A Classy Champion, 1989 Belmont Stakes Winner Easy Goer
Racing Loses Loyal Owner With Passing of Hall of Fame Basketball Coach CrumPop CultureContent provided by BloodHorse
Twenty years into his retirement from a Hall of Fame career in college basketball, Denny Crum was at the Keeneland sales pavilion shopping for a stakes winner with trainer Dallas Stewart.
This was no new venture for Crum, who had been a racehorse owner since the mid-1970s and bred nearly a dozen winners through the late 1980s and ‘90s. Thoroughbred racing was yet another outlet for the man who loved to compete, whether it was basketball, golf, fishing, horse racing, or poker.
The sports world lost that competitor May 9. He was 86.
“We were at a fish fry the night before the sale and he told me, ‘I want to get another good horse,’ “ recalled Stewart. “I told him there was a good one selling the next day. I picked him up at his house the next day, and we went and bought him.”
Crum went to $825,000 to buy Strava, then a 2-year-old son of Into Mischief out of stakes winner Catch My Drift, whom Stewart had been training for WinStar Farm and Siena Farm. The colt had won his debut at Keeneland.
“I’ve decided at my age  there is no reason to save any money,” Crum told BloodHorse after buying Strava during the 2021 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. “So, I wanted a good horse, and I think we got one. It cost us a little more than I thought it would, but still, [he is] the best horse here.”
Strava didn’t become a stakes winner for Crum and Stewart, but he put them in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs following an allowance race and came close in stakes competition by finishing third in stakes at Ellis Park and Churchill. Crum raced Strava with Siena Farm and WinStar Farm, who were so excited Crum bought the colt that they stayed in as partners.
Stewart had already put Crum in the winner’s circle on many occasions, including with his best runner, Nasty Storm. The daughter of Gulch was acquired after she was bought back for $45,000 at the 1999 Keeneland September yearling sale. Crum raced her with Daryl Elser, Riley McDonald, Joseph Riccelli, and Stewart as partners.
Nasty Storm would win or place in eight graded stakes, which included wins in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap, Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap, and Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes. She also was second in the Spinaway Stakes and third in the Test Stakes, both Grade 1 races. After earning $754,157 while racing from 2 to 5, Nasty Storm was sold for $1.075 million to Frank Stronach at the 2002 Keeneland November sale.
Stewart met Crum while he was an assistant trainer for D. Wayne Lukas, who had a few horses for the legendary coach who led the University of Louisville Cardinals to six Final Fours and won national titles in 1980 and 1986. He made the NCAA Tournament 23 times in his 30 seasons. Crum also oversaw Louisville’s move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Metro Conference to Conference USA, according to ESPN.com, and his teams won 15 regular-season conference championships in the two leagues.
“I don’t have enough time to tell you what a great man he was — world class, world champion, upstanding, and he was just a winner in everything around him,” Stewart said. “He was a wonderful man who loved the game.”
Crum campaigned 21 winners as an owner, which also included Grade 2-placed stakes winner Medium Cool, who was trained by Lukas and finished second in the Fayette Stakes at Keeneland. Crum raced Medium Cool in partnership with Elser.
Crum, a native of San Fernando, Calif., played basketball at UCLA under another coaching legend, John Wooden, and later joined the Bruins’ staff as an assistant. UCLA captured three national titles during Crum’s time there, according to ESPN.com.
In 1993, Crum became the second-fastest coach to win 500 games. Nicknamed “Cool Hand Luke” for his calm demeanor, he had a 675-295 mark at Louisville before retiring in 2001, according to ESPN.com.