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That same September Brennan bought 28 yearlings for $1 million, and soon after paid $875,000 for seven more horses. From that group came Hurry Up Blue, who won the Donn and Gulfstream Park Handicaps the following winter. By January 1981 the very new kid on the block had bought $7 million worth of horseflesh, as well as two farms. Brennan's Due Process Stable went from $125,647 in earnings in 1980 to $2,082,772 in 1983, making his outfit the third-biggest money-earner in the nation. Nothing Brennan's horses did between the white rails, though, shook up the business quite as much as Brennan himself did in 1981 when he offered shares for sale on the stock market for International Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., the Brennan-controlled company—he's chairman and majority stockholder—that now owns more than 300 breeding horses and Keystone and Garden State tracks.
"The things that I went through were amazing," Brennan said one recent morning in his Wall Street office. "People said I was going to destroy the game. I was in the paddock at Hialeah one day in 1981 after we had announced we were going to put shares of ITB on the market. Leslie Combs II came over, put his arm around me and said, I know you mean to do well, but this whole idea of public ownership is bad for us. It is not going to be good, and it is going to fail. Don't do these kinds of things; you ought to check with us....' "
Combs is the founder of Kentucky's fabled Spendthrift Farm, one of the world's most prosperous breeding operations. Two years after Combs's speech to Brennan, Spendthrift put shares on the open market. "I got a big kick out of that," ITB's chairman says. "The image that racing has gotten is that of a bunch of old men who go to the track and sit around all day and do nothing. That isn't the truth at all. Racetracks can be fun if the owners work at making them fun.
"Last June I went out to see the Belmont Stakes. It was a gorgeous day. I had one of my sons with me and the card was absolutely brilliant. We were returning to my box with hot dogs and Cokes when the usher came over and told me that hot dogs and Cokes could not be eaten in the box section at Belmont Park. He said that if I wanted to eat the hot dog, I would have to go somewhere and stand behind a door. Or I could go up into the Trustees' Room and have a full lunch and sit there all afternoon. I was flabbergasted. Do you think baseball would be run that way, or football?"
To be sure, Brennan himself has caught some heat over the way he runs things. For years First Jersey Securities was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. A cover story on Brennan, titled "The Golden Boy," in the July 16, 1984 issue of Forbes had this to say about his success with First Jersey: "A picture emerges of a clever and apparently legal system for fobbing off shoddy and overpriced merchandise on a not very well informed public." In 1979 and 1983 the SEC accused Brennan and First Jersey of various illegal practices. Last year Brennan signed a consent decree not to violate securities laws, and the SEC dismissed all charges against him and his company. Upon signing the decree, Brennan, still professing his innocence, said, "I'm as happy to comply with that as I am to agree not to beat up old ladies."
Brennan's own racing stable is called Due Process because, as he has often said, "It was originally intended to be my own private, silent statement of outrage against what I perceive to be a total lack of due process and the administrative bureaucracy in our government which, as a businessman, drives me up a wall."
Through it all, Brennan breezes on. He failed in a recent bid to buy Monmouth Park, but Garden State is open, Keystone is doing well and Brennan is making noises about buying New York's Off-Track Betting Corporation. He claims he can guarantee $50 million a year plus a percentage of the profits to New York City alone—a big improvement on the $39.5 million OTB contributed last year.
The return of Garden State has already caused tremors in nearby Maryland, a state with few amenities at its racetracks and high racing taxes. According to the Baltimore Evening Sun, Brennan has "the Maryland racing industry quivering like a newborn colt." For his part, Brennan professes to be afraid of nothing, even though reopening Garden State is a gamble. As Brennan often says, "Scared money never wins."