Lending Influence - By Dan Liebman

(Originally published in the February 13, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)  

Ahmed Zayat is a 47-year-old multi-millionaire who fell in love with horses during his youth in his native Egypt, where he competed in national show jumping events. The man followed horse racing with a passion, and when his business success afforded him the opportunity to enter the game, he did so.

He did so in 2005 with vim and vigor. He did so at the top, spending wildly for yearlings, hiring top trainers, and pursuing the richest prizes in the sport.

In fact, racing is the only sport in which you can simply show up and do what Zayat did. You can’t walk into the office of the commissioner of the National Football League, for example, and buy a team. But you can get credit at an auction and enter the racing game, at whatever level you wish to participate.

Though Zayat had the financial wherewithal, he did what many owners and breeders also do; he secured a line of credit with a lender, in this case Fifth Third Bank.

With the bank’s backing, Zayat pursued his dream of becoming a leading owner and breeder; of standing stallions; and of selling desirable bloodstock at auction. He succeeded in all areas.

Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile won last year’s Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and ran second to Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He will stand his first season this year at Vinery. Zayat Stables’ Zensational won three consecutive grade I sprint stakes last summer in California. He will stand his first season this year at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms.

Other grade I winners Thorn Song, Point Ashley, and Downthedustyroad have carried the stable’s blue and yellow-colored silks, as have such stakes winners as Soul Warrior, Eaton’s Gift, Massive Drama, High Again, E Z Warrior, Baroness Thatcher, Got the Last Laugh, Marcavelly, and Belgravia. Zayat Stables had earnings in 2008 of nearly $6.9 million and in 2009 of $6.3 million.

In 2006 Zayat went to $4.6 million at the Keeneland September sale to purchase Maimonides, a half-brother to Roman Ruler and El Corredor. At Fasig-Tipton Saratoga auction that year, he bought the sale topper, going to $1.6 million for the filly Mushka. Maimonides made just two starts before an injury cut short his career; he is standing in Florida. Mushka became a grade II winner for Zayat before he sold her at the 2008 Keeneland November sale for $2.4 million; she earned a grade I win by disqualification for her new owner.

Last year Zayat missed two payments to Fifth Third Bank, and it called in his entire loan portfolio of about $34 million in December. Fifth Third filed suit, seeking to name a receiver for Zayat’s stable, while he countersued, claiming the bank had agreed to renegotiate his loans but failed to do so. Before a hearing could be heard on the matter, however, Zayat Stables filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Feb. 3. Besides Fifth Third, other creditors include trainers, veterinarians, van companies, sales companies, a boarding farm, a sales agency, etc.

Under the terms of the agreement, it is within the rights of Fifth Third to call in the Zayat Stables’ loans. However, Ahmed Zayat is exactly the type of person the Thoroughbred industry needs, and his dealings illustrate the problem owners, breeders, and buyers are having securing funding.

Perhaps the single biggest problem facing the industry right now is that equine lenders have pulled back, many discontinuing loaning to Thoroughbred participants completely.

Bloodstock prices, like many other commodities in this recessionary time, have decreased, and lending institutions should adjust their thinking when loaning to owners, breeders, and bloodstock buyers. But this industry needs lenders willing to help it regain its footing.

Leaders of racetracks and sales companies; of the NTRA and Breeders’ Cup; of the American Horse Council and state breed organizations; and owners and breeders with strong relationships with banks should work together to gain access to funding for the industry.

We need the help of banks. And we need people like Ahmed Zayat. 


Leave a Comment:


The last thing the thoroughbred industry needs is an out of controll owner who owes money to trainers,vets,van companies etc.If his operation is so successfull then why doesn't he pay his bills.If you buy/own hundreds of horses it seem to me that you will have a couple of good ones along the way.

09 Feb 2010 1:59 PM

How does this jive with the Thorn Song situation - whatever that may be? (I realize publication deadlines aren't helpful in these instances, but...)

09 Feb 2010 2:15 PM

So we need more owners in the game that commit insurance fraud?

09 Feb 2010 3:35 PM
Kellsboro Jack

Quote "And we need people like Ahmed Zayat."

Boy that is exceedingly tough to swallow even more so in light of the potential for insurance fraud [with Thorn Song and the mortality claim] now part of this twisted tale.

The sport has always had characters, rascals and colorful owners. Yes they are part of the fabric of the sport and shake up the "club" like atmosphere the old guard can cast upon the sport.

Still wasn't it Zayat who pondered blocking out Rachel Alexandra from the Preakness last year? Wasn't it Zayat who acted like a spoiled kid loudly taking his horses from Baffert a few summer's ago?

Maybe it's just me but I'd rather have people aspiring to be more like George Strawbridge and Augustin Stables long before the other.

09 Feb 2010 3:36 PM

The industry has a lot of problems, the least of which is getting lending help from the banks.  Perhaps if new owners were not duped by the bloodstock industry, ex: Jess Jackson, then their would be more new owners in the game.  Word does get around!

09 Feb 2010 3:43 PM

it doesn't serve your industry well to defend the Zayats and the Gills.

09 Feb 2010 4:06 PM

not to hard to have a couple of grade 1 winners when you buy up the horses at auction....not impresses as he is just a typical highly leveraged and blows himself up and wants his winnings privatized and his losses subsidized , just like Wall Street Scum and thats why we are all going to be living thru the upcoming Depression, because of guys like this (plus this guy will gamble on the wind)....there is no difference between Zayat and Goldman Sachs trader , other than Zayat likes to get his picture taken more often

09 Feb 2010 4:13 PM

We do not really know what the truth is here and given the state of our banking system's conduct the last 2 years, I hardly find Fifth Third Bank credible either.

09 Feb 2010 4:20 PM

I don't pretend, nor should you,  to understand the contractual basis of his LOC or loans secured by his horses. What I do know is that financial institutions get very nervous when oweners start to miss payments and hold back cash that should be used to reduce their debt. The situation with Thorn Song is troubelsome-the fact that the insurance company has paid a claim, taken ownership but no one knows the condition of the horse-so much for being a role model in protecting them.

This guy wants to win-he is in it for the glory and has extended himself financially looking for the "Home Run Horse"-he's tried desperately to find one and the closet he's come is with Pioneer of the Nile.

He isnt what horse racing is about-he's all that makes the industry shabby and ego centric.

09 Feb 2010 4:30 PM

Maybe its time for all horsemen to boycott these banks that put nothing into the industry. When the going is good they are your best friend. When the industry finds itself in hard times, like now, they pull out their money at the first opportunity. Their idea that they can better care for these horses and their investment is selfserving nonsense.

Most bankers are so stupid that they would fail in any business they attempt. Most of your comments posted show they know nothing about horse racing or the benefits of having a Zayat around.

Boycott Fifth Third bank. Boycott Fifth Third bank. Close your accounts.

09 Feb 2010 4:43 PM

perhaps if the banks actually hired people that have a clue as to how the business works maybe they wouldn't have to go through the process of getting killed every few years.

09 Feb 2010 4:49 PM

I think the Zayats and the Gills is what is wrong with the industry. Throw the book at the bum and do racing a favor and keep him out.    

09 Feb 2010 5:12 PM

The cries of "crucify him, crucify him" surprise me.  Zayat obviously has some circumstances to deal with but the 'assumption' of insurance fraud given the circumstances are unfounded.  Why are so many folks ready to assume that Fifth-Third Bank is so squeaky clean?  Sure, they need to do what they need to do but please don't believe for one minute that as more facts are revealed, the 'smell' coming from the banker's suite is suitable for a Valentine's gift.

09 Feb 2010 5:33 PM

Maybe the Blood Horse could post a recent photo or video of Thorn Song, instead of Zayat's smiling face...just a thought...

09 Feb 2010 5:48 PM
Asst. Hotwalker

He bought all these horses on borrowed money. His stable has been losing 30 million each year. Feeling the heat he tried to keep Rachel out of the Preakness. Now he has committed insurance fruad, and stiffed the bank for 34 million. You still think racing needs folks like him?

09 Feb 2010 6:06 PM

Dan, as a matter of fairness, you might note that the Bloodhorse has a bias that favors the Kentucky breeders. Nouveau Riche, like Ahmed Zayat, are encouraged to spend like drunken sailors on fancy bloodstock. That's what keeps the farms rolling in the Bluegrass Country. But it's the quick path to the poorhouse. Those of us who work in the thoroughbred industry as a business, always believed that it would only be a matter of a short time before Zayat would go bust. Ahmed Zayat, on the other hand, also figured he could outsmart the banks as well as the thoroughbred industry. He clearly has the style of a "get over guy" who really doesn't have the real hands-on experience to know what or who he was going to be dealing with when he dove into this game. Bounding off the high board, coming out of his double spin pike whatever, he realizes that the water in the pool was really only a mirage. As he's about to crash into the concrete, he's trying to claim foul. Well, he never asked anyone if there really was water in the pool, and he really didn't have the money to play in the horse game at the level he decided to play. Yes, he did have a number of real nice horses. But that doesn't mean anything. There isn't enough money in the treasury to pay for 200 horses, and there isn't enough potential money in stud fees to repay his investment, even if he ever became lucky enough to land a major stallion, which might be harder than winning the Derby. So, while no one is more committed to bringing new owners into the sport than me; after all, it's my only business and full-time job. I don't believe that owners like Zayat are helpful to the game. They are only helpful to news organizations who can plaster their front pages with headlines and details of their juicy scandals. What we need to attract to this sport are thousands of new owners who can operate in a reasonable and responsible manner. There are a myriad of oportunites for ownership participation at all levels from commercial and private partnerships to co-ownership and private ownerships. There are claiming tracks, weanling, yearling, and two year-old in training sales. People who get in abouve their heads, or people who try to corner the market in small venues (Michael Gill?) are going to get into trouble of one kind or another. We don't need those kind of owners. We do need a sport that is capable of supporting owners at a reasonable level. With continuing loss of handle, attendance, viewership, purse structure, and increased attention to breakdowns and scandals, we look like an endangered species. While Fifth Third Bank may look a bit greedy and unfair in their decision to call in their loan, they had to know that loaning this much money to someone who had no way of repaying it, for collateral that was unrealistically overvalued, had to be a bad business decision. They deserve some of the blame for helping Ahmed Zayat get in so deeply in the first place. It's hard, however, to blame them for finally waking up, smelling the coffee, and dealing with reality. Dan, we all dream of Derbys, Belmonts, Travers, and Breeders Cup Stakes. We all dream of Seattle Slew, Funny Cide, Big Brown, and Mine That Bird. None of those horses went for $25,000 as yearlings. $4.6 million for Maimonides? You've got to be out of your mind to spend that kind of money on a yearling. To encourage that kind of unrealistic and out of control behavior is unbecoming of a journalist. Owners like that only give us a bad reputation, and cause headaches for those they employ.

09 Feb 2010 6:44 PM

I must say I was shocked when the story broke on the financial problems for Mr. Zayat. This is a man who was such a big player at the 2 yr old sales and with all of us who sale yearlings. We are all tied in together as far as consignors go we need the yearlings to sell well to help our breeders that we represent be able to stay in the game and then we need all of the pinhookers for the 2 yr old sales to go and do well so that they will come back the next year and buy more yearlings. I personally never dreamed that his operation was being financed but in hind sight he was almost non existant at the sales over the last year or so. I hate that a man that played at his level is out.

Lending or lack of has played a major role in the decline over the last year or two, I cant tell you how many times we have heard that from people that normally buy weanlings and yearlings from us. I know that once we get to the other side of this we will all be better for it, it is painful but we will be a healthier business. Warren Buffet says it best in that when the tide goes out we get to see who is not wearing bathing suits. I do agree with Bill 100% that we have done a tremendous job of running people out of the business as soon as they get in. If we had taken care and looked out for the new guy better there would be hundreds of folks still involved.

09 Feb 2010 7:11 PM

Dan, you should be indicting this guy for his reckless behavior. You got it right with your "spending wildly for yearlings" comment.

Has Zayat been good for the "greatest game"? A resounding NO!

09 Feb 2010 8:00 PM

I'm supposed to feel for a man who missed to bank loan payments, yet still managed to spend a fortune at auctions. Then to think racing NEEDS him?

Really? This is an individual to be one of the faces of racing for everyday people?

I'm no fan of Jesse Jackson, but I'll take a thousand of him for one of Zayat.

09 Feb 2010 8:01 PM
up mayo

Yes its easy to spend wildly at horse sales, especially when  its not your own money. What a joke this guy was. Nice comment Kellsboro jack  you are 100% correct

09 Feb 2010 8:01 PM

Missing a couple of payments does not warrant the closing of an entire portfolio. You who quickly judge the financial operations of a prolific horseman should try your hand in the industry. Not as cut and dry as you think.

09 Feb 2010 8:04 PM
Mike R

This has to be the most embarrassing articles ever on Bloodhorse.

We really need more owners that beat Banks, trainers, sales agents, Vets, sales companies ect. out if money. PLLLEASSSE

09 Feb 2010 8:45 PM

I'm in the middle of the book "Wild Ride", about how JT Lundy destroyed Calumet. I also watched how Zayat acted during the  whole Rachel Alexandra spectacle. Back in the late '80's Bloodhorse magazine was avidly writing about how great "Mr. Lundy" was. The tradition continues.

09 Feb 2010 8:57 PM

I would not presume to judge Mr. Zayet, but having dealt with banks  I would say there is more to this story than is being told or reported, The bank seems awful anxious to take the horses, one has to wonder if they have a buyer ready to step in. What I really would like reported on is the story behind Thorn Song. Having a bank take possession is never a good thing for the horse.

09 Feb 2010 9:20 PM

Yea, wish I had an unlimited amount of money to buy " the best horses the auctions have to offer " and then decide not to pay for them.  Yea, thats real integrity.  Just what the business needs..more people like that.  How can you justify that type of practice???  Maybe we can invite some ponzi-scammers to join in too.

09 Feb 2010 9:22 PM

We need to remember that horse racing is supposed to be a sport. The industry does not need people who need to borrow money to buy horses. Horses should be purchased with disposable income like any other hobby. This is the way to restore lower prices in breeding and selling. I used to believe that a stud fee of $10,000.00 was high but I am an economist.

09 Feb 2010 10:04 PM
Ace Hare

So, let me get this straight. The game "needs" owners that heavily leverage themselves, and, when their major creditors call in their markers and they cannot pay, they decide to float everybody in the industry that they know an airball?

The real heart and soul of this game are the people that Zayat is trying to stiff. The trainers, vets, exercise riders, grooms... They make this sport go. Zayat was trying to enter this game at little or no risk, and you, Dan want to reward him and others like him for it. To be sure, there have been more than a few trainers over the years that have cleaned out well-heeled owners, but, there have also been [guys] like Zayat. [Guys] that think that if they become too big to fail (your assertion), then those in the game will rally around him. Did you take a similar stance with J.T. Lundy and his leveraged destruction of Calumet? Side with operators in this game of questionable repute such as Tom Gentry (a man that has been involved in so much litigation that he is nearly a singular subject of studuy in Equine Law Class?) Oh, now you should at least know where I graduated from.

Racing is a game that, as pointed out before, can be entered into by people that have a passion for it on many different levels. A desire to succeed should not override common sense. It did for Mr. Zayat, and now the chickens have come home to roost, so to speak. To hold him up as an example of a person who got into the game and was screwed out of it is unfair. He screwed himself out of it, and the industry, as a whole, should have a better way of recruiting and protecting responsible owners, not just The Bloodhorse's editors standing up for a guy who got in way over his head.

09 Feb 2010 10:37 PM

Let me get this straight ... you are defending a man who tried to use lies and chicanery to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness, took a death benefit payment for a horse that is STILL ALIVE, does not pay his bills ..... ???  You say we need MORE people like this?  And you wonder why horse racing is in such trouble?

09 Feb 2010 11:09 PM

I am very sorry for Thorn Song. He must have gone through hell.

I want to see what he looks like now and want to know what he went through, having been near death several times. Did Zayat or the owner of the insurance company ever visit Thorn Song to see in which condition he was? Or is it all about money for all involved and the hell with the horse?

10 Feb 2010 12:10 AM

Short and sweet, Mr. Liebman - You got this wrong!

10 Feb 2010 6:27 AM
Greg J.

Mr. Liebman,

    Are you serious? "Ahmed Zayat is exactly the type of person the Thoroughbred industry needs"? Exactly the opposite, I would say, Amazing that you would make such a statement.  Why not write your next piece defending Gill?  To me, They are EXACTLY what this sport does not need...

Finally, You comment, "Perhaps the single biggest problem facing the industry right now is that equine lenders have pulled back". You honestly think that is the biggest problem in the Sport?  If so, You honestly need to open your eyes...

All due respect, This story is an embarrassment...

10 Feb 2010 8:25 AM

What's happened to Thorn Song? Is he dead or not? Why won't whoever has him just step forward?

Is this a sophisticated "Ferdinand" style ending for that hard working race horse?

10 Feb 2010 8:44 AM

I believe there is a saying..if you can't afford it, DON'T BUY IT!! Greed pure and simple is ruining horse racing. The horse is doing what it is bred to do and humans are distroying it's very foundation.

10 Feb 2010 8:47 AM
arthur hancock

When an industry here in Kentucky cries and screams that it is going to go broke unless it gets slots, how can anyone blame the bankers for getting nervous? Who would want to lend it money? For every action there is a reaction and one reaps what one sows. The industry should be screaming about breeding a stallion to 200 mares and causing a glut and oversupply. Supply and demand is the oldest law of economics.

10 Feb 2010 8:50 AM

Dan:  You said "The cries of "crucify him, crucify him" surprise me.  Zayat obviously has some circumstances to deal with but the 'assumption' of insurance fraud given the circumstances are unfounded."

Obviously - the facts of the case are just beginning to trickle out.  But you cannot get around the gray elephant - or in this case gray horse - in the room.  The situation with Thorn Song and his whereabouts just plain stinks of something rotten in the state of Zayat.

The fact that a mortality claim (which meant death claim last time I looked at life insurance) was filed and paid, the horse was never listed in the Jockey Club as dead and no one seems to be able to produce a current picture of an "equine habius corpus" - living or not - is just not adding up.

It has a vague taint of JT Lundy and Alydar's mysterious injury/death attached to a large insurance payout to offset burgeoning bills.  

I believe First Third would not be going to court without a solid legal hand.  And everything I've read from Zayat since this broke has been smoke/mirrors/spin.  

This is the LAST type of situation that racing needs to be going public at this point.  If Zayat is culpable in all this - he is the worst type of representative for the industry.  If he's not - the facts and a court will prove him out.

But whither Thorn Song?

10 Feb 2010 9:20 AM

Mr. Leibman,

And your article has to be taken in context of when it was written.  Timing is everything.  But my question for you is: Would you write this exact piece now in light of the new facts?

If the answer is yes - then you are an apologist for a tainted network within the industry.  

If you answer no - then it is the responsibility of the B-H to use it's great reporting staff to investigate and uncover the truth.  

That's what journalism is all about, Charlie Brown.

10 Feb 2010 9:23 AM

 When a Zayat overpays for a horse big time the breeders and auction companies crow about how great the game is.  But when this happens over and over the artificially hyped price structure for the "sport" gets so out of whack it needs slots to save the "business".

 Anyone who has read Joe Bagan's Lucas at Auction knows that successful trainer had overall operating losses for his wealthy clients but he bailed them out overall with some successful syndications such as Capote.

 In Bagan's study of 289 purchased by Lucas, only 23 earned their costs when training expenses were factored in.

  Certainly Fifth Third knows these statistics.

 Bagan's book lists some interesting consignor analyses related to Lucas purchases of their offerings.

  Northridge Farm sold to Lucas $2.8 million worth of horses that won back $890,000 (during the time frame of this study).

  Phil and Norman Owens got $1.9 million for Lucas bought horses that won $38,053.

 Pegasus Stud got $925,000 for Lucas bought horses that won $8,645.

 Shadowlawn Farm received $2.5 million for horses that won $2 million.

 Walmac International got $1.9 million and the horses they sold to Lucas won $818,000.

Some of these horses had additional residual value from stallion syndications, breeding fees and foal sales and also resales of the horses themselves.

These were examples from the top six consignors to Lucas.

 Then there was Fred Seitz selling Open Mind for $150,000 and it won $724,000.

 Hilary Boone sold Mt. Livermore for $150,000 and it won $624,000 plus the residual breeding revenue.

  Too often new owners are encouraged to look at the big money a Mt. Livermore or a Seattle Slew or a Lil E'Tee can make (sold for $1,100, then resold twice more before he won the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby sponsored by Yum Brands).

 Zayat apparently wasn't getting the big syndicate deals and enough sales revenue to offset operating and capital costs.

  Racing is now a business, not a sport.

  Otherwise there would be no auctions and breeders would breed to race - and they would sure keep their costs down.

  Otherwise Liebmann is very correct. The business needs owners like Zayat.

10 Feb 2010 11:36 AM

Cgriff, exactly, it's exactly smelling like Alydar....

Where IS this hard working horse?

10 Feb 2010 11:42 AM

Let's see, a feel good story about Mr. Zayat gives Bloodhorse advertisers listed on the BK filing a glimmer of hope. Horse racing needs owners like Last Mango Racing Stable, Jerry Moss, and Cot Campbell--how can you include Zayat on this list!!

10 Feb 2010 11:57 AM

I have a dream too.  I want to pursue my dream of becoming a leading owner and breeder; of standing stallions; and of selling desirable bloodstock at auction.  All I need is leaders of racetracks and sales companies; of the NTRA and Breeders' Cup; of the American Horse Council and state breed organizations; and owners and breeders with strong relationships wiht banks to get me $35-Million.  If it does not work however; I will need to file Chapter 11 for my LLC.  Thanks Dan.

10 Feb 2010 12:02 PM
Noelle D

It takes more than passion and a huge line of credit to be a responsible owner - but these ARE the only qualifications you ascribe to Mr. Zayat.  Whatever has happened to Thorn Song, the comparisons to J.T. Lundy seem apt.

If, as you say, Mr. Zayat HAD the money, but CHOSE to borrow (as others do), then he should be well positioned to pay his debts, as any honorable man should.  

Where IS Thorn Song?

10 Feb 2010 2:18 PM
Bill O'Gorman

Seems more of a silly bank story than anything else - why lend someone an umbrella in hurricane country.

I bet there are plenty of trainers and studs with owners "into them" for a lot more than the list that was published in this case!

10 Feb 2010 2:21 PM

Dan, your naivety is troubling for a person that has your position at our industry's most widely circulated weekly publication.    

10 Feb 2010 3:11 PM
Steve Zorn

I'm an indirect beneficiary of Zayat's free-spending ways; since he appeared on the scene, I've worked the Keeneland September sales for bloodstock agents who picked out a number of his moire successful horses. I got paid by them; they're still waiting for Zayat to pay them all he owes.

I want to like people like Zayat; having visible, news media-friendly owners certainly helps the game, as Jerry Moss, Mike Iavarone and Jess Jackson have show. We may not like everything these folks do, but they do get us the media coverage. But the huge debt financing of Zayat's horses strikes me as completely unreasonable. I operate on a much, much smaller scale, running some racing partnerships in New York, and I don't even accept credit card payments from my partners, because I want to be sure they understand that racing is not a business you go into for the money. It's fun, exciting, and the most thrilling sport I know. But it's NOT an investment (except perhaps with a business model like Coolmore's). If you want to buy horses for racing, you should be paying with your own money (obviously, breeders and pinhookers are in a different business, one for which working capital, acquired on credit, is essential).

10 Feb 2010 5:57 PM

As others here have asked-where is the photo of Thorn Song?

The complaints about 'crucifying Zayat' are silly, as the man has committed insurance fraud BY HIS OWN ADMISSION.

If the horse is alive.

I've never known an insurance company to pay before it sees, well, basically a definite deceased, but I work in situations that deal with humans.

Having read accounts from others regarding insurance on animals, it's no different.

So. Either Zayat has committed an insurance fraud, which is a felony, or he is lying about Thorn Song.

And, he's being defended, AGAIN, by BloodHorse.

10 Feb 2010 9:10 PM
Bill O'Gorman

Of course if whoever sanctioned the loan was going to get his bonus based on how much it was worth after 2 years.....

11 Feb 2010 4:33 AM
Bill O'Gorman

And another thing - if agents were to be paid their % on the value after 2 years as well that would slow things down a bit.

When you're going slower the bumps in the road don't hurt the suspension as much.

11 Feb 2010 4:39 AM

The industry which is a business, needs good businessmen. Zayat is a bad businessman, who blew it. We don't need bad businessmen-plain and simple. Nice guys with a passion doesn't necessarily cut it.    

11 Feb 2010 8:31 AM
Brian Russell

I am not defending Zayat on the overall situation but am I the only one that read the Thorn Song articles?  His condition was such that he would have been put down under normal circumstances but the vet in Califonia wanted to try some experimental procedures on him and the insurance company agreed.  The paid Zayat and they own Thorn Song.  Should he be saved to be a stallion, it will benefit the insurance company, not Zayat.  The only potential fraud was Zayat not listing Fifth-Third as "loss payee" on the policy which his loan agreements almost surely required.

11 Feb 2010 9:25 AM

A few months ago I learned an important lesson: don't pass judgment until you know ALL the facts. Insurance fraud was NOT committed in this instance. I'm not an admirer of Mr. Zayat but it is a shame that so many people accused him of a felony before they even knew the circumstances regarding Thorn Song. (Bless his heart, hope he makes a full recovery.) As far as Mr. Zayat's business acumen, AGAIN we don't know ALL the facts... As a retired business woman, I do know one thing: if your liabilities total more than your assets, you are in BIG trouble and nobody should rejoice at the troubles of another, whether we like that person or not.

11 Feb 2010 12:16 PM
Bill O'Gorman

Wooster - It's not unknown for an insurance company to pay out on an almost hopeless horse and take it over themselves in the hope of salvaging something.  If that's what happened here then they'll likely sell him to you!

11 Feb 2010 12:48 PM

For all of those that cried "insurance fraud" this should be a lesson not to offer "uneducated" opinions so freely-so endemic to blogs of this kind. Despite what so many of you believe (but have little first-hand experience), it is not that uncommon for ins. companys to pay mortality claims while the horse is still alive (it's all about the "fine print" in the policy). Please, just don't voice your opinions about anything unless you truly believe that you have sufficient knowledge. Too many who read these blogs may know even less than you, and tend to believe your misinformed musings. The thoroughbred industry appears woefully subject to supposed experts spewing their unfounded opinions and theories. Just another nail in the horses' coffin, and reason enough to question our ability to properly manage their safety. I'm sick of hearing how certain were these trainers of their horses' soundness-prior to breakdown. Those who question them generally know even less, and all is then wiped under the table. Time for a reality check, and a good portion of humility...My hat's off to the knowledgable scientists that saved Thorn Song. This industry needs to acknowledge and fund more research in these areas. Let's all try to become more expert in what may be available diagnostically and therapeutically, so that more may be prevented from injury, or saved.  

11 Feb 2010 1:03 PM
Concerned Owner

How dare you condone this man's reckless dealings. He is a prime example of why the bank's have pulled back from lending money. When you sign that note - you promise to pay. It is a two way contract - the bank loans you the money and you are expected to pay it back. I guarantee you that the bank did everything in it's power to work this out and does not want the horses back - but has not choice at this point. Why do they have no other choice? Well given the fact that Mr. Zayat took the money from Thorn Song and never paid down the loan with the insurance check (which I am sure he borrowed money to purchase Thorn Song from Fifth Third)they now have no trust in him to do the right thing so they need a "third party" that they can trust. In additon, now a days with all the other parties out there that are not getting paid (vet's, feed companies, stud fees, agents fees, etc.)when the horse does go to auction, the bank's lien is subordinate to all other liens - so they don't get anywhere near the sales price (which we all know is much less now than in the past).

That is my take on the situation.

11 Feb 2010 1:33 PM

I hope Mr. Zayat is able to survive. We neeeeeeed him buying

bloodstock this spring and fall.

11 Feb 2010 10:00 PM


12 Feb 2010 3:28 AM
Adele Maxon


12 Feb 2010 2:54 PM
Casey B

Dear Dan,

Do you read the magazine that you edit?  The banks obviously do.  Pages 626-627 of the most recent 2/13/10 issue lists VLT troubles in New York, a leading owner in-debut to creditors (including trainers and veterinarians) and a trainer filing suit to recoup expenses.  Turn the page and you find one of the nation’s leading owners ejected from a racetrack and the SLOTS (not ‘horse racing’) vote progressing in Maryland.

I am a small scale breeder in Pennsylvania that wonders how long before the investors and state government officials realize that the ROI per slot machine far outweighs the ROI per horse on the backside of each track.  Unfortunately, I see a future with four US tracks available only by simulcast, one “triple (or should we call it ‘single’) crown” race and a breeder’s cup televised from Dubai.  

As every exercise rider, hayman and blacksmith on the backside will tell you, “I am done extending credit – it is KILLING me.” The banks are now wisely following suit.  What our industry needs is not more Ahmed Zayat’s – a pipe dream of unfulfilled promises that starts huge and ends in an embarrassing flutter of dollar figures that the general public views as a waste – but a solid, ‘wear-it-on-your-hat,’ rivalry that strikes a cord on a very human level.  

We are standing at the very pinnacle of this rivalry with Rachel vs. Zenyatta.  We are talking - Eagles vs. Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson vs. Tony Stewart and we must learn from these other sporting industries.  Fans want to wear their allegiance on their sleeves…or hat.   AND as horses attract young, female enthusiasts,  WE NEED THEM TO WEAR OUR HAT!  Not Ahmed Zayat.  NFL and NASCAR realize that fans don’t have “Art Rooney” and “Joe Gibbs” on their hat, they have the yellow and maroon or teal and pink that a young, female horse fan can relate to.  What I see is every pony-clubber with a Rachel or Zenyatta helmet cover, parents following suit and track stands, TV ratings and polling windows catching the wave.  

Then we’ll talk to the banks…

17 Feb 2010 9:35 AM

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