The Glorious Insanity Of Owning A Racehorse Part III

There was a young horse called Green Monkey, though he ran much more like a donkey, he cost $16 mil, gave too little thrill, and now spends his days shagging flunkies...
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If you had a spare $60 million or so you might have enough to have a tilt at winning the America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013. You’d a need ball-tearing boat with cutting-edge technology, months of tuning with a ripped, experienced crew and the best helmsman and onboard tactician money can buy.

This, if you like, is the Intelligent Design approach to achieving mega-rich sporting success. The Darwinian way in might be to buy a racehorse. Well, that’s not quite right as the thoroughbred game is nothing to do with natural selection; everything to do with selected breeding wholly manipulated by man. The ‘industry’ puts great store in the genes, but it doesn’t always, doesn’t often work out.

The most money ever paid for a racehorse was at auction in Florida in 2006.

An unraced 2 year-old colt went for $16,000,000 and was subsequently named The Green Monkey. We’ll come back to him later.

The ‘green-eyed monster’ – Shakespeare’s take on jealousy – is another creature altogether. It can jump out at you very early in racehorse ownership. It doesn’t give a damn that you have only a one-hundredth syndicate share in a pair of promising 2 year-old fillies. It’ll get you.  I’ve started following the nascent career of another 2 year-old, a horse called Maybe. She has already run five times in her first season and has won all five races. Maybe’s winnings so far amount to £230,000 as against our syndicate prize money haul to date of £1,849.

Maybe will probably run next at the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamps, on the outskirts of Paris, the last big event of the European flat racing season. The prize money! The schmoozing with sheiks and the boozing with mates!

Maybe is owned by Michael Tabor and was bought as a yearling for £300,000.

She’s a Galileo filly, a nice type. Lucky bastard, this Tabor bloke, to have the money and to own this horse.

But. Michael Tabor was also a one-third owner of The Green Monkey. It raced three times, came third once and was unplaced twice. Then it was quickly retired from racing to stand at stud, where connections have optimistic hopes of charging a fee of $5,000 per mare. $16,000,000 shelled out, then $10,500 in prize money and now a bargain basement bonk. That’s racing.

$16,000,000 shelled out, then $10,500 in prize money and now a bargain basement bonk. That’s racing.

If Tabor’s Maybe and The Green Monkey are extremes of the luck involved in racehorse ownership, then the average expectation, according to The Racehorse Owners’ Association, is that for every £100 an owner spends, he or she will only see £20 as a return on investment. Mug’s game!

Yet you don’t go into this (even in a diluted syndicate way as I’ve done) with a young horse if you don’t cling to the hope that the genes will do the biz and that luck is on your side. One of our two – Shestheman – is a Manduro filly so her sire was, in the opinion of André Fabre, trainer of the 2011 Derby winner, ‘the best horse I ever trained, and by a good margin’. Shestheman has yet to appear on the track but was foaled just 13 days after the prodigious Maybe (in February 2009). The very different development rates of young horses is a mystery to a novice owner like me, but part of it could be down the trainer’s view as to what is best for an individual horse’s longer-term prospects. The syndicateur must refrain from the email that shouts ‘Come on, get her out on the track! There’s no prize money to be won in grass munching contests in the back paddock’. Such outbursts are considered bad form in a business where a leading axiom is ‘the trainer knows best’, as reflected in annual training fees (all up) that work out at about £20,000 per horse.

I suppose I could have gone down the ‘Intelligent Design’ yacht route to extending my sporting interests and involvement, but with my wherewithal I would have become a part owner of two dinghies in Porthcawl. I’m happy with horses.

To see what a $16 million thoroughbred looks like:

The Glorious Insanity Of Owning A Racehorse Part IThe Glorious Insanity Of Owning A Racehorse Part II

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