Keeneland Magazine

WINTER 2014

Keeneland, Investing in Racing's Future since 1936.

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26 WINTER 2014 K KEENElaNd.com MERSANT INTERNATIONAL LTD. spotlight on The Santarellis and Zahariou are prin- cipals of Mersant International Ltd., a global livestock and freight shipper that is considered one of the premier agents serving the Thoroughbred industry — whether a horse is headed to a major racing hub across the country or to a breeding shed in one of the four corners of the globe. A three-generation, family-owned business, the company originated in the 1950s with grandfather Joseph C. Santarelli working as a customs broker and freight forwarder at Harlo-Air Cargo Brokers. He passed the baton to his sons, Joseph Sr. and Charles, who founded Mersant with business partner Charles Merendino in 1977 (the name is a merg- ing of Merendino and Santarelli). Today the company is run by Joe Jr., his brother Christopher, uncle Charles, and cous- in Chuck, along with Zahariou. While company headquarters are based at JFK airport in New York, Mersant also has an offce in Lexington, Ky., where conveying horses from one place to another is central to business. As horse transporters, Mersant provides what it likes to call "barn to barn" service. And the company has established itself as being one of the best in the biz, ship- ping approximately 18,000 horses annually for everyone from trainers such as Kiaran McLaughlin and Sir Michael Stoute to such notable breed- ing farms as Darley America and William S. Farish's Lane's End. Mersant has even helped out a world leader or two. "We were contacted to bring Alysheba back from Saudi Arabia on a chartered aircraft in 2008," said Joe Santarelli. At the time, the Kentucky Derby winner and 1988 Horse of the Year was being returned to the United States (specifcally to the Kentucky Horse Park's Hall of Champions) as a gift from His Royal Highness King Abdullah to then President George W. Bush. "We did every- thing for that," added Santarelli, "which was really cool." Short domestic trips are fairly straightforward, with horses usually headed to the opposite coast for a big race day. "Typically this can be done quickly utilizing Federal Express," noted Santarelli. But the logistics of foreign travel, taking, say, a stallion in Califor- nia to a farm or racetrack in England, Australia, Russia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, or Libya is nothing short of Herculean, and this is where Mersant's expertise truly kicks in. "It can be very intricate," said Santarelli. "The European Union would sort of be standard. But Above, a horse arrives safely at its destination. Below, Andrea Branchini, right, oversees the transfer of a flly from a DHL fight to the van that will take her to Keeneland from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. rick samuels mersamt international

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