THOROUGHBRED RACING is often referred to as the “Sport of Kings.” However, due to the pastime’s intoxicating aura, nearly every culture on earth contains a sect of humanity that revels in equine ownership. On our native soil we find that the general interest in racehorses is growing exponentially, so much so that celebrities from practically every conceivable genre have opted to dedicate a percentage of their disposable income towards locating pristine pieces of nimble horseflesh. Though the depth with which they have entered the game varies, each eminent individual we are about to profile eventually discovered their veiled desire to become totally immersed in the exciting, unpredictable and decadent world of thoroughbred horseracing.
His bass-baritone voice made him one of the most successful recording artists of the twentieth century, yet
Bing Crosby’s love affair with the turf has been well documented as well. Crosby co-founded California’s Del Mar Racetrack with several notable personalities, including Charles S. Howard, the owner of Seabiscuit – undoubtedly the early twentieth century’s most revered thoroughbred. On August 12, 1938 Del Mar hosted a $25,000 winner-take-all match race between Howard’s “Biscuit” and a racer from Crosby’s Binglin Stable named Ligaroti. Though the hefty purse ultimately eluded Crosby by a nose, this renowned entertainer succeeded in capturing several prestigious races, including the Irish Derby with a leggy runner named Curragh.
In tribute to one of its chief pioneers, Del Mar annually hosts the Grade I Bing Crosby Handicap, which is contested at six furlongs over the main track.
Once he decided to seriously pursue the spoils of thoroughbred racing, it didn’t take celebrity chef, restaurateur and reality TV personality, Bobby Flay, very long to make an impact. Success at the stakes level
eludes even those horsemen who have logged decades on the backside, yet Flay has sent out several such victors, including 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Winner More Than Real. Rather than remain on the industry’s fringe, this “Iron Chef” has wholeheartedly committed to the wellbeing of equines in both major and minor markets. Subsequently, Flay has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Earle I. Mack Thoroughbred Champion Award, which honors an individual who demonstrates outstanding effort and influence in circles relating to thoroughbred racehorse safety, welfare and retirement.
Bobby Flay also served as an honorary ambassador for the 2012 Breeders’ Cup with seven other notable celebrities including: Jim Rome, Bo Derek, Joe Torre and Toby Keith.
As a collegiate coach in the Bluegrass State for more than two decades, Rick Pitino is all too familiar with Kentucky’s other primary preoccupation. In 1998, Pitino swung for the fences with Halory Hunter, a Nick Zito-
trained colt who managed to carve out a gutty fourth place finish in the “Run for the Roses.” Stoking Pitino’s
Triple Crown aspirations a few years later was A P Valentine, a racer that eradicated the field in Belmont Park’s marquee juvenile event, the GI Champagne Stakes. After a lackluster performance in the 2001 Kentucky Derby, A P Valentine validated his owner’s confidence by placing second behind Point Given in the Preakness Stakes. As a lead partner in both Celtic Pride and Ol’ Memorial Stables, Pitino regularly names horses after his players. His horse, Siva won a race at Gulfstream Park on March 2.
This year, Pitino has a share of multiple graded stakes winner Goldencents, won the Santa Anita Derby to earn entry into the Kentucky Derby, but finished near the back of the pack on a sloppy track and will give it another shot in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 18.
With a total of twenty-two medals, eighteen of those being gold, Michael Phelps is far and away history’s most
decorated Olympian. This legendary swimmer, who became a household name after winning eight first place medals in the 2008 Games in Beijing, gracefully retired following the 2012 Summer Olympics, yet still retains a competitive alliance with former aquatic coach Bob Bowman.
Phelps and Bowman share ownership in Cerro, an Irish bred colt handled by Graham Motion, trainer of Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Victorious in a 1 1/8 mile optional claiming route at Gulfstream Park on January 26, Cerro also ran respectably verses Kentucky Derby hopefuls on February 23 in Gulfstream’s GII Fountain of Youth Stakes.
Best known as an NFL icon, Super Bowl MVP and seven time Pro-Bowler, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees doesn’t at all mind the title of “horseman.” Perhaps more serious about his ponies than any other celebrity owner, Brees is unbelievably astute concerning the racing equine and even made a serious run at the 2012 Kentucky Derby starting gate with Holy Candy, fourth place finisher in Keeneland’s GI Bluegrass Stakes. Brees recently made headlines when he and his partners claimed a Hollywood Park racer named Siempre Mio, away from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers. Who Dat Ambush, a Mark E. Casse trainee who broke his maiden at the Fairgrounds Racecourse in early January, is another promising runner co-owned by Drew Brees. This Canadian bred son of Orientate competes under the colors of Last Mango Racing Stable, whose partners include New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, V.P of communications Greg Bensel and Jimmy Buffet.
Accredited as the architect of modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking, director Steven Spielberg has captivated the imagination of moviegoers for well over forty years. One of the two-time Academy Award Winner’s more recent projects includes War Horse, an epic equine adventure set against the canvas of Europe during World War I. Spielberg’s fascination with horses isn’t just relegated to the set, and with an estimated net worth of 3.2 billion dollars, this co-founder of Dream Works Studios can more than afford to zealously participate in the “Sport of Kings.” An investor in the Delaware-based Biscuit Stables, Spielberg’s claim to fame in horseracing involves Atswhatimtalkingabout, a syndicated colt who finished fourth in the 2003 Kentucky Derby.
While there are many more from the rich and famous circles who partake in more than a few pari-mutuel wagers amongst the sport of kings, this overview is just a glimpse into the fascinating world of thoroughbred ownership.
BY ERIC FLOYD