I fell in love with a TB yesterday, y’all. It’s a good (or bad?) thing that all my excess money is tied up in the tiny house right now or I’d have been on the phone with this guy’s trainer before I even realized what I was doing.
A big, young, athletic, very well bred for sport, good-moving, extremely attractive, sound-looking horse? Sign. Me. Up. His crazy eye and wild forelock give him extra appeal in my book. I see a lot of thoroughbreds in my feed due to pages I follow and groups I’m in, but it’s been a while since I loved one this much. He’s even out of a Danzig mare. A direct Danzig daughter. Swoon. The only thing that could make him better (in my book) is if he was a she.
Alas, I’m not shopping and I need another cheeky 3yo like I need a hole in the head, so I posted him on my facebook and Instagram. Someone needs to buy him. Preferably someone I know so I can stalk him forever.
Anyway, it was kind of interesting to me that in both places I posted him, a couple people replied thinking he was too expensive for a horse just coming off the track. Fair enough, at $5,000 he’s on the higher side of what is typical. It leads to an interesting conversation though – what IS a fair price for a horse coming off the track these days?
Obviously that can vary a lot, in my mind, depending on the horse. Age, sex, size, soundness, athleticism, movement – all factors that can affect the value, just like any other horse. From what I’ve seen over the past few years, OTTB prices in general have gone up a bit, probably thanks to programs like RRP and the resurgence of TB-only classes and awards. For the most part I think it’s been a great thing. Sure, it costs me (the consumer) a bit more money up front, but a horse being worth more tends to be better for said horse’s safety and well-being. If a race trainer or owner knows they can get as much as a claiming tag by selling to the sporthorse world, maybe they’re less likely to keep running the horse who wants to be done. If they think they can get a few grand from the sporthorse world, maybe they’re more willing to go through the inconvenience of listing and taking phone calls rather than just loading the horse up on the meat truck.
Not to mention – if the horse is young and sound and athletic and healthy and attractive, is there any reason why it SHOULDN’T bring more money? To me, there’s actually a lot of value already built into a horse coming off the track. It’s seen a lot, it’s been handled a lot… that life experience is worth something. Sure maybe the horse needs a little downtime, some Gastrogard, some farrier work, or some re-training, but so might just about any other horse you get from just about anywhere for that price. Hell, even a super expensive import could need that. But if you went and bought a $5000 3 or 4yo warmblood, what would your expectations really be? The same as the TB, or would you settle for even less? Younger, greener, less athletic, lower quality, perhaps some vetting issues? I would challenge that it would be quite difficult to find a WB of comparable quality and experience for that little money. So even at 5k the TB is still quite a hefty bargain in the overall realm of sporthorse prices.
I’ve bought many an OTTB in my life, although none in a while. In these past few years I’ve seen friends pay mostly in the $2500-7000 range for horses coming off the track, depending on a) the quality of the horse, b) how lucky they were. That’s certainly higher than maybe 10-15 years ago. It’s rare for me to see a super high quality, sound one listed for less than $3000 anymore. Every once in a while there’s a right-place-right-time type situation, but it doesn’t seem particularly common. There are even re-sellers who have made a thriving business out of selling OTTB’s in these slightly higher price brackets. Benchmark immediately springs to mind – they tend to have the cream of the crop, really high quality horses on offer in the $5,000-12,000 price range, and they’ve made an excellent reputation for themselves in the industry. Considering how many they sell, and how quickly, there certainly does seem to be a market for OTTB’s in that price range. At the end of the day horses are worth what someone is willing to pay, and plenty of people seem willing to pay fair money for a quality horse.
Am I horse shopping right now? No. Do I have extra money in my budget at the moment to go pick up another horse? No. But if I did, you can bet I wouldn’t have hesitated for even one second to pick up the phone and call on that horse. Would I like it if he was cheaper? LOL of course. I would like it if literally everything was cheaper. If I was hunting for a mega-bargain with a very low budget and was willing to make a lot of compromises (as was the situation when I bought Henry) then no, that particular horse wouldn’t make my list. But if I was shopping for a really high quality prospect that had it all, he’d 100% be it. IMO there’s definitely value in that, and I don’t begrudge them for putting a price like that on him at all – just like any other horse that ticks a lot of widely desirable boxes. If he’s worth it, someone will pay it. (Me. It would be me. I would pay it.)
So, let’s discuss. Pretend you’re shopping for a high quality young/green prospect and you’ve got like 10k+ to spend. Do you think 5k is a fair price for a very nice horse (not even necessarily this particular horse, but one that ticks all your own personal boxes that would make a horse perfect for you) coming straight off the track? Why or why not? And do you think these kind of prices, lets say $4000-7000, are fair for horses like these? Why or why not? At what point do you think the price is too high for a top-end horse just off the track?