Owner pursuing fame with fortune

Horse racing: Running tomorrow at the De Francis Dash, Yes It's True is the top horse in $90 million empire of Satish Sanan, who is fast emerging as the top owner in the country.

July 16, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

When Yes It's True carries Padua Stables' green-and-beige silks into the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash tomorrow at Laurel Park, bettors and fans of the sport may glimpse the future of horse racing.

Satish Sanan, the Indian-born Florida resident behind Padua, is on the verge of perhaps becoming this country's dominant owner of thoroughbred racehorses. He has spent more than $90 million on nearly 100 high-class horses in the past year and a half, startling the racing world with this sudden empire designed to win every major race in the world.

Yes It's True, the 3-year-old sprinter with dazzling speed, has emerged from Sanan's glitzy gallery as his best horse -- so far.

"We've got some better," Sanan said this week from Sydney, Australia, where he paused during a business trip to discuss his horses.

Sanan made his fortune in technology. In 1988, he founded Information Management Resources Inc., a computer-software development company. Based in Clearwater, Fla., it became a world leader in resolving the Y2K problem, the potential for computers crashing when the year 1999 rolls into 2000. IMR has offices around the globe.

To the racing world peering through its telescope in the fall of 1997, Sanan appeared as a hurling meteor from an uncharted galaxy. No one knew this fireball. But Sanan, born in India and educated in England, had prepared for the moment.

While studying electronics and computer science in England, he began betting on horses and learning about pedigrees. A quick study, he became captivated.

"I've been passionate about thoroughbreds since I was in university," Sanan told the Blood-Horse magazine last year. "For 20 years I've been wanting to breed my own horses, but I said I wouldn't do it until I could afford it at the highest class."

Once Sanan decided he could afford it, he laid down $4.4 million for a weanling colt (a full brother to an Epsom Derby winner), $2.3 million for a yearling colt (a son of the brilliant sire Mr. Prospector) and another $4.4 million for the 1996 Irish Oaks winner.

Those astonishing purchases -- all the more so because they occurred in rapid succession the final four months of 1997 -- represented the highest prices paid at auction for a weanling, yearling and racing filly the entire year.

And that was just the start.

At last year's Keeneland Selected Yearling Sale, the Cadillac of horse sales, Sanan outspend everybody -- $13.35 million for 14 horses. The second-most ambitious bidder -- and these were some of the wealthiest horse traders in the world -- parted with a mere $5.9 million.

Sanan also bought a showplace farm near Ocala, Fla., for a reported $7.5 million and renamed it Padua Stables. Its transformation into a state-of-the-art training center is nearly complete.

"You won't find a farm like it anywhere in the world -- anywhere," Sanan said. "We've built the best infrastructure, hired the best trainers, assembled the best management and bought the best horses.

"Our focus is quality. Quality, quality, quality. We want to get on top and stay there."

Oh, did we mention the trainers? Dermot Weld in Ireland, Michael Stoute in England and D. Wayne Lukas in the United States. Some would argue there aren't three better in the world.

Bruce Hill, a long-time employee of Lukas, is general manager of Sanan's farm. He said Sanan and Lukas have formed a relationship remarkable in its keen focus on success.

"Satish in a lot of ways is very similar to Wayne," Hill said. "He is more than fair. But at the same time he's demanding. Patience is not a virtue of his. He has none, basically zero."

In that case, praise Lukas, because the first horse he picked out for Sanan was Yes It's True. Sanan bought him for $800,000 as a 2-year-old last March. That was after Sanan's initial million-dollar purchases and shortly after he brought in Lukas as general manager and minority partner of the entire Padua operation.

Lukas could not be reached for comment for this article. He was serving a 10-day suspension from horse racing for a drug violation involving one of Sanan's top 2-year-olds, the stakes-winning colt Dance Master.

After a second-place finish May 16 at Churchill Downs, Dance Master tested positive for benzenemethanol, widely used for breathing problems and skin diseases but not allowed in a horse's system on race day.

Lukas was at Pimlico on May 16. He had just saddled Charismatic the day before for his victory in the Preakness. Lukas told Churchill Downs' stewards he had no idea how the drug got into Dance Master's system. But he accepted responsibility as the colt's trainer.

Lukas' suspension ended yesterday. He, Sanan and Hill, the farm manager, plan on attending the De Francis Dash for what could be Padua Stables' first triumph in a Grade I stakes.

The De Francis Dash was designated Grade I this year for the first time, meaning it's one of North America's top races. The leading owners and trainers measure success by Grade I victories, so the De Francis Dash is a significant goal for the Padua team.

Yes It's True should be heavily favored after three straight victories in Grade II and Grade III sprints. One was the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap on Preakness day at Pimlico. That was the race in which an intruder staggered onto the track. Yes It's True and his jockey, Jerry Bailey, narrowly averted a collision. Bailey will ride the colt again tomorrow.

In 16 starts, a lot for a 3-year-old, Yes It's True has won 10 and earned $884,200. The $180,000 winner's share of the De Francis Dash's $300,000 purse would give Sanan his first million-dollar winner.

But for the intense and demanding owner, the initial series of final exams will not come until next year, when his first expensive yearlings turn 3 and become eligible for the Triple Crown races. Those are the ones Sanan -- and Lukas -- crave to win.

Said Hill: "That's when people should really begin to learn about Padua Stables. That's when we should get our final grade."

Pub Date: 7/16/99

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