A Profile of Horse Ownership (Cont.)

Continued from part 1

In Search Of Mentors

Oddly, the survey revealed there isn't overwhelming support among owners to participate in a mentoring program even though many of them were influenced by someone else in the sport.

"Candidly, I was confused by that," Farley said. "At this point, we're not sure what it means."

Joe Petrushka, who with his wife, Pam, operates New York-based Starview Stable, said mentoring prospective owners is a major part of his partnership business. He acknowledged there are owners who fit a profile: They can afford to do it on their own, and therefore aren't as willing to share the experience.

"For a new owner, though, this can be a very mysterious business," Joe Petrushka said. "They're overwhelmed. They don't even know where to call to get started."

Approximately 74% of the survey respondents who influenced first-time owners said they participated in partnerships, which have grown in popularity in recent years. Manny Cadima, founder of the Louisville Thoroughbred Club, said "shared costs and shared risks" are key reasons, as is social interaction with others.

"We have a lot of people who just like to be around horses," he said. "A lot of our folks go to the barn and just hang around."

"Horse racing is a social event," said Rick Pitino, coach of the University of Louisville basketball team and prominent owner whose horses include prospective Belmont Stakes (gr. I) starter A P Valentine. "You have time in between races to talk, and our job as owners is to have a good time. The people you meet in horse racing are fantastic, and that's what makes it special to me."

Richard Englander, who led the nation with 156 wins and was second with $3.6 million in earnings through May 20, became a Thoroughbred owner in the late 1990s. His horses compete in stakes and claiming races on the West and East Coasts.

"You don't have to spend a million dollars," Englander said. "I'd say 95% of the people that go to the races would be intrigued by owning a racehorse, and would have just as much fun claiming two to three horses and watching them compete versus buying a horse that's unproven."

About 74% or 262 of those surveyed have purchased at least one horse at public auction, while 21.8% have bought more than 20. The survey includes specific research on owners' use of auctions, but only one mention of the claiming game even though about 65% of the races in the United States last year were for claiming horses.

Auction companies and breeding farms have much to gain from new investment in the industry. But Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland, which invested $500,000 in TheGreatestGame.com, said new owner initiatives wouldn't just focus upon millionaires and high-profile sales.

"We need to look at all levels (of the business) and all types of ownership," Nicholson said. "We need to ask, 'Is the industry availing itself of all types of ownership?' "

In another area, the survey suggested state or regional associations, particularly those for breeders and horsemen, rate higher than national groups such as TOBA and the NTRA.

Said TOBA's Metzger: "There were a lot of positive aspects of this survey, but as far as TOBA is concerned, it shows we have a lot of work to do in terms of being a resource for people."

Farley of the NTRA said that because many survey respondents were racing fans before they bought horses, one of the next big projects is to prepare racetrack advertising kits geared toward fans who might be ready to take the leap. That could be completed sometime in June, he said.

The survey has been sent to some industry organizations and individuals, and a condensed version will be posted soon on TheGreatestGame.com Web site. In addition, a shorter print version will be made available. Kristin J. Ingwell contributed to this report.