For Sale - a Race Horse

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When I was a child growing up in a coal patch in Western Pennsylvania, my brothers and I had a weekly date at the Sutersville Theater. There for .25 cents (popcorn was extra) we could watch movies. Our favorites were shoot-em-up westerns, comedies and anything starring Mickey Rooney.

One of my favorite Mickey Rooney films was about horse racing. He was a poor kid who somehow ended up owning a race horse. The plot involved a list of colorful characters, the training and of course the big race where everything was on the line.

Along with a lot of other people, I have often dreamed of owning a race horse. Who would not want to be the owner of a thoroughbred running in a $100,000 race or even the prestigious Kentucky Derby?

Well, I am here to tell you today that it is easier than ever to own a share of a race horse.

Recent events have upped the stakes and made ownership of a thoroughbred much more manageable for the average person. While race horse ownership is not for everybody -- it can become quite expensive to own, train and feed a horse -- it could be an excellent and even profitable venture.

Before you see how much money you have in your checking account, ask yourself if you have the knowledge to select the right yearling to buy at auction, from a private owner or even in a claiming race.

Analyze the costs. While you may be able to purchase a horse fairly cheap, say in the several thousand dollar range, the cost of training, feed and veterinary bills can add up over a year's time.

You may also want to get involved in a Class A or Class B horse owning partnership. These are generally listed in the Daily Racing Form or by doing an Internet search on Bloodhorse.com.

In a Class A ownership, you can be a single investor if you have the money or join other investors in buying either a single horse or a group of horses.

There is also a Class B ownership where the shares are broken down in groups of 100 with the trainer owning 20 percent of the shares and the partners such as yourself dividing up the balance. The trainer is paid based on the horse's earnings. As the principal shareholder, the trainer is responsible for choosing the jockey and the races in which the animal will compete.

Race horse ownership is a rapidly growing cottage industry because of several factors. Race tracks throughout North America are adding slot machines, poker rooms and casino operations to the tracks. In states like Pennsylvania, a portion of the revenues generated by the gambling tables and slots goes to the racing operations.

This can become a significant amount. Pennsylvania, for example, added $175 million to its race track purses over a two-year period. Much of this money goes into the pockets of the horse owners when their horses win.

Owning a race horse can be a costly proposition even though you can limit your investment by careful shopping around. A group of high school buddies from Upstate New York decided to pool their resources and buy a racehorse. They chose a $75,000 chestnut-colored yearling to buy Funny Code, a horse that later won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. The wins earned the happy investors $3.5 million for their relatively small investment.

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Before you invest in a thoroughbred, buy a few back issues of the Daily Racing Form and check the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Assn. 'Owners Education' section. There you should find enough information to make a wise decision and a good choice on what to do.

If you wish to limit your investment even more, you may wish to invest in a standardbred or harness horse. These horses cost less money than a thoroughbred and race more often. My younger brother Legs bought a filly along with another relative for less than $1,500. The horse Victoria March won over $14,000 in races and was claimed for $12,000, giving them a good return on their investment.

They had a lot of fun and enjoyed prestige at The Meadows Race Track where they raced Victoria March. When the horse was claimed, they felt they had lost a member of the family.

If you do decide to become a race horse owner, let this column know. We'll be wishing you the best of luck all the way to the finish line.

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