Horsepower of another sort
Jim Tafel appeared cool and calm as he sat inside the Tafel Racing drivers’ lounge. One of the two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs he owns was circulating around Road Atlanta track as the conversation turned to racing and horsepower of another kind.
A little nervousness was beginning to creep in, he admitted just days before the 133rd Kentucky Derby. Tafel’s father James is the owner of Street Sense, currently listed as the second favorite at 4-to-1 for Saturday’s race at Churchill Downs.
“It comes when I think about it or when I see something on TV,” Jim Tafel said. “It will be two days of pomp and circumstance until Saturday. It’s racing. Anything can happen.”
The two Tafels share an urge for competition, but take very different mounts to get to the finish line.
James Tafel is a renowned thoroughbred horse breeder who hopes to realize his dream by winning the Kentucky Derby. Jim is a budding race car driver and team owner with a dream to one day win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“My son and I have taken different roads to express our competitive personalities,” James Tafel said. “Horse racing is sport that has always intrigued me: the grace, speed and ability of these animals are very much like a high-performance sports car. Instead of oil and gas, it is oats and hay.”
On Nov. 4, 2006, Street Sense won the most important race for 2-year-old colts in the United States, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, at Churchill Downs. That day he was a 15-to-1 longshot ridden by Calvin Borel. He powered away approaching the stretch and earned a record-setting 10-length win in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Street Sense went on to win the Tampa Derby in March (the same weekend at Tafel Racing’s American Le Mans Series debut at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring) and was a close second in his final Derby prep run, the Toyota Blue Grass at Kenneland.
Jim Tafel’s horses have yet to win in their first season in the American Le Mans Series but the results have been very encouraging. The team has recorded two podium finishes in the Series’ ultra-competitive GT2 class with third-place finishes at Sebring and Houston. As the team owner and driver, Jim is intimately involved in the development, management and driving duties associated with owning a professional road racing team.
“Competition is bred in both of us,” Jim Tafel explained. “My dad’s horses are not unlike my race cars. They both require careful preparation by a team of professionals to be able to perform at their peak come race day. There are many variables in each - the track, other competitors, weather, etc. I have tried to run my race team like he manages his horses, by providing the proper resources and hiring the best help possible.”
The synergies do not end at hooves and slicks. The team colors for Tafel Racing on the pavement are blue, yellow and white. The silks for jockey Calvin Borel are also blue, yellow and white, and can be found on the front and rear wing of Tafel’s No. 73 Porsche.