George M. Steinbrenner III has little to do with the day-to-day operations of the New York Yankees anymore, having turned those responsibilities over to his two sons, Hank and Hal. But while the Steinbrothers try to get the Yankees back to the World Series, Big Stein is instead trying to get his horse Majestic Warrior to the Kentucky Derby, sort of the World Series of horse racing.
MW had looked like he had a good shot at it a month and a half ago, but after 6th and 7th place finishes in his last two races, he has to finish strong tomorrow in the Derby trials to get into next week's Derby. Anyone betting on the Kentucky Derby would probably find Big Brown or Colonel John or Pyro a safer bet, but, hey, Majestic Warrior would pay off better, and that's what it's all about, right? Well, if he gets into the field.
Articles written three years ago, when Steinbrenner's colt Bellamy Road was the favorite coming into the Derby, suggested that King George was a very different man as a horse owner than he was as a baseball team owner. Alas, BR finished 7th, and now this new horse has a different trainer. Additionally, after two disappointing raced, MAjestic Warrior even has a different jockey from the last race. You can't expect Steinbrenner to behave differently just because he's in a different context.
Bellamy's trainer had been Nick Zito, who had a track record of success in the Derby a long time ago, but had not done well of late. He had trained the winners of the Derby in both 1990 and 1994, and had finished in the top five twice besides, including a 5th place finish the previous year. Zito trained five horses in the 2005 Derby, but none of them finished higher than BR at 7th. Hiring him was probably not unlike George's hiring of Dallas Green in 1989, who had made his mark by winnning the 1980 World Series with the Phillies, and traded off that reputation for the rest of his manageriall career, though he never again had much success.
Interestingly, after letting Nick Zito go, Steinbrenner hired Bill Mott to train Majestic Warrior. Mott, a horseracing ahall of famer who has not had any success in the Derby itself, nor even an entry since 2002, is nevertheless a well-respected and knowledgeable man in his field, not unlike how Joe Torre was viewed in 1996.
Even the new jockey, Garret Gomez, has some similarities to Yankees players. He ran in the Derby in 1994 and 1995, as well as lots of other races, but eventually took some time off 5 or 6 years ago due to substance abuse problems. He was back in the Derby in 2006 and 2007, and though he's never finished better than 7th, he has plenty of experience, being the current record holder for winning the most stakes races (70) in one year. Sounds a little like Dwight Gooden to me.
That worked out OK for the Yankees, so maybe Steinbrenner's thinking that he can repeat that success.