Hooked on Thoroughbreds Print

Daily Local News
July 29, 2007

If you own a talented racehorse there is no finer place to be in August than Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.

Roy Johnston of Exton headed there this week to team up with eleven other investors in the partnership of sprinter High Finance.

'My wife Judy and I show up in the morning to watch our horse train and talk shop with some of the trainers,' said Johnston, a financial consultant. 'Honestly, there are a lot of lows. But the greatest thrill is watching your horse win a big race.'

On July 4th the couple turned up at a small track near their New Hampshire vacation home. They watched by simulcast as High Finance displayed a powerful kick to blow by favorite Commentator in mid-stretch to win the $197,500 Tom Fool Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park.

The 4-year-old notched his third victory in four starts at Belmont and has posted a couple of the top speed figures in racing this year. The colt is slated to race in the Forego Handicap later in the Saratoga meet.

The catalyst for all this action is Terry Finley, owner of West Point Thoroughbreds (WPT). He founded the business in 1991 with the goal of bringing the passion of top-notch racing and ownership to individuals and small groups across the country.

WPT's partners are given the opportunity to play at the highest level at a fraction of the investment money required to purchase and maintain an entire horse.

Johnston became intrigued following a conversation with fellow church member John Leonard, of Wayne, who is involved in several WPT partnerships, including High Finance.

The Johnston group calls itself R.J. Brigade II. It's an offshoot of R.J. Brigade I, a gang of 50 that has attended the Army-Navy game for the last 35 years. Each partner kicked in an original investment of $50,000.

Of the five horses in which the partners initially invested in, High Finance is the lone one still running. That's the reality of the sport.

The question is why do smart people keep flinging money at investments that usually loses' One part has been tax breaks, another is that a successful racing career often translates into lucrative stud fees. The sale of a solid stallion prospect dwarfs any earnings generated at the track.

High Finance's brilliant speed and victories in graded stakes races has Kentucky stud farms calling.

Looking to expand his racehorse involvement, last year Johnston teamed up with a Chester Springs partner to form Vintage Thoroughbreds. A separate entity from WPT, they've purchased a couple of broodmares for $85,000, plus a 2-year old and a yearling at the Timonium (Md.) sales.

The pair hired Harley Clemens as their bloodstock agent. He formerly bought horses for the late King of Dubai. John Servis, of Smarty Jones fame, has signed on as their trainer.

Investing in the breeding business is a more practical way for Vintage Thoroughbred to widen their stake in the racing end according to Johnston.

'It started as this innocent hobby and now I've got a runaway freight train,' said Johnston.