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Do investments in racehorses pay off?

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Rich Strike with Sonny Leon up wins the the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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We’re looking into the economics of the Kentucky Derby, where 80-to-1 longshot Rich Strike won the horse race this past weekend.

An Oklahoma oilman bought Rich Strike for just $30,000 – the horse is now worth millions. And racehorses have been a pretty hot investment destination this year.

Last year the average price of a yearling – a one-year old racehorse – was about $86,000, which was a strong market.

The official numbers aren’t out yet for 2022, but so far, “the sales have just been wildly successful,” according to Ray Paulick, who writes about horse racing for The Paulick Report.

He attributes the hot market to rich people with pent-up COVID demand. But the good times may not last that long.

“Over the last few decades, the price of horses has pretty much tracked parallel to the S&P,” he said.

And with stock markets having a rough few months, there’s less disposable cash to pony up. A new model of ownership less focused on ROI is emerging – something called micro shares, where the 99% can buy 1% of a horse.

“Someone who doesn’t have the disposable income can get in the sport,” said Gary Fenton, board chair of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

But Fenton said purchasing a microshare of a horse is more about enjoying the sport than enjoying big returns.

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