(Editor's Note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated where Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck was sold. She is a graduate of Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's July yearling sale. We apologize for the error.)
By Ray Paulick
One of the first questions any aspiring Thoroughbred owner asks is, “How much is this going to cost me?” There is no right or wrong answer, or than “it depends.”
Some newcomers are content to buy into partnerships, certainly the easiest way to become an owner and probably the most predictable from a cash outlay standpoint. Going in, you should know exactly what is expected of you from a financial standpoint, along with what is expected of the partnership in terms of services provided.
Others with a more independent streak will go it on their own, and there are different methods here, too: through claiming horses, buying at public auction, or breeding to race (listed in order by the time it takes to get some “action” for your investment).
While many are content to race at the lower or mid-levels of the sport, others want to compete at the highest end; in other words, by winning the Kentucky Derby, Breeders' Cup events, or other races in the American Graded Stakes program.
There are no guarantees that any amount of investment will put you in the Churchill Downs infield winner's circle on Derby Day, but winning the Derby or other American Graded Stakes does not have to cost a fortune.
Over the last 35 years, a number of Kentucky Derby winners brought bargain prices when they went through the auction ring prior to starting their racing careers. Some examples:
-Seattle Slew, 1977 Triple Crown winner, $17,500
-Sunday Silence, 1989 Kentucky Derby, $16,000
-Silver Charm, 1997 Kentucky Derby, $16,500
-Real Quiet, 1998 Kentucky Derby, $17,000
-Funny Cide, 2003 Kentucky Derby, $22,000
-Mine That Bird, 2009 Kentucky Derby, $9,500
On the female side, this year's Kentucky Oaks winner, Blind Luck, was an $11,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale and then offered for resale at a Florida 2-year-old sale. Her current owners bought her privately after she broke her maiden.
Seventy-seven horses that have won American Graded Stakes races so far this year were sold at public auction (this does not include those offered and bought back). A number of them were sold more than once. The average price of those transactions was $171,775, but the real sweet spot—that middle market price known as the median—was $110,000. That is pretty good value. In that group are some very nice horses, with solid pedigrees and now a racing resume to match.
Though Blind Luck may prove to be the auction bargain of the 2010 racing season, there are 10 others who sold for an even lower price and went on to win an American Graded Stakes:
-Bourbon Bay, $1,700, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Rey, San Juan Capistrano
-Medaglia D'Amour, $3,000, Wilshire Handicap
-Bob Black Jack, $4,500, San Carlos Handicap
-Atta Boy Roy, $4,500, Churchill Downs
-Tap It Light, $5,000, Tokyo City Cup
-Evening Jewel, $8,000, Ashland
-Tuscan Evening, $8,823, Monrovia, Buena Vista, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara Handicaps
-Gallant Son, $9,000, Inglewood Handicap
-Jody Slew, $9.,500, Silverbulletday Stakes
Congratulations to the buyers of those bargains, whether they went on to race the horses to AGS victories themselves, or sold them at subsequent auctions or through a private transaction.
Copyright © 2010, Ray Paulick
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