Horse industry mourns Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner was accompanied by his wife, Joan, at the 1997 Kentucky Derby, when his colt, Concerto, finished ninth.
George Steinbrenner was accompanied by his wife, Joan, at the 1997 Kentucky Derby, when his colt, Concerto, finished ninth.

Although best known as owner of the Yankees, George Steinbrenner also raced many top Thoroughbred horses in his Kinsman Stables, including six Kentucky Derby runners and five Breeders' Cup contenders.

Many of his top runners, including 2007 Hopeful Stakes winner Majestic Warrior, were homebreds.

Robert Clay, owner of Three Chimneys Farm, where Majestic Warrior was raised, said in a statement Tuesday that Steinbrenner was a longtime friend.

"He was such a character," Clay said. "I will never forget the pleasure of spending time with him driving around the farm, listening to his views on things, and realizing how dear a man he really was, given all of the publicity that surrounded him to the contrary."

Steinbrenner's best chance to win the Run for the Roses came in 2005, with Wood Memorial winner Bellamy Road, purchased as a 2-year-old. Bellamy Road went into the Derby as 5-2 favorite but faded in the stretch to finish seventh behind Giacomo.

His first Derby runner was 1977 Hollywood Derby winner Steve's Friend, who came in fifth behind eventual Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

Other top horses included Dream Supreme, Spinning Round, Sweet Symphony, Eternal Prince, Diligence, Ebony Breeze and Concerto, sire of Bellamy Road.

His best Breeders' Cup finish was second with Acceptable in the 1996 Juvenile.

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

Steinbrenner was a former president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. Richard Hancock, executive vice president, said Steinbrenner was instrumental in working for key legislation to benefit the industry, including inter-track wagering and Sunday racing. "He left a great legacy in Florida's Thoroughbred industry," Hancock said in a statement.

A longtime resident of Tampa, Steinbrenner owned Florida Downs, now known as Tampa Bay Downs, from 1980 to 1986.

In the 1990s, the Steinbrenner family also had an ownership interest in The Red Mile harness track in Lexington, as well as two harness tracks in the Chicago area, Balmoral Park and Maywood Park.

In 2006, Steinbrenner also was part of a bid to take over the New York racing franchise of Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, but the family withdrew from the Excelsior Racing group when his daughter, Jennifer, filed for divorce from Steve Swindal, who had been involved in the Chicago harness tracks and was expected to play a major role in running the New York tracks if the bid had been successful.