B. Wayne Hughes passes away at age 87

August 18, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. – We are very saddened to report the passing of B. Wayne Hughes who died peacefully today in his home at his beloved Spendthrift Farm with loving family by his side.

The longtime horse racing visionary and leader – best known within the industry for returning Spendthrift to prominence – was 87.

Hughes had been one of the sport’s most influential figures of the 21st century, with wide-ranging contributions that will forever impact Thoroughbred breeding and racing. He purchased Spendthrift in 2004 and traded in his residence of California for a life on the farm in Lexington. Hughes quickly began restoring the historic brand and its land, renovating almost all the farm’s signature structures and returning Spendthrift as a viable commercial breeding operation.

In 2008, he stood his first four home-raced stallions led by emerging kingpin sire Malibu Moon, who passed away this May at the age of 24. Hughes would revolutionize the business relationship between stallion owner and mare owner through ground-breaking programs, most notably “Share The Upside” which he designed to bonus the breeder with a vested interest in a stallion. Under Hughes, Spendthrift’s slogan became “The Breeders’ Farm” and he operated under a motto heard often by those who worked with him: ‘Breeders are the backbone of our industry’.

“We have to take care of the breeder and level the playing field between stallion owner and breeder,” said Hughes, upon launching Share The Upside in 2010. “You have people here, they have a farm, they need to sell their foal, they need to have a chance of making money. I need to provide the best investment programs I can. Breeders participate in making these stallions, so they should be participating in the success, too.” 

The inaugural stallion he offered through the Share The Upside program was his home-raced Grade One winner Into Mischief, who is now one of the most valuable horses in the world after a meteoric ascent to the top of the stallion ranks. Into Mischief is the reigning champion general sire in North America in 2019 & 2020 and is on a record-setting pace again in 2021.

Hughes also experienced his greatest successes as a racehorse owner with close relatives to Into Mischief. Beholder, a younger half-sister to the great sire, campaigned in Hughes’ famed quartered purple and orange colors to become one of only three female horses in history to be a four-time champion after taking Eclipse Award honors in 2012, 2013, 2015 & 2016. She was a three-time Breeders’ Cup champ and won 11 Grade Ones before retiring to Spendthrift where she currently resides as a broodmare.

After Beholder dominated males by 8 ¼ lengths in the 2015 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar, Hughes said: “I’ve had a few good horses in the past, but she is the first horse that makes me feel lucky to be the owner. I’ve never had that feeling before. I think it’s called pride.”

Last year, Hughes, in his 50th year as a racehorse owner, achieved the single greatest feat in horse racing by winning the elusive Kentucky Derby (G1) with the three-year-old colt Authentic – a son of Into Mischief. Authentic had become the embodiment of the pioneer spirit of Hughes, whose innovative marketing 10 years prior had given Into Mischief the best opportunity to become a successful sire. Authentic also represented that spirit through MyRacehorse.com, an upstart online horse racing ownership company that Hughes boldly championed by offering anyone with $206 an equity-based microshare of his Kentucky Derby contender. 

Nearly one year ago, Authentic won the Derby for Hughes, his partners and 5,314 every-day people who had bought in and came along for the journey. Authentic would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) over older horses last November with Hughes in attendance at Keeneland to accept the trophy in the winner’s circle. It would be the colt’s final start before retiring to stud duty at Spendthrift and being named as North America’s ‘Horse of the Year’ for 2020.

Born Bradley Wayne in Gotebo, Oklahoma, Hughes was raised the son of a sharecropper. He moved to California as a child and was introduced to horse racing by his father who took him to Santa Anita Park for the first time as an 11-year-old. Hughes was renowned for having an unparalleled work ethic from a young age, starting a newspaper delivery route as a teenager to help pay for college. He served as an officer in the Navy and went on to graduate from the University of Southern California before achieving tremendous success in business, starting such companies as Public Storage and American Homes 4 Rent.

Shortly after retiring as CEO of Public Storage in 2002, he turned much of his focus to horse racing and campaigned his first champion racehorse in 2003 when 2-year-old colt Action This Day captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Hughes’ home track of Santa Anita. It would be his first of six Breeders’ Cup wins and six Eclipse Award wins.

Said Hughes after being honored as the 2020 Galbreath Award winner by the University of Louisville: “Thoroughbred horse racing has been a tremendous passion of mine ever since my father took me to the races as a young boy. It’s something he and I got to share together, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to make it a large part of my life and share it with so many that are dear to me. There are few thrills greater than what horse racing can provide, and it is our responsibility to do a better job of improving this great sport so that future generations can enjoy it as much as I have.”

To have known Wayne Hughes is to know he loved life, his country, USC and its football team, the horses, and his family. Following the death of his youngest son Parker in 1998, Hughes passionately committed himself to the curing of childhood Leukemia, ultimately accomplishing astonishing results in that area.

Hughes was preceded in death by his father William Lawrence, his mother Blanche, and his son Parker. He is survived by his wife Patricia, his son Wayne Jr. (Molly), his daughter Tamara Gustavson (Eric), his grandchildren Kylie Barraza (Pat), Skylar Hughes, Grant and Greer Gustavson, his sister Sue Caldwell and family, Frank, Bill, Allen, and a host of beloved cousins and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the B. Wayne Hughes Fund at UK HealthCare, P.O. Box 34184, Lexington, KY, 40588.

Spendthrift Press Release

Photo: B. Wayne Hughes ( Spendthrift)

“For a different and unique perspective on horse racing, I read Jonathan Stettin’s Past the Wire.” Mike Smith, Hall of Fame, Triple Crown winning jockey

Mike Smith View testimonials