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Successful Racehorse Ownership: Be Bigger and Chase Harder - Because It’s Possible

June 08, 2015 · By Jeff Lifson · Share

American Pharoah wins Triple Crown. (NYRA photo.)

The morning after American Pharoah’s successful bid for the elusive Triple Crown, West Point Thoroughbreds EVP Jeff Lifson took pen to paper about his feelings upon witnessing history and what it takes to be a successful owner in horse racing.

I was the kid in 10th grade who never thought Jay Gatsby was pathetic. Quite the contrary.

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us...it eluded us then, but that's no matter. Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...and one fine morning...."

Yesterday afternoon at around 6:45 p.m. at Belmont Park, I finally stared face to face with the brilliant green light. It wasn't distant anymore. And it made me believe again.

All American Pharoah did was take me back to Mrs. Michaud's 10th grade English class a long time ago in a small Iowa college town and the story of Jay Gatsby's sad, unrequited journey to the edge of his dock. He felt short of his dream...and the dream might have been an improbable one,destined for disappointment and failure.

Yet I always thought Gatsby angled more down the noble path then the pathetic one. I guess I too believed in the green light ,even if it faded into the midst of the Long Island Sound for him.

For me, yesterday afternoon, also on Long Island, here came that elusive green light again.

From Silver Charm in '97 on...saw ‘em all. Every. Single. One. The horses I wanted to beat (Big Brown with Macho Again, California Chrome with The Curve) and the horses whose failure cut away tiny shards of my soul, (Real Quiet and Smarty Jones), I bore witness to the light abruptly fading at the wire for nearly two decades.

So I got to thinking after the moment came around 6:45 p.m. yesterday afternoon--the moment that followed nearly two decades of personal futility, and whispers that grew to shouts that it might never happen again without drastic change. I got to thinking in the darkness of Belmont Park long after the races, long after the personal disappointments of the day, (China Prince too fast early, Twilight running on a boggy turf course, Cajun Spirit swallowed up at the top of the stretch).

What I thought was this: I still believe in the green light--in all the magnificent horses we've found, we've bought and we've watched with unbridled joy with our partners and their families. And I know that along the pathway down to the edge of that dock towards the green light, we've slipped and tumbled to the deck plenty.

American Pharoah came after nearly two decades of me bearing witness to failure. And gave me a mantra worth repeating when one's high hopes run up the track or drop into the claiming ranks.

The mantra is this: Be Bigger, and Chase Harder.

That's what it takes to be a long-time successful owner of racehorses. Be bigger than the disappointment of the moment, and chase harder towards the goals that others say are improbable. Because you believe and know them to be possible.

Like American Pharoah, I fly back to Louisville today. Because of him, I'll be chasing the green light again, first thing tomorrow morning.

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Hi this is a awesome horse I wonder how much is his stud fee.
What a wonderful essay on striving and trying, falling short and trying again. I love the analogy to Jay Gatsby. Being a high school librarian, over the years, I have spent many an hour pondering Jay and his philosophy and helping teen-agers grasp the same. Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your thoughts so eloquently.
Glad you enjoyed it Margaret. Thank you.
I used to get in trouble when I brought the racing form to English class. But I did pay attention to Gatsby's story. Too bad that Fitzgerald died so young. I suspect Hemingway and him made an impact on a lot of young people who never got to see much of the country or the world (until I got drafted). And you know, Jeff does remind me of Robert Redford or Leonardo DiCaprio. Nice stuff Jeff-thanks. John
I loved your story. Being a first time racehorse owner, this shows me what I have to look forward to. I think you also named Westpoints next horses..Be Bigger and Chase Harder.
Thanks Erin forwarding that idea to our racing manager.
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