Story provided by America's Best Racing.
Anyone who doubts Frank Stronach's ability to think big needs only to gaze at the 473-ton steel and bronze statue of Pegasus, the winged stallion of Greek mythology, that captivates visitors as they enter Gulfstream Park and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Pegasus reaches a height equivalent to an 11-story building. The massive figure cost $30 million to construct and is seen slaying a 242-ton dragon. Billed as the largest equine statue in the world, Pegasus surely provides a fitting symbol of the extraordinary mark Stronach is making on racing.
He has succeeded as an owner, breeder and, above all, as head of The Stronach Group.
"I don't think anyone has had a bigger impact on it than him from the breeding to the racing to track ownership," said Mike Rogers, president of The Stronach Group's racing division. "His impact has been enormous."
The Stronach Group's racing and gaming assets include Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, and a joint venture with the Maryland Jockey Club in Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, among other holdings.
He is a four-time winner of the Eclipse Award as the outstanding owner in North America. His Adena Springs boasts eight Eclipse Awards as the outstanding breeding operation. His heavily stocked trophy room also includes 18 Sovereign Awards, nine as Canada's top owner, nine as that nation's leading breeder.
Stonach said of his approach to business, "If you use imagination, there is no limit to it."
Big thinking is leading to equally large results. A record $1.774 billion was wagered at Gulfstream Park last year, a 9% increase over the $1.625 billion the year before. The $1.508 billion wagered on Gulfstream's live races represented a 13% jump from the 1.338 billion in 2015.
The total handle soared 19.7% in Maryland to $559 million. In-state wagering spiked to $119.7 million from $141.8 million in 2015. The Stronach Group is investing $30 million in capital improvements at Laurel Park, which is viewed as a strong contender to be awarded the Breeders' Cup World Championships in the near future. Santa Anita, a stunning venue beneath the San Gabriel Mountains, hosted the Breeders' Cup for a record ninth time in 2016.
The racing world eagerly awaits another showdown between Arrogate and California Chrome , who finished one-two respectively in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic, in the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28.
Not surprisingly, the race carries a unique concept. Twelve shareholders invested $1 million each to provide the purse for the richest race ever held and to receive a share of various revenues. They will continue as stakeholders in the future. A turf race based on the same concept and of the same magnitude is expected to be added next year in a bid to attract additional international participation.
"I think this is less of a gamble than being in the stock market, and there could be some nice returns," Stronach said. "If you haven't got a horse, you can make arrangements [to lease]. There are so many variations of things you can do. I think many horsemen like that kind of approach."
When it comes to thinking outside of the box, Stronach thinks way outside it.
"He's definitely a forward thinker, ahead of the curve," Rogers said.
Although an octogenarian, Stronach is as vibrant as ever.
"He's got a lot of energy. You feed off of him when you're with him because he's got so much energy," Rogers said. "He's such a hard worker and he's dedicated. It's infectious."
Stronach does not limit his efforts to attracting the serious handicapper. He very much wants racing to become a family affair. "We should attract every age group," he said.
Stronach was speaking of the Pegasus World Cup but he also could have been referring to every aspect of his vast operation when he said, "We want to create something very exciting."