The Week in Review: A Few More Thoughts on Stronach v. Stronach

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When the story broke that Frank Stronach was suing his daughter Belinda in an attempt to retake control of the Stronach Group, most involved in the U.S. Thoroughbred business believed this was all about horse racing and who should be calling the shots, Belinda or Frank.

However, it appears that one of the most contentious issues in the fight involves a cattle ranch.

In the 1990s, Frank Sronach began buying property in Florida, eventually acquiring 95,000 acres. It was the first step in his dream of developing a huge cattle ranch for the modern era. All the cattle were to be grass fed and live in open pastures. He wanted the business to become a world leader when it came to beef that was raised in the most humane manner possible.

Andrew Willis is the business columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail and has covered the Stronach family for over 30 years. Interviewed last week on CBC radio, he suggested that the biggest rift between father and daughter was not anything that had to do with horse racing but with the ranch, Adena Farms.

Apparently, the cattle operation has not been a financial success.

“If I could boil it down for you, Frank has got these passion projects, including a grass fed beef ranch in Florida,” Willis said. “And he really believes in this stuff. He is an impassioned guy and he wants to have Americans eating healthy food. He's put $300 million of the family fortune into this huge dredging operation. Belinda tried to shut it down. She said, 'Look, we cannot afford to do this'. He built a golf course near the ranch. Tens of millions of dollars went into the golf course. Belinda closed the doors and that made Frank crazy.

“This big ranch in Florida that I mentioned a moment ago seems to be a real point of contention between him and Belinda. Frank now believes in environmentally sustainable food. He believes in taking care of the animals as you raised them and Belinda she says this is a big waste of the family's money.”

The irony is that no matter who has been calling the shots at The Stronach Group over the last few years, the racing end of the company seems to be thriving. Gulfstream has never been doing better, Maryland racing has undergone a rebirth and Santa Anita is starting to turn a corner. The company created The Pegasus World Cup, and while it may or may not be a losing proposition from a bottom-line standpoint, it is an innovative concept that, overnight, became one of the most important races run in the world.

Again, all the racing industry can do is sit, wait and hope the family can resolve its differences and that The Stronach Group will come out of this as strong, if not stronger, than ever.

For Rushing Fall, Why Not the Breeders' Cup?

We all know that Chad Brown would rather be dipped in boiling oil than run a horse back in three weeks, but when it comes to Rushing Fall (More Than Ready) he might want to reconsider his decision to skip the Breeders' Cup.

As expected, Rushing Fall rolled to another victory in Saturday's GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. at Keeneland. She controlled the pace under Javier Castellano, was never seriously challenged and won by 1 1/4 lengths. She is now six-for-seven lifetime.

After the race, Brown told the Daily Racing Form that his filly would not be going on to the Breeders' Cup, which was exactly what everyone expected. He mentioned the GI Matriarch S. at Del Mar as a possibility.

There are two reasons not to run Rushing Fall in the Breeders' Cup: she is only three and Brown strongly prefers to give his horses six or seven weeks between races and will rarely run back in three weeks or less.

There's one reason why they should run Rushing Fall in the Breeders' Cup: she's good enough to win.

The race for her is not the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but the GI Breeders' Cup Mile. For a horse that has never gone beyond a mile-and-an-eighth, it would be completely unreasonable to try a mile-and-three-eighths at this point in her career. She also probably can't beat stablemate Sistercharlie (Ire) (Myboycharlie {Ire}) or the top Europeans pointing for the race, particularly at that distance.

The mile is a different story. The distance is perfect for her as she's three-for-three at a mile, which includes her victory in last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and the competition lining up for the race this year seems light. Of course, she'd have to face males, but there is a history of fillies winning this race. They've done it eight times. And four of those victories came from 3-year-old fillies, including greats Goldikova (Ire) (Anabaa) and Miesque (Nureyev).

It can be done.

Throughout her career, Rushing Fall has been overshadowed by stablemate Good Magic (Curlin). But he's been retired and she's now the star of the e Five Racing stable; she deserves a chance to grab some glory of her own.

When it comes down to it, racing is a business. The smart business decision is to take a break and head to Del Mar for the Matriarch. But it's also a sport and when it comes to that aspect of the game a primary consideration should be doing something special, something memorable. Ten years from now, no one is going to remember who won the 2018 Matriarch.

If she loses the Mile, no one will hold it against Rushing Fall and many will applaud owner Bob Edwards and Brown for their sportsmanship. She can move on, regroup and get ready for what should be a terrific 4-year-old campaign.

But what if she wins? Depending on how Sistercharlie does in the Filly & Mare Turf, it may be enough for her to snatch the Eclipse Award away from that mare and it puts her in the same sentence as Goldikova and Miesque (The other 3-year-old fillies to win the race are Ridgewood Pearl (GB) (Indian Ridge {Ire}) and Six Perfections (Fr) (Celtic Swing {GB}). It might even open the door to the Hall of Fame.

The point is, there's little to lose and a ton to gain.

Chad Brown got to where he is because he has a system and he rarely deviates from it. That's among the reasons he, at such a young age, has already made his mark as one of the best trainers in the history of the sport. But sometimes you just have to go for it.

Chad, Bob, can you at least sleep on this?

North of the Border

It's been mentioned in this space before, but bears repeating: what Mike Maker does with grass horses he claims is nothing short of remarkable. He shops in the $35,000 to $65,000 area and dozens of those claims have gone to become stakes winners. The latest is Hembree (Proud Citizen). Maker claimed him out of a $50,000 claimer for non-winners of three races lifetime back in April at Aqueduct. It took a while, but he became a stakes winner Saturday at Woodbine when he won the GII Nearctic S. for one of his main owners, Three Diamonds Farm. This one was a little different from his normal pattern. The Nearctic is a six-furlong sprint. Most of Maker's success stories have been with horses that thrive in marathon turf races.

The highlight of a huge card at Woodbine was the performance by Desert Encounter (Ire) (Halling) in the GI Pattison Canadian International S. Ridden by Andrea Atzeni, he overcame all sorts of trouble before flying past favorite Thundering Blue (Exchange Rate) in the stretch to win by a length.

The 5-year-old gelding broke slowly before finding a spot on the rail. But Atzeni ran into some traffic problems and Desert Encounter was shuffled back to last on the turn and looked to have no chance. But an explosive kick got him to wire first. It was a very impressive win.

Forty minutes later, Atzeni pulled off a sweep of the two Woodbine Grade I races with a win aboard Sheikha Reika (Fr) (Shamardal) in the GI E.P. Taylor S.

By the way, why aren't these particular Woodbine races “Win and You're In Events” for the Breeders' Cup? Seems even more odd when you consider a couple of far less prestigious Woodbine races, the GI Natalma Stakes and the GI Summer Stakes, are.

 

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