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Villagers Have Partnership in Horse Racing

Horse racing fans can buy a small stake in a variety of thoroughbreds through various programs.

Put yourself in Don Weber’s loafers for a moment if you get a rush from watching your $10 winning ticket push to the front down the homestretch.

“There’s nothing like being at the racetrack when your horse is coming down the stretch and taking the lead and he wins,” said the Village of Hemingway resident. “Nothing like it.”

When Weber says “your horse,” he really means it.

Weber is one of a small group of Villagers who have carried their racing passion to the next level by forming partnerships that allow them to buy a modest stake in a variety of thoroughbreds.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to own a piece of a real racehorse,” said Tilly Grey, of the Village of Calumet Grove. “It’s a hackneyed phrase – ‘dream come true’ – but that’s what it was when Tom asked if anybody wanted to form a partnership.”

Tom Sweeney is the owner of Port Royal Racing in Ocala, where Grey is one of nine Villages residents spread among various partnerships. He taught horse-related classes at the former Lifelong Learning College, as long-time Villagers may recall.

Grey had been betting horses for years and this was his first venture into ownership. Jake and Diana Bishop, of the Village of Amelia, had no prior experience before taking the plunge.

“It was a whole new world that opened to us,” said Jake, a Michigan native. “There used to be a couple of tracks in the Detroit metro area, one for trotters and the other for thoroughbreds. But I can’t remember anything other than driving past Hazel Park.”

Through West Point Thoroughbreds, a larger enterprise centered in New York, Weber and Jerry Regina became partners.

“It’s a passion, no doubt,” said Regina, of the Village of Osceola Hills at Soaring Eagles Preserve. “They call it the Sport of Kings, and it takes a lot to stay in it.”

It is, however, easier to be a part of it if the finances are shared with 15 or 20 other people. The cost of a share varies according to the horse’s purchase price, with shares commonly ranging from 5% to 30%.

According to Sweeney, Port Royal allows someone to join a partnership for as little as 1% ($1,500), but the relative cost decreases as the stakes rise. “The more you purchase, the lower the price,” he said.

Bishop stated, “You can figure out how involved financially you want to be.”

Partners also contribute to the upkeep of a horse on a regular basis. Despite the fact that some horses prove to be highly successful, no one should go in expecting a large financial return.

“It’s a hobby,” Weber said. “Just like if you go on a cruise; you spend money. You play golf; you spend money. That’s the way I look at it. And once in a while, I get a good one and make a few bucks.”

Empire Dreams, a gelding that won six races and more than $800,000 over his career, was a solid one for Weber. He came from behind to win the 2015 Commentator Stakes at Belmont Park, where he was fifth entering the final turn.

“It’s your horse. That’s the thrill of it,” Weber said.

Regina began his career as a trotter while he lived in New Jersey more than two decades ago. His first horse was Armistice, a filly with a tremendous heart but significant physical concerns, according to him.

“We sold her cheaply to the Amish,” Regina said. “They would buy old racehorses; (trotters are) good horses to have. But she had problems with her legs and ankles.”

Best Performance, a hard-charging second in the 2017 Juvenile Fillies’ Turf, came within a whisker of being a Breeders’ Cup winner.

Best Performance, on the other hand, only raced three more times. “She just didn’t keep up with those in her class,” Regina said.

Horses from Port Royal are more likely to race at Tampa Bay Downs or Gulfstream Park in South Florida.

“I’ve learned the partners like to see them run live,” Sweeney said.

“It used to be that we’d run at Tampa, then send them up to Monmouth Park (in New Jersey). But the partners didn’t have the access to see them live.”

Excursions to see their horses at the track or on a farm in Marion County are another pleasure that Grey and the Bishops enjoy. Eclipse Training Center, where horses receive early training from Nick and Jaqui de Meric, is a popular stop.

“You can stand at the rail and Jaqui will tell you everything she’s doing while you watch her do it,” Grey said.

Sweeney stated, “The partners can come up and watch the yearling grow and progress. They can watch the actual breaking procedure. They can watch them breeze. Then they’re off to the races.”

Grey and the Bishops both own ownership of a pair of young horses that will be racing at Gulfstream soon. Libertalia, a 2-year-old filly by Curlin Billy Bones, a previous Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, is a little raced 4-year-old.

They also had a future bet on a new filly by Prickly Pear, another of Port Royal’s early winners.

“We’ve never had a day where we’re unhappy,” Diana Bishop said. “There are some days when we’ve been happier than others, of course, but we’ve never been unhappy.”

Attributed Source, The Villages Daily Sun