Wheels Up Pays “Seven Figures” for Exclusive Sponsorship On-Board Triple Crown Candidate Justify


Wheels Up will be the sole corporate sponsor with its logo on Justify and jockey Mike Smith, as the undefeated chestnut colt attempts to become the 13th Triple Crown Winner - and just the second the last 40 years - at Belmont Park tomorrow. The member-based private aviation company has agreed to pay “seven-figures” to place its logo on Justify’s blanket and Smith’s pant leg, turtleneck and boots, in the 150thrunning of the Belmont Stakes. It’s the most ever paid for a single race sponsorship in horse racing history. Wheels Up was among the companies that sponsored American Pharoah, when the horse became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years in 2015. Justify (and Smith) join an impressive “stable” (pun intended) of Wheels Up brand ambassadors, a list that includes Rickie Fowler, Tom Brady, J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson and Serena Williams.

Howie Long-Short: Joyce Julius & Associates determined that Monster Energy received $6.7 million in exposure value (think: TV, digital news, social) from its sponsorship of American Pharoah in 2015. Considering that Monster wasn’t the exclusive sponsor and that the brand didn’t have placement on Smith’s pant leg, “seven figures” sounds right.

Wheels Up remains privately-held, but there is one way to play the company: T. Rowe Price (TROW). The Maryland-based investment management company led Wheels Up’s $115 million round in September ’16 and co-led (with Fidelity Investments) a $117.5 million private equity round in October 2017. Wheels Up has raised $408.9 million over five funding rounds since December 2013.

For those wondering, there is a $1.5 million purse for the Belmont Stakes. The winner will take home $900,000, 2nd place gets $300,000 and 3rd place will earn $165,00. 4th and 5th place also receive prize money.

Fun Fact: The total purse for the inaugural Belmont Stakes in 1867 was $2,000.

As for TROW, the company reported that it brought in $11.3 billion in client cash in Q1 ’18 – the second-biggest quarterly haul in company history – increasing AUM by 2.3%. There’s a reason those that seek active-management want to invest with TROW. According to Bloomberg, the company’s Growth Stock Fund has outperformed 93% of its rivals since 2012. Shares hit an all-time high on Wednesday ($127.43) and closed at $125.22 yesterday.

Fan Marino: Justify has been posted as the 4-5 morning line favorite (from the #1 post), but the undefeated colt won’t be running against a full field. The group that owns Justify (see below), also owns Audible (finished 3rd in Kentucky Derby); and the collective has decided to pull the top contender from the race as it chases horse racing immortality. It’s an easy decision to criticize, but one I’d have likely made myself. Should Justify win, no one will remember who didn’t run; had Audible won, horse racing fans would forever second guess why ownership allowed a stablemate to tarnish a shot at history. It’s worth noting that should Justify win, he would become the first undefeated horse to win the Belmont Stakes since Seattle Slew did it in ’77.

Justify is co-owned by Winstar Farm, the China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partner and Starlight Racing. The group has already sold Justify’s breeding rights for $60 million.

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