Hail to the Chief

By Andrew Rosen
In the 1960s my father, Carl Rosen, started his involvement in Thoroughbred racing. His major industry success began with the purchase of his first Keeneland sale yearling, which would become the champion 3-year-old filly of 1974, Chris Evert. Her match race against Miss Musket, which she won by 50 lengths at a packed Hollywood Park in the summer of 1974, solidified her champion status. Who would have imagined that in 1984, this would be the same track on which Chief's Crown -- -a grandson of Chris Evert -- -would win the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I)?

A love and an understanding for Thoroughbred racing remain among the greatest gifts that my father, fondly known as "The Chief," passed on to his children. After his death in 1983, I named a son of Six Crowns (by Danzig) Chief's Crown in memory of my father. In the fall of 1983, I saw Chief's Crown for the first time with Roger Laurin and Seth Hancock (Seth had recommended the mating to my father) on the training track at Claiborne Farm. Beautifully bred and well-balanced, Chief's Crown trained in a very workmanlike fashion, galloping with his head down, no different than the other 25 yearlings training at the historic Paris, Ky., farm that day. None of us could have predicted what this neat little bay horse would accomplish over the next 24 months.

One of Chief's Crown's most memorable victories occurred at Hollywood Park Nov. 10, 1984, in the first Breeders' Cup race ever -- -the Juvenile. My entire family, including my mother, Shirley, went to California for the race and the preceding festivities. Everything about this trip was extraordinary, starting with the drive to the airport when my wife informed me she was pregnant with our first child, Ashley. When we arrived in California, Marge Everett, the owner of Hollywood Park, welcomed us. Marge threw the most glamorous parties with many of Hollywood's dignitaries and movie stars in attendance, which made the trip even more surreal.

The Juvenile was the first race of the day, so we woke up early and headed straight to the track. Since the race was at 10:30 a.m., there was little time to get nervous. In fact, none of us were nervous, as Chief's Crown had won five of his previous six races. Somehow, that day's victory seemed assured. However, Robert Clay, the owner of Three Chimneys Farm, who a few days earlier had syndicated 50% of the horse for $10 million, did not share our calm despite the fact we were the 3-5 favorite.

As the race began, Chief's Crown, under jockey Don MacBeth, lagged back. I remembered thinking he looked uncomfortable, as if he didn't like the track. It struck me in that moment that our horse may not win. But then, as if something clicked, Chief's Crown took off. He accelerated on the outside, passing Tank's Prospect and then Spend a Buck, both of whom would go on the following spring to win legs of the 1985 Triple Crown, the Preakness (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby (gr. I), respectively. As Tom Durkin so eloquently said, "Chief's Crown attacks on the outside; and a champion is crowned; and it's Chief's Crown."

Standing in the winner's circle that glorious day with trainer Laurin, jockey MacBeth, Mr. Clay, and my entire family was one of the great moments and memories of my life. I thought of my father, "The Chief," and how much I missed him. I knew how much he would have loved being at this historic and monumental event. This moment showed me what is possible at the height of horse racing when you have a truly amazing horse with a big heart. It is a moment I am still trying to duplicate more than 20 years later. My father would also be happy that while I have continued in the garment business as the founder of the Theory clothing line, I have also continued his passion for Thoroughbred racing and breeding.

Chief's Crown delivered some of the most thrilling victories and some of the most agonizing defeats. Even with all of the highs and lows, I feel honored to have been a part of Chief's Crown's legacy.

His win in the first Breeders' Cup race ever run will always be remembered.