Russell Reineman, who sold one Kentucky Derby winner less than a month before the race and raced the sire of another Derby winner, died Tuesday at his suburban Chicago home in Oak Brook, Ill. He was 86.
No cause of death was given. His daughter, Lynne McCutcheon, said last year that her father had been in ill health.
Although Reineman's lifelong business was steel -- he took a job with U.S. Steel in his hometown of Pittsburgh when he was 16 and owned his own business at the time of his death -- his favorite pursuit, for more than 50 years, was racing and breeding horses.
Reineman raced some good horses, but he never won the Kentucky Derby, unless the 10% interest he retained in War Emblem after selling him to Ahmed bin Salman, a Saudi Arabian prince, 23 days before the 2002 Derby is counted.
Reineman also retained a breeding interest in Distorted Humor, a horse that earned $769,964 for him on the track. Funny Cide, the winner of last year's Derby, was a son of Distorted Humor.
McCutcheon said her father named Distorted Humor after himself. "My mother was always telling him that he had a distorted sense of humor, so he decided that that would be a good name for one of his horses," McCutcheon said.
Reineman needed a sense of humor after War Emblem's Derby win at 20-1 odds. Two weeks later, the colt won the Preakness, but he was foiled in his bid for the Triple Crown -- and its $5-million bonus -- when he stumbled leaving the gate and finished eighth in the Belmont Stakes. War Emblem won three $1-million races -- the Haskell Handicap, in addition to the Derby and Preakness -- and was voted the year's best 3-year-old male horse. Salman, who was 43, died in July 2002, not long after the Preakness and less than two weeks before the Haskell.
On the advice of his trainer, Frank "Bobby" Springer, Reineman sold War Emblem after he had won the Illinois Derby. Springer, who thought that War Emblem was not cut out for the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles, was planning to run him in the shorter Preakness. Springer also was concerned about the bone chips that War Emblem had in his ankles and knees.
Salman paid $900,000 for 90% of the horse. Reineman said after the Derby that his core business, Crown Steel Sales Inc., was doing badly and that he had sold War Emblem to keep his horse operation afloat.
"I made a business decision, and I still think it was a good business decision," Reineman said later. "I'm not mad or disturbed. I was surprised by what the horse did in the Derby, but that's horse racing. A lot of my friends bet him and made money."
What bothered Reineman was that War Emblem had collected a $1-million bonus because of his wins in the Illinois and Kentucky Derbys. He sued Salman for his share. They eventually settled out of court, and Reineman was paid $315,000.
Reineman's 10% interest was also profitable. By the time War Emblem retired, at the end of 2002, he had post-sale earnings of more than $2 million for Reineman, who collected small shares of his race purses and was paid $1.7 million when War Emblem was sold to a Japanese breeding farm for $17 million.
Reineman's wife, Marian, died from injuries suffered in a riding accident in 1973.