By Tod Marks, Photos by Tod Marks
Two recognizable names on the National Steeplechase Association circuit have been elected to the organization’s board of directors, the governing body of jump racing in America.
Alexander Leventhal is both an owner (Straylight Racing) and stakes-placed amateur rider, boasting seven victories in 86 career mounts. His top horse to date was steeplethon standout Invocation, a nine-time winner of $213,000.
A partner in the law firm of Harkins, Kovler & Leventhal, Leventhal’s experience includes proxy contests, contentious consent solicitations, and restructurings in the U.S. and Europe, along with stakeholder communications consulting for publicly traded companies and private equity firms.
The Sparks, Md., resident grew up around race horses – his grandfather was a prominent owner – and Alex desperately wanted to ride in races. However, his parents insisted he go to school and get a “real” job. But in 2010, he finally set out to get his jockey’s license, figuring at that point, “ I was too old for my parents to tell me what to do.” His proudest riding moments include a pair of victories in unrestricted professional races and a second in the Steeplethon Stakes at the Virginia Gold Cup Races.
“The greatest issues concerning the sport today are growing race meet attendance and revenue, and enticing new owners into the sport,” Leventhal said. When asked why he wanted to be elected to the NSA board, Leventhal said, “I hope to bring a unique perspective to the board as both an active rider and someone who’s had a career in business completely unrelated to horses. I know the other board members can teach me very much about the business of racing, and I hope my fairly unique experience can add value once they do.”
Charlottesville, Va., resident Jack Sanford has a lengthy history with the NSA dating back to 1985, when he was asked by the family of Marion duPont Scott of Montpelier to assist with the formation of a new board and create a viable entity to establish a race meet that would continue her legacy and fund its own operations and growth. He remained with Montpelier until retiring from its board in 2008.
During that time Sanford volunteered at many meets, becoming a steward in the early ‘90s. That’s when he was elected to the NSA board for the first time. He has the distinction of having attended the first NSA accreditation school in 1995.
“I was so fortunate to work with such a great group of seasoned racing officials who welcomed me into their circle,” Sanford said. “I will be forever grateful for all they taught me and the friendships experienced.”
Outside of racing, Sanford is the owner of the Faulconer Construction Co., a general construction company serving Virginia and the Carolinas. Faulconer is a longtime family operation dating back to the late 1800s.
In 2017, Sanford stepped back from the weekly travel and work in the officials’ stand, but was approached by the Stewards Advisory Committee to replace the retiring Franny Abbott as chairman, a post he still maintains.
Three years later, Sanford was part of a small group that assumed management of the Foxfield Races in his hometown to reinvigorate the event, a move that’s already paying dividends. The new energetic and enthusiastic board is determined to maintain the Foxfield Races for the benefit of the charitable community of greater Charlottesville, and toward that end, improvements have been made to the racing surface and overall infrastructure, and purses are on the upswing.
The NSA board of directors oversees the regulation of steeplechase racing in the U.S., and manages the business side of the Association. Each of the board’s 15 members is elected to a three-year-term, and members can serve two consecutive terms. They are eligible for re-election once they’ve been off the board for at least one year. Approximately 500 licensed owners, trainers, and patron members are eligible to vote for board members. Leventhal and Sanford replace Guy Torsilieri and Doug Fout, whose terms have expired.