05/30/2014 3:13PM

Hovdey: A fraction away from joining the 1 percenters


Mickey Taylor knows just how Steve Coburn and Perry Martin feel, coming from a place in the Thoroughbred world so far removed from the bluegrass of Kentucky and the ivied walls of Belmont Park to try and win the Triple Crown.

“After Triple Crown winners from Meadow Stable, and Calumet, and King Ranch, there we were with a horse bought at public auction,” Taylor said, harking back to the spring of 1977. “We weren’t just from the far side of the moon. We were from somewhere out past Mars.”

Actually, it was the town of White Swan, deep in Washington lumber country, where Mickey and Karen Taylor lived modestly as partners in the ownership of Seattle Slew, with Jim and Sally Hill. By the time the 1977 Triple Crown rolled around, Seattle Slew was already well known as the champion 2-year-old. But Taylor was still the “lumberman from the Northwest” who wasn’t about to quit his day job until his black colt realized his full potential.

“And if he hadn’t,” Taylor said, “I’d still be cutting trees.”

Perry Martin owns Martin Testing Laboratories, a Northern California quality assurance company specializing in high-tech materials. Steve Coburn works for a Nevada firm that manufactures magnetic strips. To get an idea of the company they hope to join next Saturday when their Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome goes for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, let’s take a romp through the list of those who have come before.

John Kenneth Levenson Ross, born in Ontario in 1876, was a yachtsman, philanthropist, and world-renowned deep-sea fisherman who inherited his fortune from his father, the co-founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Long before Ross went broke in the late 1920’s, he bred and raced top Thoroughbreds like Sir Barton, winner of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and Belmont Stakes in 1919.

William Woodward Sr., also born in 1876 but in New York City, was 34 when he followed in the footsteps of his childless uncle as president of Hanover National Bank in New York, which later morphed into Manufacturer’s Hanover. Part of the inheritance was Belair Stud, which allowed Woodward to breed and race Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935), a son of Gallant Fox.

Samuel Doyle Riddle was born in 1861 in Pennsylvania town that carried the family name. From his father he inherited a booming textile manufacturing company that got its start making uniforms for Union soldiers during the Civil War. The family of Riddle’s wife, Elizabeth, also owned textile mills, affording the Riddles the luxury to invest freely in Thoroughbreds, among them Man o’ War and his son, the 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral.

Warren Wright Sr., born in 1875 in Springfield, Ohio, had his father’s Calumet Baking Powder company handed to him in 1914. He sold it to Postum (later General Foods) for $32 million summer of 1929, just before the October stock market crash. Wright also inherited a Standardbred operation that he converted to producing Thoroughbreds like Whirlaway, winner of the 1941 Triple Crown, and Citation, winner of the Crown in 1948.

Robert Justus Kleberg Jr., born in 1896 in Corpus Christi, took over the operation of King Ranch – the largest cattle operation in Texas – largely because he was the grandson of ranch founder Richard King. Kleberg was also smart enough to invent a whole new line of cattle, called the Santa Gertrudes, and breed racehorses like Assault, winner of the 1946 Triple Crown.

Helen Bates “Penny” Chenery was born in 1922 in New Rochelle, N.Y., and was raised with all the advantages available to the child of Christopher Tompkins Chenery, the founder of Southern Natural Gas and later the proprietor of Meadow Stud, a Virginia horse farm. As Helen Tweedy, she assumed leadership of the farm when her father’s health failed in the late 1960’s and was rewarded with Secretariat’s Triple Crown sweep of 1973.

Unlike Ross, Woodward, Riddle, Wright, Kleberg and Chenery, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin did not come into this world as blue-blooded babies already incredibly rich. Then again, neither did the immigrant John Daniel Hertz, born Sandor Herz in what is now Slovakia, or Louis Wolfson, whose Lithuanian father migrated to Florida and raised seven children dealing in junk and scrap metal, or Mickey Taylor, who was logger in Washington like his father and father’s father before him.

However, Hertz already was fabulously wealthy from Chicago taxicabs and rental cars and the owner of a Derby winner, Reigh Count, 15 years before Count Fleet won the Triple Crown in 1943, while Wolfson, who virtually invented the hostile corporate takeover in the 1950’s, was head of a financial empire that included construction, media, and retail companies, not to mention a Thoroughbred operation that produced Horse of the Year Roman Brother long before 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed.

Mickey Taylor feels an affinity for the Martin and Coburn story, and not only because he identifies with the regular working guys who own the colt. Were it not for Seattle Slew – sire of A.P. Indy, who sired Pulpit, who sired Lucky Pulpit – there would be no California Chrome. Now there’s a chance they will join racing’s most exclusive club.

“It would be nice,” Taylor said. “At least we could all go down and have a Jack Daniel’s instead of going upstairs to drink champagne.”


Steve Wilson More than 1 year ago
I guess in a feel good article such as this, you decided to omit it was the Taylor family who demanded Slew run in the Swaps at Hollywood one month after the demands of a Triple Crown. Trainer Billy Turner balked, but had to go. After being thoroughly beaten, Slew didn't race the rest of his 3yo year, and Turner got unceremoniously fired. Classy outfit.
Steve Wilson More than 1 year ago
At least I don't think Slew ran the rest of his 3yo year. Could be wrong, though.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
You are so very right. After Cruguet remarked that Seattle Slew wasn't the same horse, he got canned also. At last report, Billy Turner was denied his Stallion Share.
Walter More than 1 year ago
That is so wrong that Turner didn't get paid. Those folks who owned Slew really banked on the breeding end. Taylor didn't come across as a nice guy on the HRTV special they did on Seattle Slew awhile back.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Without Billy Turner, Seattle Slew would have been a speed nut and nothing more.
Judith Donlan More than 1 year ago
Billy Turner was a real horseman unlike many trainers today. There are few real horsemen left.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
You Feel Lucky More than 1 year ago
Well..lets see if I have freedom of speech...you're a fool. Don't bother wasting the space, with your idiotic ramblings. Take up another cause and leave this game to the people who enjoy it. Whats up with all the CAPS? .......
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Funny how so many posters on this site resort to being english/grammar teachers.Thier ,they're,there,two,too,to.Is it a prerequisite to respond to this site.It's obvious the message the poster is trying to convey.Typos happen!
Ann More than 1 year ago
Your First Amendment rights have to do with the GOVERNMENT suppressing your speech. Private individuals and/or companies are not bound by law to follow the same requirements. Your lawyers will tell you that you have no case.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Seattle Slew rewarded his owners with the added benefit of becoming one of the greatest sires in the history of the breed. By some estimates his value as a stallion was at one time or another in the several hundred million dollar range, whereas the same cannot be said for several other TC winners....and that was back in the days when two or three hundred million was REAL money!
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Niether Slew nor Turner deserved the treatment the Taylors handed out.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Assault was sterile, you know. It was an affliction that visited many male-line descendants of St. Germans.
Juan Perez More than 1 year ago
Well put together. A truly nice relate of the "11" See you at the cashier´s window
Walfred More than 1 year ago
Jeez! I shoulda listened.
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
Whatever you do don't google Mickey Taylor
Michael McLaughlin More than 1 year ago
Yikes!!! You can say that again many times. I had to see why you told us not to Google him, I shoulda listened. By any chance was he the owner of Rock Hard Ten? lol.
nick More than 1 year ago
What happens when you Google Mickey Taylor?
not impressed More than 1 year ago
No Madelaine Paulson and one other person co-owned him.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
It was a joke.
Andrew Young More than 1 year ago
why did I look,
Judith Donlan More than 1 year ago
Because you were told not to! Human nature to do exactly what you have been told not to do!
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Holy CRAP!! That's fricken hilarious!
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
james ottaviano More than 1 year ago
you should be so lucky or smart it is snobby jerks like you that give our sport a bad name.Next Saturdayt the game changes.
Robin Cardoza More than 1 year ago
He obviously never went to a good school and wishes he were "elite". Look how he writes " sentences".
Jacqueline Schumacher More than 1 year ago
Even the best schooling wouldn't help with this guy--instruction only provides new information. If a person just isn't bright in the first place, nothing will improve that.
Mike Gentile More than 1 year ago
Robin I Have 2 College Degrees And Own 4 Businesses I Don't Have To Relay On My Obama EBT Card Every Month
Mike Gentile More than 1 year ago
Listen I Know More About Horse Racing And Pedigrees Than You Idiots Will Ever Know I Have Cashed Over A Dozen Pick 6 Tickets And Had The Trifecta In The 2005 Derby Worth 120K So Don't Tell Me Anything About Horse Racing The Kentucky Elite Cant Stand These Two Phonies And I Guarantee He Doesn't Hit The Board At The Belmont Stakes And The Only Reason This No Bred Piece Of Shizz Won The Derby And Preakness Is Because He Has Run Against The Worst Bunch Of 3 Year Old Dogs I Have Ever Seen Run So I Will Be Laughing All The Way To The Bank Next Saturday.
Walter More than 1 year ago
In the 2005 KY Derby, I had the pick 4 which paid 109k and the pick 3 which paid 10k. I've also hit the pick 6 in SoCal several times. It never gave me the right to speak or write so ignorantly, but you should continue to do your ignorant thing. Good luck to the folks involved w CC
Steve More than 1 year ago
You have some nerve calling the California Chrome owners "idiots". If you want to see a real idiot, all you need to do is look in the mirror. That was a very rude and ignorant comment you made