aqueduct in February before it came second in the G3 Gazelle. This race would be a stepping stone for the G1 Kentucky Oaks, where they finished the board. Three months later, she would redeem herself at the CCA Oaks, beating the Oaks winner at odds of 14-1, and making a mark on herself to watch out for the G1 Alabama at the spa.

“Rob didn’t mean to push her, which I’m glad he didn’t,” said Sakkos. “We are very proud, but it gets better and better with every race. Newly Minted did well and ‘Sassy’ did well too, but she has done the best so far. She is it. This is thanks to Rob and his wife Brittney and his team. We were just lucky enough to buy them. “

Given the still looming pandemic and the associated economic uncertainty, Maracuja will probably remain the only Beach Haven runner for the time being.

“With everything that was going on, we didn’t mind keeping everything close. I still think we’re not quite out of the woods yet, so let’s just enjoy the moment and concentrate on passion fruit, ”said Sakkos. “She loves the attention, she loves her carrots, and after the races I go back to the barn and hug her and kiss her. She has a great personality and everyone in the stable loves her, but when it comes down to being on the track, she changes gears.

“When you see Rob and his team, especially Mario, her bridegroom, and Christian, die [exercise rider] and the love they show their animals is just phenomenal. Mario, Maracuja’s groom, spoiled her completely. She’s not happy when he’s not around, and he’s never left her side with the Oaks. They are attached to the hip. “

Win or lose, said Sakkos, the most important thing now is that he can enjoy the ride with his partners and family.

“I still think there is still a lot for me to learn. I get more familiar with things and ask a lot of questions, ”said Sakkos. “But I have a way to go to catch up with people who have so much more experience in this industry than I do. We enjoy it and our kids enjoy it. It’s a great hobby and so much fun when the family can join in. With us everything revolves around the animals. “