The Story Behind The Story

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 29, 2008 in General Discussion, News | No Comments >>

Michael Iavarone, like it or not, has been in the eye of racing in 2008. His 15 minutes may have run a bit longer than most, but he had a beast in his barn. He, his trainer Richard Dutrow, and Kent Desormeaux held the country in a breath-holding position during the Triple Crown. As the famed Paul Harvey says, “And now for the rest of the story.”

In the nine hours of Breeders’ Cup telecasts last Friday and Saturday, the strangest segment by far came during a brief interview between comedic sportscaster Kenny Mayne and Michael Iavarone, president of the IEAH stable that owns a majority of Big Brown. Iavarone said he and members of his family had been the subject of a death threat more than four months earlier on the morning of the Belmont Stakes.

Mayne opened the interview by saying Iavarone showed a lot of emotion after jockey Kent Desormeaux pulled Big Brown out of the race at the top of the stretch when the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was hopelessly beaten.

Iavarone picked it up from there.

“The morning of the (June 7) Belmont Stakes, I had been woken up around 10 a.m.,” he told Mayne. “There was a knock on my door and there were several New York City Police Department detectives. They asked me to come outside because they didn’t want to talk to me in front of my family. They told me there had been a serious death threat lodged against me, basically from Tallahassee, Florida, from an extremist saying that if anything should happen to Big Brown in the race, myself and my family were not safe. Basically I was followed by eight to nine New York detectives all day, everywhere I went. Obviously after the horse was pulled up the rest is obvious.”

“My immediate reaction was split in half,” Iavarone told Mayne. “Obviously there was concern for the horse and concern for my family. I was headed in both directions and both of them were catastrophic at the time. The first thing I did was grab my daughters and make sure we were out of the way and safe and tears were falling. It was just a terrible day for us.”

With 24 hours lead time before the interview, Mayne said ESPN/ABC “tried to contact the detective you said investigated the case and were unable to reach him.” He then asked Iavarone, “Did they ever follow up with you and say the case was closed? Do you feel comfortable now?”

“Obviously the horse is sound and is retired so I would not believe they would have any reason to harm myself or my family,” Iavarone said. “They have not told me the case is closed.”

If all or any of this holds true, it had to be a horrible experience. He has made himself the center of the storm on many occasions, and this attracts both good and bad. Following the Breeders’ Cup, we as fans reflect back on the year in racing. The Big Brown chapter of the year was anything but boring or average.