Why Own a Racehorse: Sometimes You Turn Them Over to New Caregivers With Faith, Hope & Love…And, the Greatest of These is Love


(First Kiss at the Fasig-Tipton Sale on Tuesday / All photos by Ryan Dickey)

On Tuesday afternoon, the hammer finally fell. And, to be completely honest, it put a little nail in my heart, for a few minutes.

First Kiss, our beautiful Smart Strike filly, went through the sale’s ring at Fasig-Tipton. And, after a spirited battle, she was sold for $16,000 to BHMFR, LLC.

I don’t know what those initials stand for, frankly. Don’t know the owners, either personally or by reputation.Don’t know much. (Which some will tell you is a permanent condition.)

But, according to all accounts, First Kiss has found a very good home; a very loving owner; and a person who will give her every chance in the world to become a successful mother.

And, I found out that she will be going to Margaux Farm in Midway. A farm that is managed by my longtime friend Steve Johnson. What a great horseman he is. The best, to be honest. The very best. What a great farm he runs. What a great place.

My great friend, Ryan Dickey, was at Fasig-Tipton for the event. I made the decision not to go. Didn’t think I could sit still, quite honestly, and keep either my legs from kicking, or my hands from waving.

Figured that at some point that I would end up bidding myself, and I knew that was not the best thing for either me or the filly.

My mother used to say that I could resist anything but temptation. And, for the most part, I have lived my life proving her right. So, I decided to remove the temptation and I stayed home in Louisville and watched the proceedings over the live feed at the Fast-Tipton website.

But after the sale was completed, Ryan ran down the new connections and sent me a text:

“First Kiss hit the jackpot. She’s gonna be well taken care of — words straight from her new owner,” Ryan wrote.

It was music to my ears.

It was comfort to the soul.

It was a good day, after all.

First Kiss now has a real chance to be what we always thought she could become. A winner. A great mother. And, possibly? A champion.

The future is not bleak.

The future is full of promise.

And, I will keep tabs on both First Kiss and her babies to come. I will keep a close eye on them all. With hope, faith and love. And, the greatest of these is love.

I know that owning a racehorse is a business decision. And, I know that one is best served by keeping your horses closer to your wallet, and about a furlong from your heart and your soul.

More than most, I know that horses come. And, horses go. Some will leave you wanting more. Some will leave you giving all. But all will leave you with memories.

And, to be honest, I found out a long time ago that for me — for me — a huge reason I want to own a racehorse is the emotional connection.

I found out that, for me, the most fun comes from getting to know and love your young horses.

I found out a long time ago that the economics don’t make a whole lot of sense most of the time. But I found out, too, that I love getting up in the morning; heading out to the racetrack; hanging out with the guys and gals at the barn; watching the horses go through their daily routines; and sharing a carrot or a peppermint with a friend that doesn’t talk back — just gives.

For me, a huge part of the business is not the business. It’s the connection. To the horse. To the people. To the game. To the sport. To getting to the finish line first. To getting to the top.

But, always, to the horse.

Some people ask — more in a “telling way” — why I want to own racehorses. They ask — more in a “lecturing tone” — why they cost so much. Why they give so little. Why do they rarely pay for themselves. Why do they normally cost you money.

I simply say that I own racehorses because I love them. And, after all, at the ripe old age of 63, I know now that love does cost you. Sometimes a lot. But what is life without love?

How do you put a price on that?

First Kiss stole my heart. She and I had a special connection, even though her struggles with injuries were about as painful to me as they were to her.

Most of the time, though, we enjoyed our time together. When I would go to see her at the barn and lean up against her stall gate, she would lay her head over on my shoulder. She would nibble on my long hair. She would make the world go away.

I will miss all that. And, I will miss her.

But I’m thrilled to hear that First Kiss will be going to another great home. And, she will go there with faith, hope and love. And, the greatest of these is love.






The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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