If you ask Arthur J. Brown if he prefers dealing with horses or people, don't be surprised if he says horses.
In the 1960s, Brown was one of the originators of the American Basketball Association and the New York Nets. He didn't stay in that business long.
"It was just too much, coping with the ballplayers. I didn't want to get overinvolved and I was getting involved and I just couldn't afford it," said Brown.
Brown now manages the A B C Stables, one of racing's most successful. In 1984, Brown won harness racing's most prestigious race, the Hambletonian, with Historic Freight. This Saturday, Brown will be at Rosecroft to watch his 3-year-old colt Freight Saver run in the $213,914 William E. Miller Memorial, the richest race in harness racing thus far this year.
Which may explain why Brown likes horses.
Brown, 75, began going to the harness races 65 years ago at Maywood in suburban Chicago. He lives in Fort Lee, N.J., "about 12 minutes" from the Meadowlands, "maybe eight minutes if you want to make a race."
Brown became a regular harness racing fan in 1940 when Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island began night racing. "I was interested in horses, although I was in the freight business," he said. "When they came out and they raced at night, that interested me because I had someplace to go."
What began as a pastime led to A B C Stables, which Brown started in the 1940s but is now owned by his son and daughter. The stable has 12 horses racing, all bred by Brown.
"All our horses are stakes horses," Brown said.
And one, Historic Freight, almost got away from A B C Stables. "We wanted to see if we should enter him into the Hambletonian, but we couldn't get a race for him to see how good he was," Brown said. "As a result, we put him in a claiming race."
Fortunately for Brown, Historic Freight was not claimed. "Then we put him into the Beacon, and he won it, and the next week he won the Hambletonian," said Brown.
The stable star is Freight Saver, who was sired by Niatross. Last year, Freight Saver scored victories in divisions of the Goshen Cup, Hanover, Fox (at Indianapolis, where he paced his fastest time of 1:55) and Kentucky Pacing Derby at Louisville.
Last September, Freight Saver was racing as one of the favorites in the $367,850 Kentucky Pacing Derby final against co-favorite Armbro Elvis when "something strange happened and Armbro Elvis got over the finish line and dropped dead," Brown recalled. "Our horse was behind him and never had a lick of speed. After that incident in Louisville, we just couldn't get him well." Freight Saver lost his next four starts before quitting for the season.
He came back strong in his first start this year, winning at the Meadowlands in 1:55 1/5 for the mile. Now Brown is hoping Freight Saver fares better in the Miller final than in last Saturday's elimination, when the horse finished third.