TIME Horse Racing

American Pharoah’s Owner Hit With Gambling Debt Lawsuit

Kentucky Derby Horse Racing
Garry Jones—AP American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert, left, and owner Ahmed Zayat hold the trophy after and after Victor Espinoza rode American Pharoah to victory in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 2, 2015, in Louisville, Ky.

The businessman who owns the prized colt is facing a legal hurdle

The owner of American Pharoah, the thoroughbred racehorse that’s a contender for the Triple Crown, is facing a new hurdle—a legal one.

Ahmed Zayat, the Egyptian businessman who owns the horse, is facing a breach of contract lawsuit filed in March 2014 in federal court in New Jersey by a man named Howard Rubinsky, who in 2008 pleaded guilty for playing a role in an illegal bookmaking operation.

Rubinsky claims he opened a $3 million line of credit for Zayat at a sports betting website in Costa Rica called Tradewinds, but Zayat never paid up, and Rubinsky, who was being paid based on bets of the bettors he brought to the site, lost out on $1.65 million plus interest.

Zayat has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and has called it a scam and “total fiction.” The dispute between Zayat and Rubinsky stretches back 11 years. Zayat wants the breach of contract lawsuit thrown out, in part, because it was filed after the expiration of the six-year statue of limitations.

Meanwhile, American Pharoah is on track to win horse racing’s biggest prize. If he’s victorious at the Belmont Stakes on June 6 he’ll be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978.

TIME portfolio

A Mordant Look at the Kentucky Derby With Martin Parr

The Magnum member photographed the race for TIME

Martin Parr has photographed the most famous horse races in the world. He’s shot races in England and France, in India and Sri Lanka, in Australia and South Africa and Zimbabwe. And yet he had never made it to one of the most celebrated races in the U.S., the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky.

“The Queen went in 2007,” Parr tells TIME. “She’s a racing nut as well, and she beat me to it by eight furlongs. So I finally decided to get around to it. I finally put it on my list and I’m very glad I did because it’s quite an event.”

With more than 170,000 people attending last weekend’s “most exciting two minutes in sports,” as the Kentucky Derby is known, Parr was in his own version of paradise. “I was delighted,” he says, matter-of-factly. “It’s very American: there’s no place where the prices are so huge. It’s American Capitalism at its best and worst. Everything out there was crazy.”

Parr is famous for his satirical approach and in an arena known for extravagance being on full display, it was easy pickings for the English photographer. “You just walk around and you take pictures,” he says. “You get a little bit tired with people with hats, so it’s your job to find something a bit different. That’s the aspiration. Otherwise all these races pictures would look the same. But, of course, the hat is irresistible. It’s a photographer’s dream.”

The secret, he adds, is to find the places that will keep on giving: “You locate different hotspots and different places that you keep coming back to. It’s a massive space. I probably didn’t get to every grandstand, every corner. So you go back to the same places where you know things reveal themselves. And then, you watch the actual race. You’re waiting for the person to erupt when their horse looks like it might be winning, and they’re screaming and shouting.”

Martin Parr is a member of the Magnum Photos agency.

Paul Moakley, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s deputy director of photography.

Olivier Laurent is the Editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Horse Racing

American Pharoah Wins 141st Kentucky Derby

Victor Espinoza aboard American Pharoah celebrates winning the 141st Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Ky
Peter Casey—USA Today Sports Victor Espinoza aboard American Pharoah celebrates winning the 141st Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Ky, on May 2, 2015.

The winner was followed by Firing Line and Dortmund

(LOUISVILLE, Ky.)—American Pharoah won the 141st Kentucky Derby on Saturday, ridden by last year’s Derby-winning jockey, Victor Espinoza.

The 5-2 favorite was in contention at the top of the stretch and pulled clear at the finish for his fifth win in six starts.

“He’s been a special horse since I first rode him,” said Espinoza, who now has three Derby wins.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert got his fourth Derby win, and also sent out third-place finisher Dortmund.

Firing Line was second.

The time was 2:03.02 for the 1 1/4 miles. The largest Derby crowd ever — 170,513 — looked on under sunny skies.

The four Derby wins ties Baffert with D. Wayne Lukas and Herbert “Derby Dick” Thompson for second on the all-time list.

“We were ready to rumble,” Baffert said.

The race unfolded with Dortmund setting the pace and Firing Line tracking in second. American Pharoah sat comfortably in third.

Turning for home, American Pharoah angled outside of the other two and launched a rally for a one-length victory.

“Turning for home, I thought I got it. The other horse was right next to me. I couldn’t just blow him away,” Espinoza said.

American Pharoah paid $7.80, $5.80, $4.20.

Firing Line returned $8.40 and $5.40 while Dortmund paid $4.20 to show.

 

TIME Horse Racing

What to Watch for at the Kentucky Derby

The horses make the first turn during the 141st running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2015 in Louisville, Ky.
Elsa—Getty Images The horses make the first turn during the 141st running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2015 in Louisville, Ky.

American Pharoah is the early favorite

(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Bob Baffert jokes that his last Kentucky Derby victory was so long ago, he doesn’t remember.

The Hall of Fame trainer could make some new memories Saturday if either of his top two favorites – American Pharoah or Dortmund – end up wearing the garland of red roses in the winner’s circle.

Baffert is seeking his fourth Derby win and first since 2002. Back then, his youngest son, 10-year-old Bode, wasn’t even born.

“We just have to contain ourselves,” Baffert said. “It’s exciting coming in here with two good horses.”

The 62-year-old trainer has what some believe is the strongest 1-2 punch since trainer Ben Jones won with Citation and finished second with Coaltown in 1948.

“Hope for a dead-heat,” Baffert joked.

American Pharoah – winner of four straight races by a combined 22 1/4 lengths – is the early 5-2 favorite. The brown colt has an unusually short tail; another horse chewed the end of it off on the farm. He’ll be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who won last year aboard California Chrome.

Dortmund, the 3-1 second choice, comes into the Derby with a 6-0 record, equaling the undefeated marks of Seattle Slew and Smarty Jones when they won in 1977 and 2004. His sire Big Brown won in 2008.

“It might be the toughest Derby that we’ve had in quite a few years,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Wood Memorial winner Frosted.

Some things to look for at the 141st Kentucky Derby:

TODD SQUAD: Todd Pletcher will saddle three horses: Carpe Diem, the 8-1 third choice; Materiality; and Itsaknockout, fittingly running on the same day as the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas. Jockey Luis Saez will wear the name of each fighter on his pants as part of a promotional tie-in. Pletcher won his first Derby in 2010 with Super Saver.

OFTEN A BRIDESMAID: Ahmed Zayat is looking to shake his bad luck at the Derby. Three times horses owned by the Egyptian have finished second behind long shots. In 2009, 50-1 Mine That Bird sneaked up along the rail and beat Pioneerof the Nile. In 2011, Nehro was defeated by 20-1 Animal Kingdom. A year later, 15-1 I’ll Have Another beat Bodemeister. Baffert counts two of those losses among his Derby defeats, having trained Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister. Zayat experienced more misfortune Friday when El Kabeir was scratched from the race with a sore foot. That leaves Zayat with American Pharoah and Mr. Z in the 20-horse field.

BIG NUMBERS: The Derby attendance record of 165,307 was set in 2012, when I’ll Have Another won. Saturday’s forecast calls for sunny skies and 73 degrees around race time at 6:34 p.m. ET. The Kentucky Oaks on Friday drew a record of 123,763, setting the stage for a big crowd to pour through the gates at Churchill Downs to party, drink and maybe even see a horse or two.

SIZE MATTERS: Dortmund stands 17 hands; in human terms that’s 5 foot, 8 inches from the ground to the area between his shoulder blades. Each hand equals 4 inches, so when Dortmund raises his head and neck, add another 2 feet or so, making for an imposing beast. By comparison, 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird was just 15 hands. Baffert likens lanky Dortmund to 7-foot Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. “He can dunk,” the trainer joked.

BIG BUCKS: The owners of Carpe Diem plunked down $1.6 million for him as a 2-year-old, making the colt the priciest in the 20-horse field. Return on investment in the Derby is often disappointing. The only million-dollar colt to have won was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000; his owners paid a whopping $4 million.

TIME Horse Racing

A Day At The Races: Best Hats From The Royal Ascot

The Royal Ascot is one of Europe's most famous races, dating back to 1711. The highlight of the British racing season, it is attended annually by the Queen who has owned 22 Royal Ascot winners. However, Ascot is as much about being seen as watching the horses, and nothing attracts more attention than an over-the-top hat. Below are some of the best headpieces from the Royal Ascot's opening day

TIME Horse Racing

California Chrome Co-Owner Apologizes for Being a Sore Loser

Steve Cobur 2014 Belmont Stakes
Rob Carr—Getty Images Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome reacts while watching the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York.

Steve Coburn said he is "ashamed of himself" for implying other horse owners were "cowards" after California Chrome failed to win the Triple Crown on Saturday

The co-owner of racehorse California Chrome, Steve Coburn, has apologized for his outspoken comments following the horse’s failed attempt to win the Triple Crown.

Coburn said he was “very ashamed” of himself during a Monday morning appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Associated Press reports. After California Chrome came in fourth place at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, Coburn complained about how some of his rivals had not previously competed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness races, as the Triple Crown contender had.

“This is a coward’s way out,” Coburn had said. “If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three.”

On Monday, Coburn said, “I need to apologize to a lot of people, including my wife, Carolyn,” who tried to get him to calm down when the post-race interview got heated.

He also apologized to the owners of the Belmont Stakes winner, Tonalist, saying that he “did not mean to take anything away from them.”

[AP]

TIME Horse Racing

California Chrome Co-Owner Slams Rivals Again After Belmont

Steve Coburn criticized victorious competitors for resting their horses in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, saying it's "not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day 1"

The embittered co-owner of California Chrome lambasted owners Sunday who skipped the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, standing by his remarks one day after accusing his competitors of taking “the coward’s way out.”

Coburn on Sunday compared the Triple Crown to a triathlon. “You know you’ve got to swim and you’ve got to bicycle and you’ve got to run,” he said, USA Today reports. “You don’t make it to run if you’re not going to do the other two.”

Coburn also compared Chrome’s contest with the fresher horses to a man playing basketball with a “kid in a wheelchair.”

California Chrome was the favorite to win the Belmont Stakes after winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, raising hopes that the horse would be the first to win the Triple Crown since 1978. But the horse came in a disappointing fourth, with Tonalist taking first place.

Chrome’s co-owner, Steve Coburn, said Sunday it was unfair that other horses were well-rested, NBC reports. None of the top three finishers had raced in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the two prerequisites to the Triple Crown.

“I’ll never see, and I’m 61 years old, another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime because of the way they do this,” Coburn said Saturday. “It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day One. If you don’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you [shouldn’t] run in the other two races. … It’s all or nothing because this is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people who believe in them.”

“This is a coward’s way out, in my opinion,” Coburn said.

On Sunday, Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman tempered Coburn’s remarks. The 77-year-old said that Coburn’s remarks were out of context. “The horses aren’t cowards and the people aren’t cowards. … I think it was a little out (of context) myself. But, hey, he was at the heat of the moment. And don’t forget, he’s a fairly new owner. Sometimes the emotions get in front of you. … He hasn’t been in the game long and hasn’t had any bad luck.”

Sherman mentioned that Chrome was gashed in the right, front hoof and had a “good chunk” taken off when No. 3 gate Matterhorn stepped on him at the opening.

Coburn said the sport should be changed so that only horses that run in the Kentucky Derby should be eligible for the two other legs of the Triple Crown. But as TIME’s Sean Gregory noted in a report from the race itself, Tonalist missed out on the Kentucky Derby due to an earlier illness and not because its owners chose to avoid racing.

[NBC]

TIME Horse Racing

No Triple Crown: Anger and Sadness at the Belmont Stakes

2014 Belmont Stakes
Rob Carr—Getty Images Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome, not happy while watching the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York.

California Chrome fell short in his Triple Crown bid. And co-owner Steve Coburn was not happy about it. Inside a day of horse racing sadness.

“Hey, Sophia Loren, baby, how are you?” Steve Coburn, co-owner of Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome, called out to a woman he thought resembled the actress, who was standing across from him at Barn 4 at Belmont Park.

It was about an hour before race time, and Coburn, wearing a purple shirt, green tie, beige cowboy hat, and a blazer that had a large button reading “Got Chrome” on it, was having a good ol’ time. He was loose and loveable, with his walrus mustache and large personality.

“They tell me I’m the next John Wayne,” Coburn said to the surrounding crowd, which included his co-owner Perry Martin, who barely makes a peep. “We can make a pretty good movie together.”

But after California Chrome finished tied for fourth in the Belmont Stakes, adding to a maddening Triple Crown drought that is now 36 years old, Coburn was far from ducal. In his post-race interview on NBC, he ranted about the Triple Crown setup, lamenting the fact that horses that don’t run both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness are still eligible for the Belmont Stakes, making them fresh for the tortuous 1.5-mile test.

“This is coward’s way out,” Coburn said. “If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three.” His wife looked like she was trying to get him to stop talking. “I don’t care,” he could be heard snarling afterwards, presumably after a chiding from Mrs. Coburn.

Not that he didn’t have a point. In most sports, the playing field is level: you play the same amount of games in the regular season before the playoffs. The problem is that Coburn got sour on a sick horse. Tonalist, the Belmont winner, got ill before the Wood Memorial, a key prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Without running in the Wood, Tonalist could not earn enough points to qualify for the Derby. That’s not cowardly, Steve.

Also, an injury might have cost Calfornia Chrome anyway. His right front foot had a patch of blood on it after the race. At some point during the run, the shoe of his back right foot overextended and clipped the flesh of his front one.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, when a Triple Crown hopeful can’t catch the leader down the stretch at Belmont, the deflation that hangs over the crowd is oppressive indeed. Written on every face is the question, “Will we ever see another Triple Crown in our lifetimes?”

“He’s a push-button horse,” said a still hopeful Chrome fan, Amy Arvanitis, while her horse was in fourth at the three-quarter-mile mark. Arvanitis, who is friends with Chrome trainer Art Sherman, was watching near the rail at the finish line. At the mile, he was still in fourth. “Come on, Victor, come on baby!” said Arvanitis, imploring California Chrome’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, to open things up. But the horse just didn’t have it. “Aw f–k!” she exclaimed, just before the finish. Right after, she dropped her lip and made a tragic face. “I’m devastated.”

Kathleen Dunagan, an artist and equestrian hobbyist with a close attachment to California Chrome, had tears in her eyes as she left the track. “I thought he was going to be our Seabiscuit,” Dunagan said.

California Chrome’s backstory has the underdog elements: Coburn and Martin, who barely knew each other, dropped $8,000 on an unimpressive filly, Love the Chase. A groom said whoever bought Love the Chase was a dumbass, so they named their new ownership group Dumb Ass Partners. Coburn and Martin mated Love the Chase to another underwhelming horse, Lucky Pulpit, and somehow they produced a near Triple Crown winner. “He just came out of nowhere,” says Dunagan. “I thought it was going to just be so wonderful. I’m sorry, I usually don’t get so emotional about that stuff.” Dunagan kept on walking — and crying.

Before the race, the California Chrome team could not have been more confident. With more than three hours to go until post time, Chrome’s exercise rider, Willie Delgado, entered the horse’s barn with a case of Coors Light and a bag of ice. Alan Sherman, California Chrome’s assistant trainer — and son of Art — walked outside with a beer in his left hand, cigarette in his right. When asked to describe Chrome’s morning workout, Delgado said he “was like a monster.” He has just been in the horse’s stall, and said “what’s up boy, you going to do this?” California Chrome’s ears perked up, Delgado said. That, to him, was a clear answer. “Hell, yes.”

Afterwards, Delgado insisted he wasn’t devastated. “I’m not sad, not sad,” Delgado said back at the barn. “He gave he the ride of my life. He’s still my hero.”

If only all those people at Belmont could say the same.

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