The Art of the Deal - by Dan Liebman

Bloodstock agent John Moynihan has bought and sold many good horses, seen many top individuals at sales, and witnessed many impressive performances on the racetrack.

But he had never been completely blown away until May 1, 2009.

Wine mogul Jess Jackson did not attend the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) that day, but his wife, Barbara Banke, watched the race at Churchill Downs with Moynihan, the agent for their Stonestreet Stables.

“The performance by Rachel Alexandra was one of the most impressive, if not the most impressive, by a racehorse that I have ever seen in real life,” Moynihan said May 17, the day after the filly won the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I). “She won by 20 lengths (for the record 201⁄4), but what struck me was that when the outrider picked her up, she was at the five-eighths gap. I thought to myself, ‘She just galloped out faster than they will run in the Belmont (gr. I).’ It struck me as awe inspiring.”

Moynihan accompanied Banke and Jackson to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and noticed the buzz created by the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro.

“Everybody was talking about it; everybody was talking about Rachel,” he said. “Then after the Derby, you had this feeling like the best 3-year-old in the country didn’t run on Derby day, but had run the day before. Everybody was saying that.”

On May 4, two days after the Derby, Moynihan called Dolphus Morrison, who bred and co-owned Rachel Alexandra, to inquire if she might be for sale.

She was, but there was a short-window of opportunity because Morrison and his wife were preparing to leave for a two-week vacation in Hawaii.

Moynihan needed to speak to Jackson and Banke immediately. The only problem was they were enjoying dinner at Dudley’s in Lexington to celebrate their anniversary.

Hey, for a horse deal, anyone can be interrupted at any time. Moynihan crashed the party.

“Yeah, I busted in on the party,” Moynihan said, chuckling. “I told them the situation; we discussed the pros and cons and the opportunities for the filly.”

The couple wanted to sleep on it, always good advice in a business where many deals are made on the spur of the moment.

As we now know, they decided to pursue it.

Moynihan got back in touch with Morrison and a deal was consummated, pending veterinary exams for racing soundness and breeding potential. The morning of May 6, Rachel Alexandra was vetted and passed with flying colors. Moynihan called Morrison, and he and his partner, Michael Lauffer, hopped in the car and started driving from Missouri to Kentucky.

The group had dinner, signed the papers, and the following morning at 5:15, Rachel Alexandra was walked from the barn of Hal Wiggins to Stonestreet’s primary trainer, Steve Asmussen.

The timing, Moynihan said, was crucial.

“They were not intending to run her until the Acorn (gr. I, June 6), so they were just walking her,” he said. “Had the deal been done a day later, it could have been too late to get her ready for the Preakness.”

Moynihan also engineered the deal to purchase a majority of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin after his first start, but this was different. This was buying a horse that had just won a grade I race by more than 20 lengths.

“With Curlin, I thought he had the ability to be a top racehorse, but he had to prove it,” Moynihan said. “She had already proven it, but she was a big gamble because we thought she was the best horse in the country—but to put your money where your mouth is, to push the envelope, to have her prove she is the best…

“The thing that is gratifying is that we knew we were buying a great horse, but we went off to achieve something she had not previously achieved. As (co-owner) Harold (McCormick) said, we raised the bar, and we cleared it pretty good.”

If they keep raising the bar, this could be an exciting year for racing.


Leave a Comment:


It is easy to buy one for tons of money that has already shown its ability.  Go breed and raise one and then we will clap for you.

19 May 2009 9:18 PM


20 May 2009 3:33 PM

Well Dan,

One can only wish Mr. Moynihan, Mr. McCormick, and Mr. & Mrs. Jackson the best with their filly.

Anything else, critical, advise, etc. would be words tainted by whatever personal prejudice the writer(s) felt about the owners and or the filly.

So I say, I wish you all the best with Rachel Alexandra, and "may the horse be with all of you", as Harvey Pack says.  

20 May 2009 6:03 PM

Only, raising the bar for ego's sake is folly. The filly is not a machine. Have some consideration for her efforts and don't go to the well too often. She's bested every notable three year old out there(still running, and not lost in the desert somewhere - save her for the older rivals.

20 May 2009 9:33 PM

I agree with tbbjr. When they win by 17 in a mdn. and 20 in a group 1 and you have tons of money it is not like finding a needle in the haystack. Try breeding one.

20 May 2009 10:52 PM

Gotta LOVE the beautiful CREATURE that she is...BUT she gets beat before the end of the year...

21 May 2009 3:13 AM

I don't get all this talk about if you have tons of money you can buy anything. They didn't twist the owners arm to sell her. The guy made a business decision period. JJ has put a lot of money into the game and made the decision to run her in the Preakness which she won making racing history. Good for him good for racing. She's an exceptional filly and is in the hands of a top trainer. Why not focus on the fact that a 9,500$ yearling won the Kentucky Derby. The little guy can still breed a classic horse. THAT'S what horse racing is all about, living the dream, whether you have millions or thousands.

21 May 2009 10:24 AM

Jess Jackson swooping in and buying the filly does not bother me. However he is on the cusp here of being the next great owner/breeder. A wealthy man who earned his buck in industry and is now spending it on the passion of racing. I truly hope he morphs into his stars on the track being his homebreds as was with the late, great Allen Paulson.

His sportmanship shone with Curlin, and now with Rachel.

Good for him! Congrats Mr. Jackson! Good Luck with the rest of her campaign and I hope her first cover to Curlin is a big, beautiful filly just like her!

21 May 2009 12:39 PM

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but I really don't see how Mr. Jackson can take any satisfaction in owning this  horse when he knows that neither he nor his trainer had anything to do with discovering her or developing her into the fine animal that she is.

It sounds to me that after the great year he had with Curlin, and after seeing Mine That Bird take the racing community by storm, he couldn't stand being an "also ran" and decided to buy himself another Horse of the Year just to prove that he is still hot stuff in the racing world.

22 May 2009 9:02 PM

What is wrong with you people? horse envy?  Mr Jackson stated when he made the purchase of Rachel Alexandra his intention to breed her to Curlin, he IS trying to breed a great race horse. Breeders buy the best mares they can to build a strong band of broodmares, good ones cost money the great ones cost lots of money.

So He did not wait for a blood stock sale? his bonus is the fun of racing her.

Just think if another owner had bought her? she might have been retired very soon then everyone might have been saying "if Jackson had her she might have raced at 4"

So be happy the man bought her, she is in good hands, and we may get to enjoy her for awhile longer.

and I bet a big bunch of us - if we had the money would be out there buying up these horses too!

23 May 2009 2:24 PM

good read.

23 May 2009 3:11 PM

This is a great horse for sure. All the industry is behind her (at least this week they are) and Mr. Jackson should be applauded.. I am glad he and John Moynihan stepped in and got this deal done otherwise we would not have witnessed a historic race at Pimlico. Shame on all the media that wanted to be negative towards her participation. We all need to embrace this victory. Again I am thankful for Mr. Jackson's bravery. When people spend a lot of money and take risks they deserve the rewards.

23 May 2009 6:20 PM

Please do not run the filly in the Belmont.  She was telling you in the Preakness to slow down on her, she regressed and almost looked mortal.  Hopefully the egos get checked at the door and they do the right thing.

23 May 2009 11:25 PM
Mike S

I don't know how anyone, least of all a bloodstock agent, could be that impressed by the Kentucky Oaks romp. I thought it was awesome, but I can't give it more value than it deserves. RACHEL ALEXANRA was beating up on horses who are not very good. Didn't the 2nd and 3rd place finishers already come back and not run very well. When you take an awesome horse, like RACHEL ALEXANDRA, and run her against sub-par fillies who are pretty slow (the 2nd horse got the 9 furlongs in 1:53) you're going to get an exaggerated result. I'm not saying RACHEL ALEXANDRA was not impressive - she certainly was - but only that the lack of real talent in her competitors made her look so much better in comparison.

WELL ARMED, on the other hand, beat a very good field, and trounced them by 14 lengths. But it looks like I'm the only one who noticed.

24 May 2009 9:10 PM

Come on people.... She is a great filly. Does it really matter if the Jackson's own her or someone else??? I think we've a better chance of seeing and marvel her compete as a 4 year old or ((God Forbid) a 5 year old!!!!) if some other dude bought her. And , from the above comment, we can only be thankful that MS is not a bloodstock agent!!  

25 May 2009 11:43 AM
True Crimson

Give credit where credit is due.  Moynihan has a great eye for talent and Jackson has the guts to pull the trigger.  Make no mistake there are agents of similar qualifications and many men with big bank rolls.  They difference is that these two have guts to step up to the plate and swing for the fences without worrying about striking out.  I applaud them.  We need more people like this in the game.

25 May 2009 11:24 PM
Got It Figured out

Think Warren Buffet should make all 20 starters in the Kentucky Derby the day before the race "offers to good to refuse."  Figure would cost about 2 million a piece for the bottom 10, and the maybe about 100 million for the top 10 players.  There you have it, $$120 million dollars to buy the derby winner..then we can check back here on the Sunday after the race and say what a "great eye" Warren has or what a "gamer" he is.  

26 May 2009 7:49 PM

True Crimson, are you; 1-naive, 2-blind, or 3-John Moynihan?  

26 May 2009 9:12 PM

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27 May 2009 7:51 AM

You all need a blast from the past! TB horse racing has always been this way. John E. Madden was the top American breeder for 11 yrs. and had made $1,ooo,ooo selling horses by 1912. He made a fortune selling horses to the rich and created foundation blood lines for today. He produced 182 stakes winners,5 Kentucky Derby winners, 5 Hall of Famers, & the 1st Triple Crown Winner, Sir Barton. He sold to HF Sinclair (remember Sinclair oil?),August Belmont, Vanderbilts, and Sam Hildreth, former Sec. of the Navy, and many more that I can't remember. He left Hamburg Place as a legacey for his family. It was named after the horse he sold to buy it. Legend says a gentleman asked him if he wanted to sell the horse. Madden said yes, $40,001. The man wrote him a check for $40,000 and gave him a silver dollar. The record for the top selling horse was $40,000 at that time so Madden added the dollar to top that other horse.

30 May 2009 3:28 AM

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