Curlin's rise, Clearwater ties

A local businessman is part owner of the Preakness winner.

Published May 22, 2007

As Curlin made his last-second break Saturday to win the Preakness Stakes, on the sidelines stood a Clearwater businessman who had waited years to own such a winning horse.

Satish Sanan's passion for horse racing blossomed when he was a young student in London, betting at the track to help himself through university.

When he opened his technology business in Clearwater with three employees in 1988, the love of racing still burned bright, but dreams of being an owner would wait a decade while he made his fortune.

Sanan scored big at the Preakness Stakes, 10 years after he started buying thoroughbreds. Curlin ran a spectacular final eighth of a mile, catching Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense near the wire and winning by a head.

"That's what you live for," Sanan, 58, said in an interview Monday. "That's what this game is all about."

Horse racing is a big money sport. Sanan and three partners paid roughly $3.5-million for a stake in Curlin after seeing him blow away the field by nearly 13 lengths in his debut race in February.

It's proved a good move. Curlin had a record-tying time at the Preakness and has a 4-1 record, with his only loss being a third-place finish May 5 in the Kentucky Derby.

Sanan, a student of engineering, electronics and computer science in his youth, started Information Management Resources nearly 20 years ago in a tiny, 900-square-foot office on U.S. 19 in Clearwater.

The company specialized in outsourcing software development abroad. Sanan's little company grew to become IMRGlobal, a company boasting 42 offices in seven countries. He played a key role in the movement of technology labor to India, where Sanan had software teams working out bugs as the "Y2K" challenge loomed.

The company was sold in 2001 for $438-million.

But by 1997, Sanan had earned enough to get into horse racing at the level of his choosing. He began paying top dollar for young talent and over the last decade estimates he's invested about $150-million in his horses.

Sanan had some notable victories before the Preakness, including three Breeders' Cup triumphs. But he admits not all of his money has been well-spent.

Some of it, he believes, was siphoned away by unscrupulous insiders who work horse racing's margins. Four years ago, he launched an ongoing campaign to end what he calls "unethical practices," such as horse agents taking commissions from both buyers and sellers.

His latest business venture, which does outsourcing for the health care industry, is Zavata Inc.

At the Kentucky Derby, Sanan said Curlin struggled to break cleanly from the gate and had difficulty early on with his footing, but was closing hard once he had settled in.

Early trouble again at the Preakness had Sanan worried.

"He was on his knees when he broke out of the gate and I thought we were done again," Sanan said. "He came back and won. That's the piece that very few horses have."

Sanan has great hopes for the future of Padua Stables in Ocala, which he owns with his wife, Anne. The stable is a family affair. His daughter is general manager and his son, assistant racing manager.

It's every owner's dream to win a Triple Crown race, or better yet all three. And who knows? That future champion may come from Padua. But right now, Sanan is focused on whether Curlin will be running in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

By this time next week, Sanan said that decision will likely have been made by Curlin's trainer after the horse's mental and physical readiness have been gauged.

"If he's ready, we will go for it," Sanan said. "And if he's not ready, I think he's established himself as a great horse."

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

Fast Facts: Satish Sanan
Residence: Clearwater
Biography: Born in India, he moved to England at age 17 to study. He started Information Management Resources in 1988, which grew into IMRGlobal. The company sold in 2001 for $438-million. Sanan started Padua Stables in Ocala in 1998, which he now operates with his family.