Last week, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, once again competed against one another, this time in the championship match of the Australian Open.  A media commentator opined that the Williams sisters are the most successful siblings in the modern history of sports.

This got me thinking about siblings and other close blood relationships in horse racing.  Following is what noted pedigree expert Avalyn Hunter wrote in a 2014 article in the Blood-Horse:

“…1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral had five full sisters that managed to win just one race among them.  Native Dancer also had five full siblings, of which only one was a winner.  Citation had three full siblings, of which one won.  The list of high-profile failures that were full siblings to a top horse is long and seemingly endless.”

Here are a few selections of mine for some of the best close blood relationships ever in horse racing, as based on their racing records:

Half brothers (same dam):  Secretariat and Sir Gaylord

Half brother and sister:  Alydar and Our Mims

Full brothers:  Frankel and Noble Mission

Mother and son:  Ouija Board and Australia

Father and son:  Gallant Fox and Omaha (both American Triple Crown winners)

Full sisters:  Busher and Striking

Full brother and sister:  Busher and Mr. Busher

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Recently, Steve Byk, on his SiriusXM show “At the Races” had a thought-provoking discussion with Blood-Horse writer Steve Haskin pertaining to the difficulty of regulators staying ahead of unscrupulous horse trainers who administer performance-enhancing drugs to their animals.  Haskin pointed out that new and exotic PEDS can go undetected by existing tests administered by the laboratories hired by state racing commissions.  He also said that this is not a recent phenomenon, but rather, has been true throughout horse racing history.

Byk and Haskin were in agreement that if laboratories were to freeze post-race samples taken from racehorses (and widely publicize it) that preservation would be a deterrent to trainers thinking about utilizing a new PED that labs currently don’t test for.  While a test might not exist today to detect a certain PED, it may exist in the future and the frozen samples could be tested accordingly.

The International Olympic Committee in January 2017 provided a prime example of such delayed detection and sanctions via results from its renewed anti-doping tests.  The IOC retested urine samples from the 2008 Olympics and discovered that sprinter Nesta Carter helped Jamaica win the 4 x 100 relay while on the prohibited substance methylhexaneamine.  As a result, approaching nine years after the fact, the IOC disqualified all members of the Jamaican relay team and stripped them of their gold medals.

Byk and Haskin are correct that scientific advancements can be and are used to retroactively administer justice.  Notably, DNA innovations have served to exonerate convicts on death row for crimes committed years before the science of DNA was perfected.  Conversely, people have been convicted for crimes from years ago, using modern DNA techniques.

I don’t know whether State Racing Commissions could afford the costs of storing and testing a massive number of samples from so many past races.  Even if they could, imagine a scenario in which improved laboratory tests found that a winner of the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup Classic from 15 or 20 years ago ran on a PED that was undetectable with the drug-testing techniques of the time.  I suspect a statute of limitations provision would come into play.  If not, some fortunate attorneys would surely get a lot of business litigating the case.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


The inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational will be held at Gulfstream Park on January 28, 2017.  In May, 2016, twelve places or slots in the starting gate were rapidly sold for $1 million each.  The purchasers were permitted to sell their slots or to fill them with a horse of their choice.  For example, one original purchaser, Coolmore Stud, sold its place to the owner of 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate and another slot owner, James McIngvale, bought a horse specifically to run in the race.

The Pegasus World Cup is the idea of Frank Stronach, an eminently successful Canadian entrepreneur both outride of the horse racing industry and within it.  His path from his native Austria to Canada is a legendary Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story.  Stronach owns Gulfstream Park and intends to run his Shaman Ghost in the Pegasus World Cup.

The Pegasus World Cup owners, as a group, are represented by entrepreneurs from diverse ventures, folks who are used to taking calculated risks and have experienced the emotional highs and lows of doing so.  The owners of 10 racehorses entered in the Pegasus World Cup are game to go even though California Chrome and Arrogate are the prohibitive favorites.

The Pegasus World Cup depicts “animal spirits” in action, an enduring term coined by famous economist and author John Maynard Keynes in a 1936 classic book to describe the human emotions that drive people to action, to buy goods and services, to start businesses, to take risks.  George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, Nobel laureates in economics, in 2009 published a widely acclaimed book on “animal spirits” that explained “how human psychology drives the economy.”

Animal spirits has “driven” the owners of 12 racehorses to put up $1 million each to see who has the best horse.  This intangible spirit is what has drawn people to horse racing since its inception.  When someone contemplates why a rational businessperson becomes a racehorse owner in spite of what a bad business investment it normally is—the answer is simple:  animal spirits are at work.

That is the allure of racing, from the leaky roof circuit to the Pegasus World Cup.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business