In The Neighborhood (5/4/2008)

BY JIM WELLS
Matt Wiebke stood in the winners’ circle Saturday after the first stakes race of the 2008 racing season, the $50,000 Shot of Gold stakes, offering details of how he got there and how he got involved in the sport in the first place.
He thought back to that spring of 2001, a few months after he moved into his Bloomington house. Occasionally, he spotted his next-door neighbor running an errand, doing a chore. The fellow had a familiar look to him, and so Wiebke finally approached the man.
Wiebke had been to Canterbury enough times to put two and two together. “Hey, are you Paul Nolan?” he asked.
Yes, his next door neighbor was the fellow he has seen ride many times in Shakopee. Conversations ensued. Wiebke craved any information Nolan could provide.
“If nothing else, I figured I might get some good betting tips,” Wiebke recalled.
The relationship grew into a friendship. Wiebke began following the horses Nolan rode. “I’d go to Canterbury and cheer for him,” he said.
And in the days after a good weekend at the track, the Bloomington neighbors would continue their talks. “Paul’s a story teller, you know,” Wiebke added. “I would soak in anything he said.”
Wiebke wanted more.
“Paul told me I should get into owning a horse,” Wiebke said. “It had never crossed my mind. I had a certain stereotype of an owner in my mind and it wasn’t me.”
It is now.
The first thing Wiebke wanted was a trainer who was reliable, trustworty and good. Nolan directed him to Jamie Ness. “I think we all know the story with him,” said Wiebke. That was the start.
Wiebke is the investment business, so the next step he took paralleled what he does frequently in the financial world. “I’m used to pooling assets,” he said. “Forming partnerships.”
Originally, there were three investors in Web’s Gems Stable.
“It’s now grown to 14,” Wiebke said, moments after the stable’s 4-year-old gelding, Tytus, nosed out Prospective Kiss to win the first stakes race of the season.
Tytus is the star of the stable and there is a story here as well.
Web’s Gems Stable had a tough start.
The group bought a horse that was claimed right away. They claimed another but an injury prevented him from running for six months.
In January, Web’s Gems latched onto a couple of money-makers that enabled them to expand the stable. “We kept buying and buying,” said Wiebke.
Last October, Wiebke got a call from Ness. The stable had just lost a horse in a claim. “When we lose one, I want to get another one right away,” said Wiebke. Ness told him there were were nine horses to keep an eye on at Hawthorne, including a Michael Stidham horse named Tytus”We don’t go to auctions. We don’t breed. We have to take other people’s rejects,” said Wiebke, who zeroed in on Tytus and made the choice after receiving two decision-making signs.
It was Breeders’ Cup day and Wiebke liked Tale of Ekati in the Juvenile. Tytus had the same sire, Tale of the Cat. There was a diamond on Ekati’s silks. There was a diamond on Web’s Gems silks. Enough said.
Web’s Gems Stable claimed Tytus for $25,000 at Hawthorne that day.
Web’s Gems got Tytus in a two-way shake with another trainer, who immediately offered them $35,000. “Jaime called to tell us we could pick up a $10,000 profit in just minutes. I figured the trainer was low-balling us,” said Wiebke.
The deal was nixed, and the decision to do so validated after Tytus set a track record (1:16 and 1/5) for 6 1/2 furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs last December and avoided a claim at the same time “We figured we had something then,” said Wiebke.
Tytus validated that belief on opening day and is being considered for the Brooks Fields Stakes on June 7.
` On Saturday night, following the horse’s first stakes win, there was a gathering in the barn to toast Tytus. “The sun was setting,” said Wiebke, who then offered to take the group of 12 to dinner. .
Wiebke, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Nolan nine other investors in the stable headed to Ruby Tuesday. This time, it was Wiebke’s turn to spin a tale.
“I had a story about how far we’ve come,” he said.

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