“If Si Jayne liked your horse and made you an offer,” a Chicago horseperson once said, “you’d better let him have it, or he’d get it somehow, even if he had to kill it.”
By 1987, when he died of leukemia at age 80, successful horse breeder and show jumper Silas Jayne had spent the better part of a lifetime terrorizing a genteel sport. His best-known victim was his brother George, whom Si had murdered by hit men.
Erstwhile partners, the millionaire brothers had a falling out in the early ’60s over deals gone sour, insurance scams, horse doping, and George’s refusal to go along with the firebombing of competitors’ barns (though both once beat a rival jumper senseless).
“I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch,” Si screamed at his sibling, after Si’s former rider Cherie Rude won a prestigious event for George at Oakbrook in 1961. Over time, the threat was oft-repeated (“I’ll get you,” “You’re as good as dead,” “You’ll never make it home”), all while George suffered sugar in his gas tank, stable hands shot at, and prize steeds poisoned. In 1965, a car bomb meant for George exploded and killed Rude. Si got off after witnesses recanted testimony.
George was ultimately gunned down in 1970 while at home playing bridge with his family. Defended by F. Lee Bailey, Si was convicted of “conspiracy” and served nine years. A few years after release, he was charged by a federal grand jury (and later acquitted) of arranging a fire in Wisconsin that destroyed 33 valuable equines.
It’s people like Si Jayne who give horse shows a bad name.