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- THE WEEKSOUTHWESTN. Brooks Clark | November 07, 1983
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I suppose at one time or another all of us, carried away by the happy emotions of cashing a winning ticket or merely by watching a beautiful racer in action, have turned to a friend and said, in effect, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to own a race horse. I wonder how much it would cost."
Let's see just what the new owner of today is getting himself in for when, having decided to attend an important yearling sale, he also finally decides to join in the bidding. Our hypothetical case is that of a newcomer starting from scratch. His qualifications, as he shows up at the Saratoga sales pavilion, include a love of the sport, an optimistic outlook and a healthy bank account.
Our owner winds up by bidding a colt in for the average price of $10,000, cash on the barrel. Even before he can find a trainer, Mr. Owner will be approached by a representative of an insurance concern, most probably Lloyds of London, who will suggest the usual full mortality policy at 4�%. Before he signs it, and after quickly figuring that it will cost him $450 a year to insure his yearling, it will be explained to him that he will collect the full purchase price only if the horse dies from natural causes, is killed or has to be destroyed. There is no payment whatsoever on a horse who just breaks down—or, worse yet, on one who simply doesn't win races.
Next comes the trainer. Our man will go to a reputable trainer of a public stable, a man who makes his living by training for more than one owner. For our purposes, let us assume that Mr. Owner is an Easterner who has selected a trainer who spends the winters in Florida and the summers in New York. While explaining this to his new client, the trainer also fills him in on a few other items of expense. His fee, for instance, will be about $14 a day—365 days a year, for horse racing knows no such thing as the five-day week—which will total up to $5,110 a year. For this fee the trainer will have full charge of the race horse. He will supply the horse's feed, all tack, including saddles, bridles and racing equipment with the exception of blinkers (at $9.50 a pair) and a light and heavy paddock piece (blankets), which, if they are initialed, will cost the owner $30 apiece. In addition to the trainer's basic $14 per diem rate, he will charge his client an extra amount, usually averaging 50� a day per horse, as his share of workman's compensation to give full protection to the trainer's stable help—just a matter of $182 a year.
The next morning the yearling must leave the Saratoga sales barns to begin his new life. The trainer directs the colt to an associate in Kentucky who will take the yearling from mid-August until mid-November for the purpose of breaking him. The cost of shipping the colt to Lexington from Saratoga runs to about $150, and, once there, the man who will break him charges $10 a day—or a basic fee of $900 for three months. He will also charge $8 a month for a stall and about $10 a month for blacksmith fees. The owner's $14 a day due to his trainer won't start until mid-November, when the trainer takes official possession of the colt at Hialeah after a trip from Lexington by rail at an approximate cost of $150.
Now both owner and trainer start thinking about their mutual responsibility in terms of a future racer. The owner is advised to design a set of colored racing silks, which, after being submitted to The Jockey Club in New York, are usually modified so as not to conflict with the more than 1,500 sets of colors already registered. The cost: $25 for lifelong registration. Colors then must be registered in each state in which you race—usual fee is $1—and an owner's license at about $10 must be taken out for each state. Two sets of silks will be bought at a cost of $35 each.
It is too much to expect any horse, no matter how glistening and healthy he may appear in the sales ring, to go very long without requiring the services of a veterinarian. In the course of a normal year an average vet's bill for a 2-year-old would be around $325 and would include treatment for such standard, run-of-the-mill ailments as worms, coughs, and bucked shins—all in addition to periodic blood tests and doses of tonic. There will also be a matter of blacksmith fees, which will be around $250 a year.
Mr. Owner's colt, now wintering at Hialeah although he may be far from ready to make his first start, must be considered (for a price of $10,000) good enough, eventually, to run in, and even win, a stake. It will cost about $500 to nominate him for a number of representative stakes in his first season of racing. You do this, of course, knowing full well that he may never start in any of them.
During this first year, naturally, there will be other transportation costs: $150 to ship the horse from Florida to Belmont Park and later on another $200 for the round trip from New York to Saratoga. Jockeys' insurance, required by law, can run to a minimum of about $120 a year. If your colt is lucky enough to start 10 times during that year the jockey fees will be $200—or $20 a ride.
The figures quoted above may appear to be staggering. They are. The total for our hypothetical case comes to $8,867. Remember, these are the average basic figures for maintaining one horse through just his first racing year.