All human beings can recall occasions in their lives when they were fortuitously saved from their own desires or decisions. When things didn’t work out—the job you didn’t get, the person you wanted to marry, the investment you lost out on, etc.—you were discouraged, or even devastated, at the time, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Looking back, you thank your lucky stars that you did not get what you thought you wanted.

A recent example pertains to Ogden Mills Phipps, the co-owner of Kentucky Derby winner Orb. Mr. Phipps reportedly advised his cousin Stuart Janney to sell Lady Liberty, Orb’s dam. Mr. Janney instead listened to the exact opposite counsel of Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm. This shrewd (or lucky?) choice ultimately resulted in the cousins earning their first win in the Run for the Roses.

Numerous instances of this phenomenon in horse racing would have altered the sport, and several involve the stallion Mahmoud.

Mahmoud was one of the most important sires of the 20th century. After C. V. Whitney purchased the 1936 Epsom Derby winner from the Aga Khan III, Mahmoud was scheduled for ocean transport to the United States. The ship he was supposed to ride on was torpedoed en route. Mahmoud was not on board only because his papers had not been in order. Without Mahmoud, there would be no Northern Dancer line.

In 1962, Northern Dancer was entered in the Windfields Farm annual yearling sale but the bidding did not reach his reserve price of $25,000 (equivalent to about $192,000 today). The unsold colt became the winner of two jewels of the American Triple Crown and the dominant sire of the last half of the 20th century.

Another Mahmoud descendent, Sunday Silence, was rejected for the select section of the 1987 July Keeneland yearling sale. Arthur Hancock III bought-back the colt in a non-select session for $17,000. In 1988, Mr. Hancock and his partners entered Sunday Silence in a California sale with a reserve price of $50,000. The highest bid was $32,000 and, once again, he was not sold. Sunday Silence would win two jewels of the Triple Crown in 1989 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In Japan, he became the premier sire.

The adage about being careful of what you wish for sometimes proves to be true.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business