12/12/2012 9:56PM

Joe Allbritton, owner of Hansel, dies at 87


Banking and media giant Joe Allbritton, who came into the Thoroughbred racing game late in his life and won two classics with Hansel, died in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday. He was 87.

Allbritton owned Riggs Bank and a large media company, Allbritton Communications, and was a power broker in Washington, D.C., at the height of his influence. His holdings included eight television stations in seven markets, newspapers, and Riggs Bank, a Washington institution.

He got involved in Thoroughbred racing in the late 1970s and in 1981 purchased 1,700-acre Lazy Lane Farm, based in Upperville, Virginia.

Allbritton ran Lazy Lane as a commercial operation, in addition to producing horses for his own racing stable, and it perennially was one of the leading breeders in the state by earnings.

He bought Virginia-bred Hansel as a yearling for $150,000, and the son of Woodman showed he was among the best of his crop at two by winning three of five starts, including the Arlington-Washington Futurity. At three, Hansel won the Jim Beam and Lexington Stakes immediately preceding the Kentucky Derby, but threw in a clunker at Churchill Downs when running tenth. He rebounded with a resounding seven-length win in the Preakness and a head victory over Derby winner Strike the Gold in the Belmont. Hansel finished second by a neck to Corporate Report in the Travers Stakes, his last career start; overall, he won half of his 14 starts for earnings of $2,936,586 and was voted champion three-year-old male.

Lazy Lane bred the all-time leading Virginia-bred earner, Seeking the Pearl, who raced primarily in Japan while also winning won a Group 1 stakes in France. The Seeking the Gold mare won eight of 21 starts and earned $4,021,716. Hansel is fourth on that list.

Allbritton raced Secret Hello, who won the Arlington-Washington Futurity the year before Hansel, and later was a successful sire in Virginia.

Lazy Lane bred and raced Del Mar Debutante Stakes winner Beal Street Blues, and bred American Derby winner Union Avenue, as well as French group winners Kitwood and Elizabeth Bay.