Frank Stronach to receive Eclipse Award of Merit
North American racing's renaissance man 'flattered and touched' by honour
Frank Stronach will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the thoroughbred industry, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters have announced.
The accolade is in honour of his extraordinary success in racing, breeding, racetrack ownership and support of retired racehorse programmes.
Stronach will receive the Award of Merit at the 47th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on Thursday, January 25, in the Sport of Kings theatre at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
Stronach has in the new millennium become US racing’s largest racetrack operator, while his prowess as an owner and breeder has ensured he is the most decorated individual in Eclipse Awards history, winning 12 championship trophies.
“I'm flattered and touched to be recognised with the prestigious Eclipse Award of Merit,” said Stronach. “Horses and racing have been my passion, my labour of love, since I was a boy. It’s been an honour to be part of this great sport and help in creating world-class races, facilities and training centres with our friends, partners and co-workers.
"What’s most important, however, has been working and being around the incredible horses. I want to share this award with all of those who have contributed to all our success.”
Prior to becoming involved in the thoroughbred industry, Stronach made his name in the auto parts business. Born in 1932, he emigrated from his native Austria to Canada as a 21-year-old with $200 in his pocket, and started a one-man tool and die shop in a rented garage, sleeping at night next to a lathe.
Working in the Toronto manufacturing district, Stronach steadily built his Multimatic company, with a series of mergers and acquisitions, into Magna International Inc, and by 1998 he developed it into one of the world's largest and most diversified suppliers of automotive components with annual sales of more than $30 billion and over 120,000 employees in close to 30 countries.
Outside of Magna, Stronach developed a great love and passion for horses and racing. He purchased his first thoroughbred in 1962. He later teamed up with Nelson Bunker Hunt to campaign the talented filly Glorious Song to the 1980 Sovereign Award as Canada’s Horse of the Year.
Stronach established Adena Springs in Kentucky in 1989 and made it into a breeding powerhouse. He now owns and operates Adena Springs Farm, with locations in Kentucky, Florida and Canada. In 2017, he announced his intention to develop a division of Adena Springs in California.
While he was enjoying success as an owner and breeder, shortly after his four-year-old Awesome Again won the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Stronach saw an opportunity to expand his passion for the thoroughbred into racetrack property acquisition, where few other entrepreneurs were willing to venture.
Stronach began to acquire racetracks under the Magna Entertainment brand on a grand scale. He bought Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles late in 1998. The purchase of historic Santa Anita, nicknamed The Great Race Place, was followed by the acquisition of Gulfstream Park in South Florida and Golden Gate Fields in the Bay Area, the following year. The purchase of the Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Pimlico, home of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, and Laurel Race Course, and Lone Star Park near Dallas, followed in 2002.
In a short time, Magna Entertainment became the largest racetrack operator in North America. Through a reorganisation in 2007, the tracks are owned under the name of The Stronach Group, with Frank Stronach as its founder and chairman. His daughter, Belinda, now serves as chairman and president of the company.
Last year, Stronach innovated again by creating the world’s richest horse race, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup, where slots in 12 starting gate positions would be sold for $1m apiece to individual ownership groups. The inaugural running at Gulfstream Park last January was won by Arrogate.
The second Pegasus World Cup, which will be held on January 27, two days after the Eclipse Awards, now will carry a staggering $16m purse.
“Frank Stronach has had an undeniable impact on the thoroughbred industry, accentuated by his tremendous commitment to excellence in so many facets of our sport,” said Alex Waldrop, NTRA president and CEO. “Through his indomitable will, spirit and bold business ventures, Frank has built a tower of tremendous accomplishments with The Stronach Group, Adena Springs and now the world’s richest horse race, the Pegasus World Cup. We salute him as a most deserving Award of Merit recipient.”
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