When he put in 100-hour workweeks on Wall Street, Sol Kumin always made time to unwind, to balance the daytime grind of asset management with the nighttime fun of a few hours with friends and drinks.
On Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, before the start of a party that would stretch long into the Baltimore night, there was no work to do — unless you count the nervous watching and full-throated shouting and persistent jumping and smiling as Exaggerator covered the Preakness' 1 3/16 miles in 1 minute, 58.31 seconds, ahead of 10 thoroughbreds who couldn't catch up in the Triple Crown's second leg.
If the former Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse attackman and co-owner of the Keith Desourmeaux-trained, Kent Desormeaux-manned colt didn't have more fun than all of the announced 135,256 in attendance, he did his dardnest to stay close.
"It is sweet coming back here," he said. "I love this city. I spent a lot of time back here at Hopkins. I give back to the school in lots of different ways. I had a great experience, learned a lot here, grew a lot here. So to be here and win it is awesome." He started to chuckle. "And then tonight, I'll be able to show these guys around some of the old stomping grounds."
Kumin's family had stayed in Louisville for three or four days at the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, where Exaggerator placed, behind the undefeated Nyquist. Last week, Kumin's wife, Elizabeth, joined him at Belmont Park, where he celebrated his 41st birthday with a win by another of his horses. Elizabeth told Sol she needed a respite from the racing, so Kumin spent as much of the weekend as he could in Nantucket, Mass., with his family.
He was swimming in the pool with his kids at 10 a.m., and in Baltimore by 12:30 p.m. A half-hour later, he was at Pimlico with a small group of friends, culled from his work and childhood. Before long, they were knocking back cocktails in an infield tent.
It might have been the alcohol talking, but Kumin felt different as the day's 13th race beckoned. He had felt nervous at the Derby. "I just didn't in my heart feel like we were going to win the Derby," he said. "I don't know why. I feel bad saying it."
The rain Saturday changed things, he said. Before Exaggerator's rapid start and assured finish, Kumin had a notion: This was the race.
It all happened so fast. Kumin purchased his first horse two years ago. He bought a sizable stake of Exaggerator this year, before the San Vicente Stakes in February. Then he finished third in that Grade II race. "It didn't look like a very good buy," he said. A month later, Exaggerator was the Santa Anita Derby champion, and Kumin wasn't feeling so bad.
"We run this like a business," co-owner Matt Bryan said. "We're very fortunate. But we're not a bunch of billionaires just throwing a bunch of money around."
In the afterglow of the biggest racing win of his life, Kumin looked more like a college athlete who had just won the biggest game of his life. He joined hands with his friends and jumped up and down. As Exaggerator approached the winner's circle, he let out an elongated "Wooooooo!" He bumped fists with the Desormeauxs. When a bed of black-eyed Susans was placed over his shoulders, he mugged for photos gleefully, his eyes bugging out.
After the postrace news conference, at which Kumin sat on the edge of his seat like a giddy kid, David Kunz said his friend "lives a life out of work, too." Kumin promised that would remain the case for a few more hours.
"We got a day job, right?" Kumin said. "It's back to work early tomorrow. I'll start conference calls midday and grinding and getting ready for the week. This is what it's all about. We got into this sport a couple years ago hoping to have some fun, and we're having more fun than we ever expected."