I became a race horse owner on January 7th of this year. Okay, so it was one share of a horse named Tuesday Gal, purchased for just under $65 from the Thoroughbred Stock Exchange (TBSX), but still – I had access to the horse ownership experience. And for someone who grew up in Saratoga Springs, NY, this was in many ways the achievement of a life goal. I added Tuesday Gal to my Equibase Virtual Stable, closely followed the workout reports, and was thrilled when I got the email from TBSX that Tuesday Gal would debut on February 21st, in a maiden special weight on the Aqueduct inner track. As the 21st approached, I got more and more excited and, on that Sunday – while on vacation in Florida – the family set aside time for the 9th race at Aqueduct. I bet almost as much money on Tuesday Gal as I had paid for the one share in the first place. The anticipation was exciting; the sky was the limit.
We first met Jonathan and Leslie Lutton, the principals of TBSX, at the 2015 Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming. They were one of four finalists for the Innovator’s Circle, during which they would make a pitch for their product in front of the whole conference, and more specifically in front of three industry judges. We were immediately enthusiastic about Jonathan and Leslie’s idea, because it would make many of the benefits of horse ownership (i.e. the horse ownership experience) available to the average fan at a very low price. The idea is, at heart, simple – TBSX would acquire racehorses through any number of means (claiming, auction, private sale, etc.), and then based on their system of valuation issue a number of shares in that racehorse that could be purchased. Beyond that, the shares could then be sold in a secondary market, so once the horse started running, the share value would be determined by what would become a robust marketplace – in other words, the average fan would have the ability to divest themselves of a share of the horse if it became too expensive, they needed the money, or simply wanted to use the money somewhere else (or buy into a more expensive horse).
Those involved in the sport of horse racing are constantly looking for ways to attract new fans and then keep those new fans coming back. It’s great to get someone to go to the track for the Derby, or at Saratoga, or the Breeders’ Cup, but how can we get the people who show up on those days to become true fans, who follow the sport regularly and consistently? There is, of course, no one single answer. But we believe that things like TBSX move the sport in the right direction. What better way to get someone interested in a race day that they would not otherwise have been watching than if they have a share in a horse that is racing? And what better experience could someone have to get them more involved in the sport than being at the track when a horse that they own a piece of actually wins? In our view, these are the types of things that keep people continuously engaged and coming back to the track and, perhaps more importantly, following the sport on a day-to-day basis even when they are not going out to the races. Further, TBSX has all the hallmarks of a product that can catch on quickly – shares of many of the horses are inexpensive, the process is easy to navigate, and there are real benefits to being involved.
The horse ownership experience, however, has its ups and downs – as anyone who has been involved in the sport will tell you. Tuesday Gal came in dead last on February 21st, and was essentially left at the gate. She was up against a strong MSW field, however, and had some typical first time starter issues – hope remained strong for a successful second start. But more notable to me was how much fun I had, even though the horse I owned a piece of came in last. I watched the race and the replay several times, to see whether I could find out any clues as to why she didn’t perform better. Almost immediately after the race, I got an email from Jonathan Lutton telling me about some issues the horse had during loading (she was supposed to have a blanket, for some reason it wasn’t provided to the assistant starters), and giving me an update directly from the trainer. I felt like a true insider within a sport that I had been following for my whole life. I ended the day more excited about TBSX than before the race even, and was looking forward to Tuesday Gal’s next start.
While those who love the sport of horse racing recognize that the equine athletes who participate are of the utmost importance, every once in a while that point is driven home. And never had it been driven home so forcefully as when my experience with Tuesday Gal took a difficult turn. In late March, Tuesday Gal got cast in her stall, and during her struggle to get up, she cut her hock and punctured a bursa. A horse training well for her second career race had found herself in a life and death situation, literally overnight. Of course, for TBSX this was an awful development – Tuesday Gal was one of two horses they started with, and she had made only one (unsuccessful) start. TBSX was continuing to grow, was fostering partnerships with other stables and ownership groups – Jonathan and Leslie were working around the clock to expand their new business however they could. But when this situation came up – out of the blue – they did not abandon Tuesday Gal. They got her the best quality medical care for the area, and paid for her to remain in the intensive care unit at the veterinary hospital for as long as she needed to have the best chance at survival. It had to have been an extremely expensive and time consuming event, at the time when TBSX, as a company, could least afford to have such an experience.
One of the major hurdles that horse racing has to overcome is a public perception problem. The breakdowns, the horses that are euthanized, the drug issues, the (misleading) videos such as the ones that disingenuously portrayed Steve Asmussen as an animal abuser – these are all issues that the sport is faced with every day, and issues which it seems like the media focuses on. It seems that the good stories, the stories where every day, non-stakes horses are treated with care and love and respect and provided with a great life, are lost in the shuffle. That’s why I consider my experience with Tuesday Gal to have been such a positive one. I experience, in the span of several months, the ups and downs of horse racing ownership. But at the end of the day, I was left feeling good because the horse I had invested in had some bad luck, and the people caring for her took the time and spent the money to make sure that she recovered and then was retired so that she could move on to the next phase of her horse life.
TBSX continues to grow. They have 18 horses with shares on offer on their website, and shares on three of those horses are completely sold out. They also have five “futures” options available – one each for claiming level horses in Southern California, Northern California, New York, Florida and the Mid-Atlantic region. They also have joint offerings with Sage Thoroughbred Partners, Pocket Aces Racing and Final Furlong Racing. To see the progress they have made in the several months since we met in Tucson has been astounding. But more importantly to me, they care about the sport, they care about the fans, and most significantly, they care about the horses that run for TBSX and all of the TBSX investors. And to that end, the recent news about Tuesday Gal is very positive: Tuesday Gal is leaving the clinic tomorrow to go to Keane Stud in New York where she will continue to rehabilitate in hopes of breeding next year to Frost Giant or Big Brown.
For more information about TBSX and/or to get involved and purchase a share of a racehorse, visit http://www.tbstockexchange.com/.