OwnerView’s third Thoroughbred Owner Conference got underway Monday, as part of a three-day stand at Santa Anita Park preceding Breeders’ Cup championship weekend.
The conference is being hosted by OwnerView, a resource developed by The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, with the objective to spur new owners into racing by providing them insight on aspects of Thoroughbred ownership needed to be successful in the game.
Launched in 2012, OwnerView’s genesis was birthed from an economic study of Thoroughbred racing conducted the year prior and commissioned by The Jockey Club that showed a need for a resource to encourage ownership in the sport.
Day one of the conference focused on business considerations for racehorse ownership. The panelists were Thoroughbred owners George Bolton and Michael McMahon, bloodstock agent Peter Bradley, equine accountant Jen Shah, equine attorney Shannon Arvin, and trainer Ken McPeek. Topics of discussion included breeding, buying and claiming racehorses, developing business plans, legal issues and more.
Longtime and new owners attended the first panel, which was held at Santa Anita’s FrontRunner Restaurant, with Tom Durkin as the master of ceremonies and Millie Ball from XBTV as the moderator.
The panel kicked off with discussing the importance of having a business plan when jumping into Thoroughbred Ownership, and easing into the game.
“The first thing that I did is that I bought one or two horses a year, a horse at a time,” Bolton said. “I really didn’t have a good horse until 2004.”
Added Bolton, “It’s really important to have a three to four year plan with ethical advisors. I got involved with guys with ethics who bought me good horses,” said Bolton, who was introduced to horse racing from Bill Farish, son of Lane’s End Farm’s William S. Farish III, while the two were fraternity brothers at the University of Virginia.
Bolton talked with enthusiasm about syndication as well.
“If Bob Baffert offers you a nice horse, get in,” Bolton exclaimed with a laugh. “You need to have the right team and have people around you that you trust, until you have success in the game.”
The panel shared some of its best accounting and legal practices in Thoroughbred ownership as well. Equine accountant Jen Shah, for example, said it’s important to be organized and keep horse operations separate from other business ventures.
When asked about the possibility of making money in the racing industry, Shah had some heedful advice.
“It is a risky business,” she said. “You must know what you can lose.”
The conversation then shifted to panelists’ insight on finding the right horses in the sales ring. For Mike McMahon, founder and co-owner of Bourbon Lane Stables, it’s about matching physicality with market quality.
“I’m a real physical buyer,” McMahon said. “Buying a Tapit that I could afford wouldn’t be a good move for me. Sometimes buying the best yearling or 2-year-old with a colder sire and a good female family, who looks good, is a smarter choice.”
But the most important theme stressed throughout the discussion was having patience as a Thoroughbred owner.
“The horse tells you when he’s ready to run,” said bloodstock advisor Peter Bradley of Bradley Thoroughbreds LLC. “That’s a hallmark of the very best trainers.”
Trainer Ken McPeek, on hand for the discussion, concurred with those sentiments.
“I always tell everyone that get started with me [in owning Thoroughbreds] that you have a rule of five; one can’t run, one refuses to run, one gets hurt, one’s a nice little horse you had fun with and one’s a really nice horse that makes you forget about the other four,” McPeek said.
On what owners he prefers working for, McPeek added, “I like working for people who lose well, it makes it so much more fun and easier. And then when you win, you got to know how to handle that too,” he added. “Just enjoy the ride.”
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