As people became aware of California Chrome’s rags-to-riches win at the Kentucky Derby last year, Stewart Fields began getting calls from friends and colleagues who wanted to buy a horse, too.
“They bought this horse [California Chrome] for $10,000, and it had $2 million in earnings,” says Fields, 28. “It got people talking around the watercooler about how they wish they could do that.”
Inspired by all the starry-eyed equine banter, Fields is now aiming to raise $25,000 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe from people who want to have an equity stake in a thoroughbred that he will purchase, train and take care of.
In his day job, Fields is chief executive of Turbo Advisor, an investment technology platform, but he knows about horses from spending time at his grandparents’ farm in Georgia. He says the farm maintains about a dozen show jumpers and racehorses and that he will lean on his family connections to pick a winner.
But owning a horse is a complicated and expensive endeavor: $25,000 won’t even cover the initial cost of buying a thoroughbred, much less its monthly food, shelter, training and veterinary care. The road to the Kentucky Derby is littered with stories of horse-lovers and bettors who poured their hearts and souls into horse investments that went sour. Last year, a New York Times personal finance columnist called it "the passion investment most fraught with risk and emotions."
“It was like buying Enron as it was sinking,” says Brian Silverstein, a 31-year-old New Yorker who invested in two horses with a group of friends a few years ago.
Each friend invested less than $1,000 apiece for single-digit stakes in the horses, named Write That Down and Rainbow Road, plus “maintenance” fees. Neither horse performed very well, neither made any money, and neither lasted two full years in racing, Silverstein says. The group of friends wrote off their investments as losses.
“Regardless if the horses raced or not, we were paying for their racing prowess,” he says, “which, unfortunately, was not much.”
The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association in Lexington, Kentucky, has an extensive list of costs and considerations for anyone considering investing in a racehorse, ranging from the cost of re-shodding a horse’s hoof (at least $80/month) to how horses are treated on tax forms (they are depreciating assets).
As for Fields’ plan to create California Chrome Part Deux, he says the $25,000 will go toward the purchase price of the horse and that he will personally contribute any additional capital needed to buy it, and also cover all ongoing expenses. So if you contribute $250 to his GoFundMe and the horse ultimately costs $50,000, you’ll end up with a 0.5% stake rather than a 1% stake.
Those who invest will be able to participate in a naming contest, and will get a share of any race winnings, Fields says. (He plans to donate his proceeds to the charity Autism Speaks.) Investors will also get regular progress reports, with photos and videos, from Fields and the horse’s trainer.
“People are going to say you will need a lot more than $25,000,” says Fields. “Well, yeah: horses are expensive.”
I oversee Fusion's money section and have spent most of my time as a journalist writing about banks and finance. I live in Brooklyn with my partner Geoffrey & our two dogs, Captain & Tallulah. Favs: leopard print, Diet Coke, gummy candy, Ireland.