Horses have taken Dan Pride to some interesting places where he has met some interesting people. Sure, he started his career at the very bottom—shoveling stables. But now he works for the ruler of Dubai and had even met the late Queen Elizabeth II; they discussed one of their shared lifelong passions—horses.
But the royal meet-and-greet circuit is not the reason Pride AB ’91 has spent the last 23 years in the horse racing business.
“It’s a massive cross-section of people who are drawn to this sport—their backgrounds, the socioeconomic status,” says Pride, the COO of Godolphin USA, the North American branch of the largest thoroughbred racing and breeding operation in the world.
“I was drawn to the horse first and the sport second,” he continues. “The horse is what keeps you in it.”
And there is no shortage of horses at Godolphin, where Pride is based at Jonabell Farms. The collection of farms sits on 6,000 acres outside Lexington, Kentucky; it houses about 600 horses and employs more than 150 people. Godolphin USA is part of the wider Godolphin universe, which spans four continents and was founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai. Godolphin is actually two different divisions—one for breeding and one for racing. Pride splits his time between them. The breeding side alone is a $50 million a year business.
Pride manages personnel, client relationships, and talent identification. Talented horses, to be specific.
“You can look at a horse physically. Sometimes he looks different than everybody else, and he moves differently,” Pride says. “Horses are herd animals, and they have that competitive spirit. There is going to be a hierarchy, but you never really know until they run in a race.”
Pride grew up around horses in Nashville, where he got his first pony when he was 4.
He came to UGA to play football. A defensive back, Pride walked on his freshman year. He was a starter on the JV team, and while he suited up in silver britches for the varsity on a couple of occasions, he never took the field.
Pride’s college football career ended his sophomore year, and he devoted his time to his studies. He also acquired a horse, which he boarded at the farm of sociology professor Harold Nix.
After graduating with a history degree, both Pride and his wife, Beth AB ’90, MEd ’92, worked as teachers and coaches in South Carolina. Pride’s interest in horses and racing didn’t subside, though. One summer, he even worked at Delaware Park outside Wilmington.
In 1999, they decided to make a go of it in the horse business and moved to Lexington. Pride started at the very bottom as a groom. The tools of his trade included a brush (for the horses) and a shovel.
Godolphin’s predecessor, Darley, hired Pride in 2002 to manage their stallions. By 2006, he was named CEO of U.S. operations. “I have this theory that if you are trustworthy, and you work hard, and you have basic people skills, you can go a long way,” Pride says.
Godolphin experienced its biggest success in 2021, when its horse Essential Quality won the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work, and while Godolphin did not have a horse run in any Triple Crown races in 2022, Essential Quality is now retired and back in Lexington hoping to sire the next generation of champions.
This story will appear in the Fall 2022 issue of Georgia Magazine.