Lawrence Greenberg: Master of Big Boy Stable

Aug 11, 2021 | ASD History

Beausejour Boy and Lawrence Greenberg in 1978.

Beausejour Boy and Lawrence Greenberg in 1978.

by Bob Gates

“Lawrence was bigger than life. He was what I pictured a big owner to look like, just the way he carried himself. The stable name suited him to a tee.” — Irwin Driedger on Lawrence Greenberg

You hear phrases like “bigger than life” all the time, but in the case of Lawrence Greenberg, it fits. The cigar-chomping Greenberg was not a large imposing type, but he carried himself with the bravado of 10 men.

So grab a cup of coffee and take a seat in a comfy chair while we look at Lawrence’s Big Boy Stable (BBS) through the careers of some of its more influential thoroughbreds.

BBS came onto the local racing scene in 1976 and it wasn’t long before it made a big splash at Assiniboia Downs. The first noteworthy runner for the stable we’ll look at is the dark bay filly, Best of Two.

Sadly, Best of Two is a name I fear a great many of you will not know. Her four-race career lasted only four months and included only two starts in the BBS silks. You’re probably wondering what was so special about this young lady?

Best of Two was bred by Dr. Norm Anderson of Pinehurst Farms and from the school of you can’t keep them all, she was for sale from the get-go. Thing is there were no takers. After winning her first two races however, the Manitoba-bred filly was turning heads. At one point the filly’s price tag read $6,500, but not any longer. If you wanted her in your barn, it was going to cost you $15,000.

Best of Two wins 1976 Buffalo Stakes at Assiniboia Downs.

Best of Two wins 1976 Buffalo Stakes at Assiniboia Downs.

Marcel Chartier’s Wescana Stables was interested and ready to pull the trigger on the sale but wanted to see the filly work before closing the deal. Chartier cancelled an arranged Saturday morning viewing, deciding that Sunday was better. However, on Saturday night, Lawrence Anonychuk offered a cheque on behalf of BBS for the full purchase price of $15,000, which Anderson accepted, much to the chagrin of Wescana Stables. Free Press racing columnist Elman Guttormson identified the BBS owners as Frank Allen and Sharon Greenberg.

Besides Lawrence Greenberg, the members of the BBS grew to include Robert Kozminski, Dr. Ian Maxwell, Albert De Fehr, Wayne Jackiew and Peter Dimitrov.  Lawrence Anonychuk trained for BBS from 1976 to 1979 with Brian Palaniuk taking the reins in mid-1979.

Running for BBS, Best of Two won what was her third career outing, the Buffalo Stakes, and was pointed to the inaugural running of the La Verendrye Stakes.  Wednesday, August 11, 2021, marks the 45th anniversary of this stakes and the accompanying heartbreak of the tragedy of Best of Two. In only her second race for BBS, Best of Two pulled up lame at the three-eighths pole. At the time, the filly had left the field in her wake and was leading by 12 lengths. Jockey Jimmy Anderson said he just couldn’t get her to slow down and run easy.

Anderson explained she never took a bad step, rather she was just running faster than her young tender legs would allow. It was a catastrophe of epic proportions.  In an odd twist of fate, Doc Anderson, the man responsible for bringing the filly into the world, was the one who ended her suffering.

It was a huge loss in the life of Greenberg’s young stable. When asked for a comment he could only say that they would try to replace her. It is impossible to measure, the effect the filly’s death had on BBS, but by all accounts, there was something special about Best of Two that the world of racing was forever denied.

Posthumously in 1977, the CTHS and HBPA both named Best of Two the top Manitoba-bred 2-year-old filly. In sweet memory of Best of Two, we shall not forget!

Following the demise of its star performer the stable picked themselves up and regrouped. In September 1976, Greenberg asked his trainer Lawrence Anonychuk to attend the Keeneland yearling sale and purchase some runners.  This time their investment totaled $25,000.

Anonychuk saw a yearling that caught his attention, and all other purchases were history. The yearling by Verbatim came with a $25,000 price tag and trainer Anonychuk returned home with one horse in tow. Greenberg named the nicely bred colt Beausejour Boy for his Manitoba hometown. As for his breeding, Verbatim was well regarded and had sired multiple stakes-winner Incorporator.  He would also sire Summing, the winner of the 1981 Belmont Stakes.

At three, Beausejour Boy won the Fort Garry, Maple Leaf and Voyager Handicaps. At four he won the Manitoba Maturity. Beausejour Boy could test a trainer’s patience. When he was in the mood to run, he was a game competitor, but if he wasn’t, he looked less than ordinary.

As nice a runner as he was, Beausejour Boy’s value was to come as a breeding stallion. In 1980 he was sold to a syndicate of Ivan Dowler & Sons, Harvey Lockshin and Mike Smith.

Another good one from BBS was Mr. Macho. Macho ran at the Downs in 1979 and 80 as a 2- and 3-year-old. The graded stakes-placed grey’s strength was as a distance runner. Like most horses, Macho could run a furlong in 12 seconds, and on its own that’s not impressive, but he could run them back-to-back and all day long.  If you put enough 24-second quarters together they start to look good when racing at 1 1/8-miles and longer.

Mr. Macho finishes second in the 1980 Manitoba Derby.

Mr. Macho finishes second in the 1980 Manitoba Derby.

His unique combination of speed and stamina likely came from his dam, Hangin Round, who was by 1968 Belmont Stakes winner Stage Door Johnny. At three, Mr. Macho won the Norway House Handicap and the Manitoba Derby Trial and finished second in the Manitoba Derby.

As 1980 progressed BBS was starting to unravel. One member of the syndicate, Dr. Ian Maxwell, knew a good horse when he saw it and purchased Mr. Macho from the stable. Success followed for Maxwell with Macho making a name for himself running on the turf at Ontario tracks.

As we wind-up this chronicle of the BBS, we turn to their largest success story, but one that never ran at Assiniboia Downs. Par Excellance was a bay filly who was the daughter of multiple Canadian Champion and Horse of the Year L’Enjoleur. Greenberg’s BBS and Irving Nacht raced under the stable name Knightsbridge, which paid $45,000 for Par Excellance.

At two, Par Excellance she won the Ontario Debutante, Princess Elizabeth, and Natalma Stakes.  At three, she won the Canadian Oaks. The marvelous bay was named the 1979 Sovereign Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly and the 1980 Sovereign Award Champion 3-Year-Old Filly. In 1980 Big Boy and Knightsbridge Stables sold the filly for $650,000.

Par Excellance wins Canadian Oaks. June 21, 1980. Woodbine Racetrack.

Par Excellance wins Canadian Oaks. June 21, 1980. Woodbine Racetrack.

Who knew?

–  In May 1978, BBS’s Friend Jack made racing history at Assiniboia Downs.  It was the first time two horses with the same name had raced at the Downs. The “new” Friend Jack was named after the “Friend Jack” who last raced at the Downs in August 1960.

–  Mr. Macho’s second place finish to Country Free in the 1980 Manitoba Derby came only after the winner survived a claim of foul lodged by Macho’s rider Irwin Driedger. Turns out this was the fourth claim of foul that Country Free had faced in his young career and every foul claim was disallowed.

–  Par Excellance’s biggest win was the 1980 Canadian Oaks. This was the same race in which Avelino Gomez died of complications after a three-horse accident.

BBS was on life support come the latter part of 1980. The big splash of 1976 was now a ripple. The stable had run its course and Lawrence Greenberg and Big Boy Stable’s name evaporated from the Manitoba racing scene forever…

But wasn’t it a party!

Wasn't it a party! Manitoba Derby 1980.

Wasn’t it a party! Manitoba Derby 1980.