In the equestrian community, we sometimes have these very exciting events called ‘yearling sales’. These involve stabling young, highly tranquilised thoroughbreds at an extremely inappropriate public place frequented by rich businessmen, like a convention centre or, I don’t know, maybe your local McDonalds, and parading them around for a group of (usually drunk and mostly ignorant) people with full pockets. Well, luckily these owners are usually intelligent enough to hire an experienced trainer to pick horses out for them, but nevertheless, the entire event seems rather like a recipe for disaster. Even so, one cannot deny that it is exciting to see the bids come in, watch those prices skyrocket, and maybe even see a new record set. The current world record price paid for a yearling is $13.1 million, paid for Seattle Dancer in 1985. This would amount to over $29 million in today’s currency. To gain some perspective, let’s list a few things that this amount of money could buy you:
82 new 2017 Ferraris.
153 average-priced houses.
107 4-year college degrees at the most expensive colleges.
Over 6000 years of livery (stable) for one horse.
Over 5000 7-day trips to Hawaii for two.
This horse raced only five times, having contracted a virus as a two year old, and finished his career with two wins and total earnings of just over $150 000. He did, however, do fairly well at stud, siring 37 stakes race winners. This is considerably better than his predecessor as ‘highest priced yearling’. Snaafi Dancer, who sold for $10.2 million in 1983, turned out to be so slow that his owners never raced him out of sheer embarrassment. After retiring to stud, he was found to be infertile. I certainly hope he at least made a safe riding horse, because based on the value of his yearling sales price in today’s currency ($24 million), buyer Sheikh Mohammed clearly thought that he was literally worth his weight in gold.
Though all of this is amusing (isn’t other people’s misfortune always?), it does bring one very important question to mind: Is it a good idea to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a yearling? Here are several reasons why an untested yearling is likely to be worth your entire life’s savings:
1. Assuming nothing goes wrong while you’re waiting for him to grow up enough to race, he might make it to the track, and you’ll get to see your own racehorse run! Very exciting!
2. Assuming he’s not slower than an old corgi in a wheelchair, he might win. Also very exciting, and you get money! Probably not even 10% of what you paid for your yearling, but still, money, right?
3. Assuming that you did not geld him, and that he does not turn out infertile, or meet an untimely end following an injury on the track or in the paddock, you might even get to breed with him after his career is over. You know, if you’re not too broke to afford the vet bills.
4. Baby horses can be pretty sometimes (sometimes! Actually, they most often look like awkward llamas, and those that don’t are most often pumped full of steroids. But, I mean, their faces are still cute, right?), so assuming he doesn’t escape into the middle of town after you take him home from the auction, he could make a nice little ornament in your back yard. Until the bank confiscates your back yard. Then you may find it a little cramped sharing your apartment with him.
5. Being a yearling means that the horse you buy will have his whole life ahead of him. Assuming nothing leads him to an untimely demise, that means you’ll have at least 20 solid years of expensive responsibility (unless you pawn your million dollar yearling off – for free, of course - on some poor sap looking for a sport horse). Maybe he’ll be faster in the dressage arena. Thoroughbreds usually are, and that’s the aim of dressage, right? Fastest from A to C and out of the arena wins!
I’m sure there are plenty more sarcastic reasons why spending a huge amount of money on a yearling is a good idea (and hey, maybe even some non-sarcastic ones too! Not every horse is a flop). If you can think of any, go ahead and post in the comments below. You might just help some rich person make the very difficult decision between purchasing a baby racehorse, or 82 Ferraris.