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Sports Spotlight: Boss Takes Employees to the Kentucky Derby

May 13, 2008 — Imagine having your boss take you and your entire office away on a trip to the Kentucky Derby — all expenses paid. Sounds like a dream, but it really wasn't for the employees of TAG Virgin Islands, whose president, James Tagliaferri, did exactly that.
TAG Virgin Islands, an investment-management company originally based in Connecticut, moved to the territory in early 2007 after learning about the local Economic Development Commission's tax benefits program. Once here, one of TAG's investors introduced Tagliaferri to another company dealing with racehorses.
"We invested in the company, and with the money we invested, they bought Big Brown," Tagliaferri said during a recent interview. Big Brown won this year's Kentucky Derby, and is heavily favored in the Preakness Stakes, to be held this Saturday at the Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.
TAG Virgin Islands has a 10-percent ownership in the horse, and is responsible for helping to pay veterinary and training bills, along with racing-insurance costs.
When asked about the Kentucky Derby trip, many TAG employees said they had come away from the race with "a lifetime of memories."
"Jim, as principal of this company, had an interest and relationship with the Big Brown family, and is actually one of the owners," said Una Dyer-Gonzalez, TAG's vice president and director of business operations. "And it was quite an experience going to the derby via corporate jet, and getting the complete luxury experience and accommodations."
Though it rained while the group was at the track, it "really didn't matter," Carol Olsen added.
"This was the memory of a lifetime," she said. "It was that great."
Everyone is excited about Big Brown's chances of taking the Triple Crown — meaning the champ would also have to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes races. But if he completes this task, he could find himself within the next year on a stud farm instead of on the track, Tagliaferri said.
"The horse's value will go up to $120 million to $150 million if he wins the Triple Crown," he said. "We can't insure the horse for that much — we can't even buy it. It's most likely that he would be retired to stud, and we hope that will happen next year. So he'll be raising babies instead."
In the meantime, Tagliaferri said he would look at bringing horses down from the mainland to increase the standard of horse racing in the Virgin Islands.
"We know that there are many horses that are sent to the slaughterhouse for no reason other than they are just not winning races anymore," he said. "But they're perfectly sound otherwise. We see the possibility of bringing some of the horses down here, and raising the level of racing and competition in the territory. We hope to get that started within a year or so."
Not keeping his eye only on St. Thomas, Tagliaferri also plans to bring a minor league baseball team to the big island of St. Croix. After the long-awaited sports complex on the island gets built, he hopes to bring in a team affiliated with a major league franchise — or the Dominican or Puerto Rican leagues.
"I think it would be great to have local ballplayers playing alongside major leaguers," he said. "We don't care who the team is affiliated with, we're just looking for a minor league team located within the southeastern part of the U.S., because then it would be easier to get them here. What we want is a new franchise — a new franchise that would be identified with the Virgin Islands, as opposed to just another team in the U.S."
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