There are certain people you don’t expect to chat with on the phone, and George Steinbrenner would have ranked pretty high on that list for most people. Considering his reputation for volatility, that would be just fine, you’d imagine.
But when Bellamy Road was coming to the Kentucky Derby in 2005, was the race favorite, and was Steinbrenner’s big shot at the Kentucky classic, I had an opportunity to talk to the owner about his horse.
Despite his press reputation, Steinbrenner was notably cordial and proved quite the raconteur. He said, “Frank, there is nothing I’d rather do than win the Kentucky Derby. It’s the greatest race in the world. Standing in that winner’s circle would be the greatest thrill in the world. You know, I’ve already won the World Series!”
To have Steinbrenner win the Run for the Roses would have been a great thing for the sport. For one thing, he would have screaming the joys of racing on national television and impressing on a different audience that sports are not all played with bats and balls.
Unfortunately, Bellamy Road had a terrible race, and that was that. But it was a great experience for Steinbrenner, he said, and he was closely associated with the production of Bellamy Road, including breeding the horse’s sire Concerto.
Bellamy Road was consigned through Ocala Stud to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April auction of 2-year-olds in training in 2004. And Steinbrenner acquired the colt through his Kinsman Farm manager, Edward Sexton.
Just a few months previously, the Irish-born Sexton had been breaking yearlings and galloping youngsters at Ocala Stud. While he was there, he worked with Bellamy Road.
Sexton said: “The first time I saw him, I fell in love with him. He’s not a typical American horse. He’s a real European horse” in physical type and distance ability.
In between working with Bellamy Road and the colt going to the sales, Sexton became farm manager at Kinsman.
“I was here a couple of months, and I saw Bellamy Road advertised in the April sale,” he said. “So, I came to Mr. Steinbrenner, and said, ‘If you want a Derby horse, this is the one who’ll do it.’ ”
“He said, ‘I’ve hired you to do a job. Go ahead and get him.’ ”
“How much will I bid to?” Sexton asked.
Steinbrenner looked at Sexton and said, “You go to the sale to bring the horse home.”
And for $87,000, Bellamy Road sold to Kinsman Farm.