Thoroughbred ownership clubs are making the dream of getting involved in racing more affordable and accessible than ever: we spoke with Geoff Gray of The People’s Horse about the latest project — owning a foal by California Chrome.
For the average horse racing fan, owning a racing Thoroughbred is an unattainable dream, perhaps a fantasy that one might use to sustain a daydream. Historically, such horses are enjoyed only by the wealthy — after all, it takes a lot of money to keep a racehorse going, and as all equestrians know the initial purchase price is just a tiny drop in the bucket of total costs. From training to veterinary costs to transportation and more, horse racing is a pay to play kind of game. Breeding one’s own racehorse is perhaps even more prohibitively expensive.
Well, maybe until now.
The People’s Horse
“I’m not from the Thoroughbred world,” Geoff Gray confessed to me over the phone. “I’ve always had an appreciation for it, but I’m from the world of journalism and storytelling.”
Gray is spearheading The People’s Horse project with adventure magazine True.Ink and in partnership with Taylor Made Farm, the home of many top Thoroughbred stallions including California Chrome. Through The People’s Horse ownership club, anyone can purchase a membership and be part of the largest ownership club in the country, coming along for the wild ride that is Thoroughbred racing in the industry itself rather than as a mere spectator.
“True.Ink celebrates stories,” Gray described. “But now, readers can be part of the story. They can have access to experiences that are the story. We’re combining a narrative with an offline experience — you’re not just clicking the story, but you’re living it.”
The leap from adventure magazine to Thoroughbred ownership may seem like quite a transition, but the story begins like so many others: Gray drove through the racing town of Saratoga, met a trainer, met a horse and fell completely under the spell, the emotional pull of getting to know a horse and then watching him race. “Horses are powerful physically, but also emotionally,” Gray describes. “I wanted to find a way to share that experience… and said, ‘hey, let’s crowdsource a horse.'”
For $100 (or other varying levels of membership) club members can experience authentically what it’s like to own a racehorse. “It’s access to a world that’s been inaccessible for so long to the average person,” Gray adds. “It’s not just something for the very rich any more — it’s something for the passionate.
“We’re embracing that unknown factor. With a horse, anything can happen. Sharing that horse with a thousand people, we’re walking into that unknown together.”
How it works
The People’s Horse is working from the ground up, breeding its own foal by none other than California Chrome. Three mares at Taylor Made are confirmed in foal to Chrome for a 2018 baby, and club members will vote in early 2018 for which foal the club will own. They’re not going into this blind, either — bloodline experts will be providing their thoughts throughout the fall, educating members on which combination perhaps has the best chance to produce a winning racehorse, but in the end, the members will decide. Should the resulting foal eventually enter training and the racetrack, members will have an option to purchase equity in the horse.
It should be noted that club ownership is not the same as investment — club members won’t necessarily be making money back should this foal turn out to be the next Triple Crown champion. Club ownership differs from the syndicate model in that it’s not an investment vehicle; on the other hand, owners are not expected to continue to pay to support a horse in training after their initial membership. Club ownership is a way for members to enjoy the fun of horse racing as an owner but without the financial burdens of being a full owner or syndicate member. (Top tier members of The People’s Horse, however, do have an option to buy in after a successful foaling should interest arise.)
California Chrome was perhaps the original “people’s horse” of the modern horse racing era — originally owned by a partnership of friends who were just regular working guys, the California Chrome story grabbed America’s attention and showed us what could happen with hard work, big dreams and a little bit of luck. “This is the next evolution of the California Chrome story,” proclaims Gray. Chrome was a logical as well as sentimental choice to represent this new form of ownership.
Who is joining?
“We’re approaching 600 members right now,” Gray confided. “And we’re still open to join. Members range from a seven-year-old in South Dakota to seventy-somethings in Jamaica.” Not all of the members are even die-hard racing fans — many are simply curious about something they never thought they’d be able to access.
Gray again refers to the unknown factor in horse racing: “Racing is real, but also mysterious. We’re all embracing the unknown together.”
In October, The People’s Horse will be meeting in Lexington for an educational and celebratory weekend: activities include tours of Taylor Made Farm and Keeneland, a handicapping lesson, a member conference and a big BBQ for members to mingle and meet.
We can’t wait to see how The People’s Horse turns out — should the resulting foal make it to the track, we’ll all be cheering him or her on.
For more information about The People’s Horse, visit the club’s website.