Saturday, May 09, 2009
In the interest of vanity …
Wealthy people spend fortunes on horses for many reasons but the après-Kentucky Oaks purchase of Rachel Alexandra by vintner and self-appointed savior of racing Jess Jackson this week for a figure believed to be $10 million is a rare acquisition indeed: A vanity purchase.
It is highly unlikely that Rachel Alexandra will earn $10 million beneath Jackson’s colors, which she will likely carry into the Preakness next week. Her value as a broodmare is nowhere near that figure since she is likely to deliver no more than 10 foals in her lifetime. But really rich people can have almost anything they want and this is an example.
The warm and fuzzy part of this story – the small-time owners and aging small-time trainer with the horse of a lifetime – no longer applies. Jackson travels with a cadre of dour and menacing security people far removed from warm and fuzzy and is never far removed from a publicist. He also loves the limelight and finding himself removed from the center of attention after the retirement of his two-time Horse of the Year, he bought his way back in and for another $100,000, he will buy his way into the Triple Crown, put himself in position, in fact, to go down in history as the owner of the Horse of the Year for three consecutive seasons.
This is not an accomplishment but a transaction in the style of IEAH Stable or Arab nobility. The Kentucky Oaks winner is in Steve Asmussen’s barn now, one of hundreds scattered at racetracks from Louisiana to New York. Hal Wiggins, her former trainer, feels the loss more than acutely than Asmussen will celebrate the addition to his arsenal. He trained Curlin and scores of stakes winners. The second-best horse Wiggins trained is …?
Jackson is an important patron of the sport, but there is something crass about his acquisition of the season’s most celebrated 3-year-old filly. The good feeling part of this story has evaporated with the reminder that regular people fortunate enough to own extraordinary horses seldom live the dream to its conclusion. Someone with a bigger ego and unlimited resources will make an offer that is impossible to refuse. -- PM
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