Peter Vegso Breeder
Wednesday April 5, 2006
Peter Vegso founded the publishing company Health Communications, Inc. in 1976. HCI’s first New York Times bestseller, Adult Children of Alcoholics, appeared on the list in 1985 and has been followed by dozens more self-help and inspirational titles, including many in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series -- which to date has sold more than 80 million copies and includes two titles -- Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul and the recently-released Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II: Tales of Passion, Achievement and Devotion -- of special interest to those who frequent these pages.
Peter’s other business interests include a professional publishing and conference company which provides training, licensing, and certification for members of the mental health community, a custom design and architectural elements manufacturer, and real estate development. Peter enjoys his 140-acre farm in Ocala, Florida, where he continues to expand his successful Thoroughbred breeding and training facility. Among the horses raced by Vegso have been graded winners Splendid Blended, Silver Tree, and Orchard Park.
The best horse campaigned in his colors has definitely been Splendid Blended, whose two grade I victories came in the Vanity Invitational and Hollywood Starlet. She also won the recent grade II Shirley Jones Breeders' Cup Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
Peter -- who has two daughters -- lives in South Florida with his wife, Anne, and continues to guide HCI and its affiliated companies in the mission of making a difference in the lives of everyone touched by their work.
How did you get introduced to racing? I'm still hoping to one day have a winner. I had a couple of horses, but not much success. How do you select trainers and do you buy at sales or breed?
I was a fan for many years and then bought into a small syndicate with some friends who were knowledgeable about the industry. Then had some luck and got hooked - but I do love the challenge.
Selecting a trainer who has similar goals to what you want to achieve is important. Find out about their reputations, interview them.
I breed for the most part, initially, I purchased two-year-olds, and you need good help in the selection process.
Coral Gables, FL:
I have always loved your Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Your beautiful Splendid Blended is "soup" for my soul, and I was so glad to see her back racing here in Florida. What are you current plans for her?
We're looking at the Humana Handicap (7 furlongs) on May 6th at Churchill next. We're taking it one race at a time with Splendid.
How many mares do you own? What do you look for in the bloodlines?
I have 29 mares at present. I've been looking to improve the bloodlines over the years. Purchasing some nice mares in foal to fashionable stallions. Splendid Blended's mom, Valid Blend, I purchased in foal to Unbridled Song . . . worked out well.
Have you always been a horse racing fan?
Since my early thirties absolutely...However, I did like it in high school as well.
Why did you get involved in the horse industry?
I liked the possibilities, the challenge, and the excitement.
I heard you are involved in the Thoroughbred industry in Australia? How did that come about?
I met Ric Chapman (editor of Australia's Breeder magazine) It's similar in some ways to The Blood-Horse magazine. I'm in partnership with him on a couple of horses. I also purchased an interest in two Fusaichi Pegasus mares with the help of Neil Drysdale.
How do you come up with the ideas for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series?
The originators, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, came up with the concept. They tried to sell the idea to some 33 different publishers before they came to me.
Four Seasons, MO:
I have noticed you have horses all over the country; I see you have a trainer named Croft in Fla. Why doesn't he get the elite horse that you send to other trainers? He's excellent trainer.
How much is Barry Croft paying you to ask that question? I love Barry - he's a terrific young fellow who has a genuine love of horses.
Do you get help when you want to buy horses - and if so, what kind of help?
Yes, I use a company called E.Q.B. to help sort out the horses through cardio measures, gait analysis, and conformation. My farm manager helps when we're purchasing mares.
Who is your favorite horse that you have owned? How many trainers condition your horses?
Silver Tree has brought me so much pleasure. He tries his absolute best every race. I use seven different trainers, depending on level and location.
Why did you give a promising 3yr old like Really Indian to Neil Drysdale? It seems he likes to watch his horses work in the morning but rarely races them. With the exception of Showing Up, Really Indian was the most impressive maiden winner this year. Where is he?
When Neil runs a horse, you know it's ready. Really Indian has some problems (not major) that have nagged his return to the races. Sadly, we'll miss the Classics, but look out after that because we'll be on the war path.
Arlington Heights, IL:
Hello, Peter. Here's a question about your publishing company - any upcoming horse books other than the Chicken Soup versions? Or is the company solely devoted to books covering mental health and psychology issues? Also, could you comment on the Chicken Soup for the Soul's involvement with/support of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America? Thanks for stopping by!
There are no horse books in the immediate future. And, yes, we are a self-help publisher for the most part, covering inspiration, recovery, relationships, etc. . . I do support the White Horse Charity run by the Chaplaincy. Their work and recognition is important.
Really Indian truly looks to be a future star. Can you share the thoughts behind not pointing this fine colt to the Derby? I realize the reasons are infinitely sound. I was just wondering because he fits in terms of talent.
You'll hear from Really Indian soon enough. It is frustrating to miss the early big dances, but I'm optimistic about going to the ball.
Hi, and thanks for talking to us. I was wondering: how does it feel to be a successful business man and the owner of a top grade I winner? You must be on top of the world.
I couldn't be happier - it's fun, exciting. I'm pumped! Thank you.
Cedar Rapids, IA:
Mr. Vegso, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. It is very much appreciated. I love the Chicken Soup books and just recently finished the new Horse Lover's II edition. I hope there will be many more in the future. You have such a diverse background. What got you into horse racing? Any plans on breeding Splendid Blended and to whom?
My grandparents were dairy farmers in Quebec. My grandmother spoke so much about the farm and my grandfather's love of horses. She definitely planted the seed . . . When she's ready to become a mom, I'm currently leaning towards A.P. Indy as her first mates
I saw you tried to sell Splendid Blended as a yearling! Why didn't that sale go through? Just lucky?
I did try to sell Splendid and I bought her back for $250,000 (Two hundred fifty thousand dollars). It's a magic number. I'm so glad that all the experts spending millions at the sale overlooked her. Some times you need Lady Luck on your side.
I read somewhere that you have been to Australia. What is your take on the breeding and racing industry there?
Racing is big in Australia. Pick up any newspaper on any day and you'll find 3 to 4 pages of racing coverage. They have over 15,000 O.T.B.'s throughout the country. It's their first sport. It's incredible.
Bowling Green, KY:
How would you recommend someone get started in horse ownership? Were you involved in partnerships to start with? What are some of the pitfalls new owners should watch out for?
Find people you know you can trust and seek their help. Spend time investigating - there are seminars you can attend. There are some syndicates like where you'll get an education, attention, and expert advice. I started out in a syndication.
Pitfalls: There are some dishonest people in the industry, as in any industry. Don't let visions of granduer cloud your vision. Keep your eyes and ears wide open. Good luck!
In your opinion, what's the biggest challenge facing horse racing today? How do we get people to come out and watch the races?
Industry integrity is being addressed by some individuals. We all have to participate and do our part. It starts with one person, one transaction at a time.
Fans and interested others do come out for the big days. There is a lot of competition for our time and attention. It’s gaming with a wonderful, colorful entertainment aspect. It needs to be sold with care and confidence.
What are your thoughts on Lexington and Ocala both claiming to be "Horse Capital of the World?" Obviously, you must favor Ocala in that debate.
Yes, I’m in the Ocala camp. The climate is definitely more friendly.
How high up on your list of "things-to-do-in-my-lifetime" is winning the Kentucky Derby or Triple Crown?
High priority – I’m winning the Triple Crown! I’ve already done it in my mind.
Why do you think the Chicken Soup series has been so popular? What is it that people are drawn to?
It appeals to middle America at every level. Our values, families, friends, challenges, opportunities . . . providing food for thought and inspirations to prevail, no matter what.
How did it feel to have Jerry Bailey ride Silver Tree for his final career mount earlier this year?
It was an honor to be a part of that historic moment. I wanted to see Bill Mott parade Jerry and Silver Tree in front of the grandstand, take a bow, and then walk into the Winner’s Circle.
It would have been fitting to see Jerry and Bill together at that moment. Alas, the racing gods had other plans (Drat!) The collaboration would have been good for this industry.
Which is more challenging and/or rewarding, publishing or the horse business?
It’s tough to choose – I love both. However, publishing success has provided the resources to participate in the horse industry.
What one change to the industry would best increase handle?
Field size seems to make a significant difference. Personally, I’d like to see presentation of horses, jockey and trainer interest highlighted.
How do you go about choosing your trainers for certain horses? Is there, for example, a reason you send a horse like Really Indian to the west coast?
Really Indian, I own in partnership, and he was already scheduled to be with Neil Drysdale when I bought in. My other horses out west are in partnership with my friend, Gary Seidler, who lives in Beverly Hills.
I noticed that you use EQB as a service to pick horses. Do you rely completely on them or do you use them solely as a tool of information?
They have the tools to help separate horses. I’ll also use one of our trainers and certain vets to get additional input. It’s definitely as much art as it is a bit of science.
New York, NY:
Can you tell us the story behind naming REALLY INDIAN?
I wasn’t involved in naming Really Indian. I’m sure you’re right about Really and the Indian came from A.P. Indy. I wasn’t crazy about the name at first and neither was Neil Drysdale’s wife, Shawn. It’s interesting how a solid victory and the hype that follows allows the name to become more endearing. I now LOVE Really Indian and marvel about the genius that went into its selection.
Saratoga Springs, NY:
I love all of these Chicken Soup books. They make great gifts. Do you plan on doing a book signing at Saratoga this summer?
I’ll be spending more time in Saratoga this year so I’m sure that the bookstore at the track will be happy to either do a formal signing or I’ll sign their stock. Thank you for asking.
And thank you so much, Peter, for spending this time with us. Continued success in all you do!
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