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Fiery George Steinbrenner was patient horse owner

July 14, 2010 3:22:41 AM PDT
As impetuous as he could be with the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner was downright patient and low-key when it came to horse racing.

He wasn't as successful, though.

While the Yankees won seven World Series championships, 11 pennants and 16 division titles under his ownership, Steinbrenner never realized his dream of winning the Kentucky Derby. He made six attempts at capturing America's most famous horse race, but none of his horses finished better than fifth.

"I think that was the missing jewel for him," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said at Dodger Stadium.

Steinbrenner died Tuesday after a heart attack in Tampa, Fla. He was 80.

He was a longtime breeder and thoroughbred owner whose operations were based in the horse country of Ocala, Fla. He raced as Kinsman Stable, once overseen by his daughter Jessica.

His breeding operation Kinsman Stud covered 750 acres and was named for the street Steinbrenner's ancestors lived on in Cleveland.

He became interested in racing in the 1970s and entered the Kentucky Derby for the first time in 1977, when Steve's Friend finished fifth.

It would be nearly a decade before Steinbrenner tried again on the first Saturday in May with Eternal Prince, who was 12th in 1985.

He had two runners who finished ninth in the 1990s: Diligence (1996) and Concerto (1997). Blue Burner ran 11th in 2002.

Still, Steinbrenner kept trying.

His best hope came in the 2005 Derby, when Bellamy Road went into the race as the morning line favorite and finished seventh.

The colt was one of five that year trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito. His other entries didn't win, either; instead, 50-1 shot Giacomo upset the field.

Steinbrenner paid $87,000 for Bellamy Road, who went on to finish second in the Travers that year.

Torre, one of the few Yankees managers not fired by Steinbrenner, tried to win the Derby this year. But the horse he co-owned, Homeboykris, finished 16th.

He recalled Steinbrenner's passion for winning was equally as strong at the track as it was at the ballpark.

"When he turned a horse over to a trainer he basically expects them to win. It's not reasonable but that had nothing to do with what he wanted done," Torre said. "That was the fun part about George. The only time it would drive you nuts is if you took it too seriously."

Although they failed in the Kentucky Derby, Majestic Warrior won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in 2007; Eternal Prince won the 1985 Wood Memorial and Gotham Stakes; and Steve's Friend won the 1977 Hollywood Derby. Bellamy Road's sire, Concerto, won the 1997 Jim Beam and Whirlaway stakes.

"His Kinsman Stable left an indelible mark on New York racing, including Bellamy Road's remarkable 17?-length victory in the 2005 Wood Memorial, and his sensational filly Dream Supreme's four New York graded wins," New York Racing Association president Charles Hayward said. "His passion for the sport will be missed."

Steinbrenner was a player in the Breeders' Cup, horse racing's richest event. His best finish was second with Acceptable in the 1996 Juvenile.

Diligence ran fifth in the 1995 Juvenile. Dream Supreme was sixth in the 2000 Sprint and Spinning Round was fifth in the Juvenile Fillies in 1991.

"He was a devoted owner and breeder and philanthropist for more than 40 years, and his Kinsman Farm near Ocala, Fla., produced numerous stakes winners," said Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "His many contributions to our sport are greatly appreciated, and he will be sorely missed."

Steinbrenner was part of a group that purchased Florida Downs in 1980. Now known as Tampa Bay Downs, he sold his interest later in the decade. He had ownership interests in Balmoral and Maywood harness racing tracks near Chicago in 1987. He was a past president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, and a NYRA board member.

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LINK: newyork.yankees.mlb.com


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