The Brock Talk

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Steinbrenner Was About Much More Than Just The Yankees

Many in the horse racing industry may look on the passing of George Stienbrenner Jr. as a loss of the longtime New York Yankees owner and all of the championships and controversy he brought to the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees won seven World Series championships, 11 pennants and 16 division titles under the ownership of "The Boss" but Steinbrenner also had 20 managers in his first 23 seasons running Yankees, including firing and re-hiring manager Billy Martin five times.

George Steinbrenner Jr., who died Tuesday at the age of 80, certainly had flair, charisma and influence.

Steinbrenner was also banned from baseball in 1990 for an association with a known gambler and was reinstated again three years later by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Steinbrenner also had a significant impact on free agency in baseball – and other major sports for that matter – signing the likes of stars Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield to historically rich contracts.

But that image of Mr. Steinbrenner is far from that of the man that loved, and made so many contributions to thoroughbred racing.

Steinbrenner first became interested in horse racing in the early 1970s and by 1977 he had his first Kentucky Derby starter in Dave’s Friend who finished fourth behind Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Under his black and blue silks of Kinsman Stable, Steinbrenner tried five more times with Derby entrants with Eternal Prince (1985, 12th); Diligence (‘96, 9th); Concerto (’97, 9th); Blue Burner (2002, 11th) and post time favorite Bellamy Road who finished seventh in 2005.

Had Steinbrenner won one of those Run for the Roses, thoroughbred racing may have been even more the beneficiary of his passion and business sense.

As it was, horse racing was high enough on the sports legend’s priority list to benefit the sport of kings. Steinbrenner bred horses at his 750-acre Kinsam Farm near Ocala, Fla.; owned Florida Downs (now Tampa Bay Downs) during the 1980s and part of Balmoral Racetrack and Maywood Harness near Chicago around that time. He was also active in the Florida breeding industry and was also a past president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association

During his tenure as the head of Kinsman Stable, Steinbrenner bred or raced in partnership a number of grade 1 winners including Buy The Firm, Dream Supreme, Eternal Prince, Majestic Warrior, Spinning Round and Sweet Symphony according to Bloodhorse.com.

Also as reported in a Bloodhorse.com column by Eric Mitchell, Ocala Farm owner and at that time vice president of the Florida Breeders’ Association Mike O’Farrell once said of Steinbrenner "When we got to the stage of implementing off-track wagering and interstate simulcasting, there is no doubt that Steinbrenner was the single most influential person in Florida in being sure it got done and got done right."

And getting it done right was what George Steinbrenner Jr. was all about – as long as he had the passion.

One has to wonder what horse racing might look like today if Dave’s Friend or Eternal Prince had won the Kentucky Derby. Would George Steinbrenner Jr. have plunged into thoroughbred racing as enthusiastically as he did major league baseball?

Probably not. But that doesn't diminish his longtime contribution to horse racing or our loss of a great sportsman.

2 comments:

The_Knight_Sky said...

Hiring and firing Billy Martin five times!

LOL - those were the good ol' days.

You could never pickup a NY Daily News without The Boss or the Skipper on the back pages.

Brock Sheridan said...

Must have been one of the many hay days in New York City sports. When a New York team gets hot, there's nothing like it. Whether it's championships or controversy... and George brought both.