- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"You're getting closer," de Kwiatkowski said. The total money was fine, but now de Kwiatkowski wanted it paid more quickly—in four installments instead of five, with $200,000 down from each of the 30 buyers. Hancock says de Kwiatkowski told him that Windfields had proposed giving him $10 million right away. "He was holding my feet to the fire," Hancock says. "I was upset about it, but there was Windfields getting ready to make the deal if I didn't. I couldn't get huffy about it or he'd have said, 'The hell with you. The horse goes to Windfields.' I was between a rock and a hard place."
The following day, Wednesday, Hancock agreed to the accelerated payments, hoping that that would settle the matter. But it didn't. Hancock says de Kwiatkowski now wanted the down payment of $6 million before the Travers. Hancock objected, saying there was no way he could get the money that fast, that it normally takes three or four weeks to get the first payment from the syndicate members. Nonetheless, de Kwiatkowski was adamant on that matter. He also said that 10% interest wasn't enough. He wanted 14%, and he wanted the interest computed and added on as principal. It was a bookkeeping maneuver, but he wanted the total to be $36.4 million.
By now Hancock was beginning to lose patience. "I'd never been involved in anything like this before," he says. "A tough man to do business with. But I just kept thinking about the horse and how close I was to getting him."
That he yielded on each point that Wednesday until he finally had a deal was a reflection of the hype surrounding Cielo and the nature of the place and time that the syndication deal was being negotiated. This was Saratoga in August, when the racing world gathers in one small upstate New York town, a fishbowl that is more a brandy snifter. Everybody is watching everything that goes on, so it's hardly surprising that owners act differently here, and trainers break patterns and train a bit differently here, and horses that ought to win are beaten here: Man o' War, Gallant Fox and Secretariat all lost at Saratoga. "They don't call it the graveyard of favorites for nothing," Hancock says. And horses like Conquistador Cielo are syndicated here for more than they ought to be.
"Things happen up there that never happen anyplace else," says Hancock. "There's always some big scandal up there of some sort. It never fails. Some of the wildest things in the game have happened at Saratoga. Trainers get fired, guys' wives leave them. I believe it's the intense pressure, the intense scrutiny, because everyone in the business is up there. It's just the way Saratoga is. You know, people behave differently when they don't get enough sleep, when they stay up late every night drinking.
"You're under pressure, and the whole world's there looking at you. People do things, they make decisions they normally wouldn't make. I made one. I suppose, if it had been Keeneland in July, I would have taken a step back from the table and said, 'Henryk, you've seen Windfields' offer: Go on with it.' "
But no, they were in Saratoga. "People were coming up to me and saying, 'Conquistador Cielo! We want to take a share!' I was being reminded of that every day I was there. That's why I went on with it. Without people running up to Henryk and saying, 'You've got the greatest horse that ever was, it's just unbelievable what you can get for him!'—without that, he might have been a little more rational in his thinking."
Hancock and de Kwiatkowski shook hands on the deal in Woody's barn that Wednesday morning. It had been a trying three days for Hancock. In syndicating a stallion, he says, he thinks of himself as working both for the horse's owner and for the prospective syndicate members, his job being to work out a deal—the price and the terms of payment—that's comfortable for both sides. He knew the final Cielo agreement—$825,000 a share, with $200,000 up front and 14% interest—would simply be unpalatable to many breeders. It was. Hancock spent the next two days in Saratoga collaring prospective buyers at the races in the afternoons and at the yearling sales at night, apologizing to clients for the price and the terms but asking them to join in anyway.
"That's very, very steep," Dr. John Weber, a client of Claiborne for 15 years, told Hancock. "What do you think?"
"I think it's overpriced, but that's what it is," Hancock told him. Weber took a share.