The Crazy Money In Horse Racing

Reviewing my Facebook memories yesterday, I stumbled upon some pictures I took of my son Anthony and I’s trip to Lexington, Kentucky in 2015 for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. We were there to see American Pharoah win the very first Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.

As a part of this trip, we took horse farm tours that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Lexington. I was saddened when I saw this picture of Holy Bull (shown below) that I took on my tour. Holy Bull passed away in 2017 at the ripe old age of 26. He loved visitors to his stable and he seemed to know that he was still sort of a big deal.

Now onto the mian point of this article, the crazy money in horse racing. As many of my readers already know from some of my previous blogs and articles on US Racing, I have been real critical of the foolish money thrown around for unproven yearlings and 2 year-olds. Millions of dollars are spent every year in these auctions.

Everyone thinks they have done their homework and are bidding on the next Kentucky Derby winner based on its pedigree, physical characteristics and demeanor during auction presentation.

I am used to seeing classic cars sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars and I understand that mostly. But some of these young horses fetch over seven figures in auctions. Yes that is right. One million dollars for totally unproven yearlings. Perhaps the best example of this is the American Pharoah filly who went for $8.2 million dollars last month in the Keeneland September Sale last month. See:

Here is a good story. One of the tours took us to the same farm and horse stable where Zenyatta was born and raised. At this stable, the opportunistic photographer in me took the picture below of one of the stalls that housed a weanling. From memory, this was the same stall where Zenyatta was born. I had hoped to potentially capture greatness in its infancy.

When reviewing this picture, I decided to research and see what became of this unnamed weanling, born 3/19/2015, whose sire was Bernardini and whose dam was Zardana.

This weanling from Bernadini and Zardana was sold for $520,000 under the name Dominant Strategy in the same 2016 Keeneland Yearling September Sale as Justify. Justify was sold for $20,000 less at an even $500,000  See Hip 149 and Hip 50 in the auction results linked here:…/keeneland-2016-september-yearl…

Justify was the 13th Triple Crown Champion.

Dominant Strategy won two turf claiming races at Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown…

This is why I cringe when I see a million dollars spent on a yearling or a 2 year-old. It’s always a crapshoot.

Here is what recent Kentucky Derby winners sold for in auctions. I excluded this year’s Derby winner because it was debacle:

  • 2015 – American Pharoah – $300,000 as a yearling
  • 2016 – Nyquist – $230,000 as a yearling, $400,000 as a 2 year-old
  • 2017 – Always Dreaming – $350,000 as a yearling
  • 2018 – Justify – $500,000 as a yearling

I have always felt that one of my most untapped talents would be budget racehorse buying in auctions. I can’t save you hundreds of dollars on your auto insurance. But I feel that I could justify (no pun intended) a six figure salary identifying bargains.

With all the foolish dollars spent in horse racing, why don’t they have capologists like they do in professional sports? The capologist’s job is to maintain a budget and not overpay for free agents. And how long will it be before someone develops a software program and database used for prospective horse buyers that analyzes the future earning potential of every horse up for auction?

With all the crazy money spent in horse racing, if they don’t already have some of these concepts already, it won’t be long.