Horse Racing

Marlins Man’s first love? Horse racing

Laurence Leavy, who travels to baseball games as Marlins Man, also has a passion for thoroughbred horse racing.
Laurence Leavy, who travels to baseball games as Marlins Man, also has a passion for thoroughbred horse racing. Photo by Lauren King

Marlins Man wasn’t himself on Saturday.

Standing inside the paddock walking ring at Gulfstream Park, few recognized the middle-aged guy who has become a can’t-miss fixture at Major League Baseball games, a neon sign of a figure who wears a blood-orange Marlins jersey and visor while seated in a front-row seat directly behind home plate.

“It’s the first time in four years that I’ve shown up at a sporting event not dressed in orange,” he said while watching the horses head out to the track for the fourth. “I’m not Batman today. I’m his alter ego, Bruce Wayne.”

Sure enough, Marlins Man (real name Laurence Leavy) looked ordinary, like your average Joe. He wore a navy polo shirt with an understated Marlins logo, dark slacks and nice shoes.

“Whenever I wear orange and I go out, I get mobbed everywhere I go,” Leavy said. “So I really don’t have that much fun just being me. I wanted to come here and have fun [Saturday].”

Leavy wasn’t on hand for Gulfstream’s opening day to be noticed but to cheer on one of his horses, Starship Tribbles, in the first race on the first card of the meet. But the sixth-place outcome left him less than pleased.

“He should have won the race at 15-to-1,” he said. “I fired the jockey after that. I said to the trainer, ‘I’m Donald Trump. He’s fired.’ 

While most associate the South Florida lawyer with baseball and other professional team sports — as the ubiquitous Marlins Man — thoroughbred racing is his first love. He has been going to the races since he was 18 and began buying and claiming horses in the mid-1990s.

Leavy named his operation “Starship Stable,” which stems from his love for “Star Trek,” the 1960s science fiction TV series. All of the horses Leavy names contain the word “Starship.”

“I was a big ‘Star Trek’ fan, a huge ‘Trekkie,’ ” Leavy said. “What Trekkie means to me is how you deal with life. I learned how to deal with life and how to be a leader by watching Captain Kirk lead the Enterprise.”

At its peak, Leavy’s stable numbered 150 horses. He now has 75, which includes about 20 horses in training, 20 mares at his breeding farm in Ocala and 35 or so weanlings and yearlings.

“It’s my favorite sport,” Leavy said. “You know why? Here’s why. I can’t control the result of a baseball game.

“But here, I control the result. If I make the right decision and breed the right sire to the right mare, I can have a really good horse.”

Racing also provides Leavy with an escape, where he can be himself and not Marlins Man.

After the baseball season ended, Leavy ducked out of the limelight for a month. He lost 30 pounds — “like, two 15-pound bowling balls” — and grew a beard. He also determined that Gulfstream’s December-to-April “championship season” meshed perfectly with baseball’s April-to-November schedule.

It allows him to be Marlins Man part of the year and Laurence Leavy the other, without one interfering with the other.

“I figured out a way to have a balanced life,” he said with a smile. “I never figured it out until now.”