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That is spoken like a true novice. But Guida is a true believer in Guida. His favorite maxim: "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
Guida owns all or part of 85 broodmares and 22 racehorses. His goal is to own a piece of the eight or 10 best stallions, while retaining controlling say-so in their management. "It's a business of dreams," says Guida, "but it's so easy. I buy racehorses and opportunities."
Guida has long been able to take advantage of opportunity. He shined shoes in Jersey City until he realized a way to make more money was to get other shoe-shine boys to work for him. He got a job as a typist for a pencil company for $28 a week—and saved most of it. He went to TV repair school. At one point he opened a car wash in Morrisville, Pa. "and started making very serious money." By age 30, he had $400,000 in cash "and I was going to own the world."
One night, Ed Moriarity, then manager of the Trenton Merrill Lynch office, showed up at the car wash and drove his new green Cadillac convertible onto the belt. Guida was so proud. The car started through but, inexplicably, the car behind the Caddie got loose and crashed into it. Guida was dumbstruck. He raced into the car wash to prevent further damage, yelling to his one employee—who couldn't speak English—to shut off the power. The power stayed on. Guida's foot got caught in the conveyor belt.
He was dragged through the jet wax, dragged through the rinse, and has a vivid recollection of glimpsing the sign: YOU ARE NOW PASSING THROUGH THE MOST POWERFUL BLOW DRYER IN THE WORLD. Finally, the machine was shut off. "Lou," Moriarity said, "you don't need this. Why don't you come to work for Merrill Lynch?" Says Guida, "He caught me at a weak moment."
In 1974, after going to the Liberty Bell track in Philadelphia with a friend, Guida took his first plunge into the buying of harness horses. He got involved with poor trainers and cheap horses and spent a lot of time wandering around the barns looking for a guy named Clem. "I was blinded," he admits. "I wanted to be taken. I was going to buck the odds and be a hero. Look at me, a big, tough businessman, and I'm telling some person I barely know to go spend whatever he wants on a horse. I'd never run my business that way. Why did I do it? Well, why do middle-aged men leave their wives for 18-year-old girls? It's thoughts of glamour. I bought every piece of junk that came down the road."
By the end of 1974 Guida had lost $300,000. One of his friends, a Floridian named Jack Sisto, says, "Thank God for wealthy guys on ego trips or this business would fall apart. How else would someone spend $90,000 or more on a yearling, never get him to the races, and come back next year for more?"
In the years since '74, Guida has kept coming back, but not for cheap horses, and not without some thought to his financial hide. "I'm not greedy," he says. "I'm quick to spread the risk."
Proof is that while he bought half of Niatross, he has already sold 37½% of the colt at what he estimates will be a $1.5 million profit over 10 years. This leaves Guida with 12½% ownership, his favorite percentage, and as syndicate manager, a strong say in Niatross' future. "I think Niatross is a great horse," says the canny Guida, "But if I knew he was that great, would I be selling?"