Noted Seattle businessman Herman Sarkowsky was a major league owner in football (Seattle Seahawks), basketball (Portland Trailblazers), soccer (Seattle Sounders) and on both the local and national Thoroughbred racing scene.
Born in Germany in 1925, his family immigrated to the US in 1934 to escape Nazi Germany. The 1949 University of Washington graduate first got involved with horse racing in 1960 with a low-level Oregon-bred claimer named Forin Sea, who he raced in partnership with 2008 Washington Racing Hall of Fame trainer Glen Williams.
The Washington-bred Crafty Patient, who won the 1971 Bay Meadows Futurity and was second in three other stakes at two, was Sarkowsky’s first good runner.
Sarkowsky’s first major horse was five-time graded stakes winner Pass the Glass, a 1971 son of Buckpasser who he raced with longtime partners Martin and Pam Wygod and who would later become a useful sire in California.
Sarkowsky and Wygod teamed to take homebred Pirate’s Glow to the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in 1984, where the runner was bumped in the stretch by first-place finisher Fran’s Valentine, who was demoted to tenth. Grade 1-placed Pirate’s Glow earned $179,005.
Nine years later Sarkowsky’s Phone Chatter would not only win that race but earn the Eclipse Award as the best two-year-old filly. Her dam, the Pass the Glass mare Passing My Way, was a half-sister to 1968 Washington horse of the year Hooplah.
1989 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) runner-up Mr. Greeley, who would later become a prominent sire, was also bred by Sarkowsky.
Sarkowsky also raced 1984 Washington champion three-year-old and sprinter, and later sire, Sharper One with Ned Skinner’s Swiftsure Stable. His first Washington champion as a breeder was 1994 champion sophomore colt Aponus All.
The Seattle business leader also had successful racing partnerships with Eugene Klein and Gerald J. Ford’s Diamond A Racing Corporation. Sarkowsky bred Grade 1 winner and major sire Dixie Union and raced him with Ford.
In 1998, Sarkowsky chose Woodstead Farm to stand his well-bred Seattle Slew son He’s Tops, whose promising race career had been cut short after an early surgery due to pneumonia. Among the stallion’s 13 stakes winners have been five state champions, highlighted by three Washington horses of the year.
Two of He’s Tops’ state champions were bred and raced by Sarkowsky and one would give the Seattle businessman what he called “the biggest thrill I’ve ever experienced in racing.”
After finishing third with *Titular II in the 1971 Longacres Mile, the marquee race had been on Sarkowsky’s “most wanted list.” That wish would be fulfilled when his homebred No Giveaway proved victorious in the 2005 edition of the Grade 3 event.
No Giveaway’s older full sister Youcan’ttakeme wasn’t too shabby either. She would earn two state championships and produce two stakes winners for Sarkowsky. The two titleholders’ dam, Takeaway, was named Washington broodmare of the year in 2005.
Other major runners bred and/or raced by Sarkowsky include Grade 1 winner Dixie Chatter and Grade 2 winners Supercilious, Spectacular Sue and Cat Chat.
Sarkowsky was among the founding members of Northwest Racing Associates LP (Emerald Downs), where he served on the board. He also served on the board of directors at Hollywood Park and was among the sponsors who contributed to building the Morris J. Alhadeff Sales Pavilion.
The noted philanthropist and civic leader, who passed away in November 2014, also served on the board of regents for his alma mater and was a board member for the Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Charitable Foundation, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Repertory Theater, PONCHO, as well as serving on many other corporate boards.