Q&A: Ray Struder, Owner of Knoxville-based Landaluce Educe Stables

Ray Struder owns Knoxville-based Landaluce Educe Stables and Rosalind, who recently won the prestigious Ashland Stakes race for 3-year-old fillies and will race Friday, May 2, in the Kentucky Oaks for fillies at Churchill Downs, the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. Rosalind's jockey is Joel Rosario and her trainer Kenneth McPeek.

How big of a deal is winning the Ashland Stakes?

It is like winning the playoffs for the National League to go to the World Series. The Ashland Stakes are arguably the second-most prestigious race for three-year-old fillies and then the Kentucky Oaks—for fillies, that would be the equivalent of the Super Bowl.

How long have you owned Rosalind?

I bought her as a yearling in 2012. My trainer checks the yearlings first, including the pedigrees, and gives me a short list—our stable only purchases two or three fillies a year. This sale was in Lexington in July, and it was 100+ every day. The yearlings couldn't take the heat—they didn't want to come out of their stalls. But Rosalind, she didn't want to come in. That was one early tip. And she had scars on her legs. I asked her trainer, and he said, "She's a tomboy. She's always sticking her legs through the fence, always running, always active." That was another tip.

What's most special about Rosalind?

She is strong-willed, and she's a hard worker. Thoroughbred racers are top athletes, and some that have the pedigree can't handle the day after day training—they melt down mentally. The analogy would be people training for a marathon, every morning, every day. Lots of athletes have the talent but they don't have the mind for the training.

You've had the stables just five years—isn't this early for such success?

Yes, absolutely. There are lots of people who have worked for years to try to get to this level, while we've had 10 horses in our five years and four have been racing class.

Is Rosalind your favorite of the horses?

She's by far the most talented. But my favorite is the first filly we purchased, Niji's Grand Girl. She is named after her grandfather, Nijinsky II, who in 1970 was the first horse to win the English Triple Crown since World War 2. We were literally a one-horse stable then. When she raced, we took her winnings and purchased two more horses, and then kept parlaying that. Now she's retired as a brood mare.

Is it a bit unusual to have thoroughbred racers based in Knoxville?

There are other people in Knoxville who have raced thoroughbreds in the past, but I don't know anybody personally doing it now. All of the Landaluce Educe Stables horses are stabled in Lexington and travel around from there; I live in Knoxville and our stables are registered and operated out of Knoxville. But it's a three-hour drive to Lexington and I can get there whenever I need to.

Before the football accident that put you in a wheelchair, did you ride?

I rode, but I was horrible—I was a trail rider and rode in the pasture, but I didn't have any skills. But when I was younger I was always athletic, and that's part of my fascination with race horses. They have such a work ethic, and put in all those six- and seven-day weeks.

Why do you only buy fillies?

It's not typical, but I went into ownership after developing a business plan literally 15 years earlier. One colt can breed with 100 fillies—a colt has to be truly outstanding for a residual value. But these fillies, they can continue to have value—first as racers, then when they retire to brood mare. And our stable can then race the young ones or take them to auction. But the other part of the appeal: these horses, you get to see them in those years when they race, follow their careers, and at the stables, whenever you want. You really get to know them and they get to know you. And then you get to see them with their babies; they're part of the family.

Do you like the social aspects of being an owner?

Going to the events, there are 120,000-130,000 people—it is bigger than a Vol game! But I am probably one of the more private owners, I'm pretty reclusive. But everyone I've encountered connected with this life has been gracious—the owners, trainers, everyone in the sport knows each other and knows how much work and dedication this sport takes, and respects that.

Are you nervous about the race?

I'm not nervous at all. I don't get nervous. I get excited about racing, and right before the race I get very quiet.

Approximate post time for the Kentucky Oaks May 2: 5:45 p.m.; broadcast on NBCSN from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. For racing photos and to learn more about Rosalind and the stable, visit the Landaluce Educe Stables Facebook page.