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Contrary to what you might’ve heard, there are young people in racing and many are working tirelessly to bring other young people into the sport. While some might sell their friends on the potential of cashing a big ticket or being able to dress up for the races on a big day, three young entrepreneurs are exploring a more innovative approach: the idea of owning a racehorse.
Dare Sutton, Sam Bussanich and Sophie Shore are the founders of the newly launched Nexus Racing Club. The three friends have several things in common — they’re young, love racing and have behind-the-scenes racing experience that they want to share with their peers. America’s Best Racing’s Dan Tordjman caught up with Sutton, Bussanich and Shore and got the scoop on their new ownership group.
DAN TORDJMAN: So, let’s start off with who came up with this incredible idea?
DARE SUTTON: The idea began during the 2016 Keeneland fall meet when I approached Sam with the idea about a young people racing partnership. She told Sophie about it, and then the three of us started pursuing the idea. It took us a meeting with an attorney, Laura D’Angelo, to point us toward the club option, and then over the winter we worked on developing the concept that we have now.
We looked at other partnerships and racing clubs for inspiration, which led to us to coming up with the idea of partnering with experienced owners. We were able to reach out to Craig Bernick of Glen Hill Farm, who has been instrumental in bringing our idea to fruition. It has been the combination of all our enthusiastic racing minds to create the idea of Nexus Racing Club.
Sutton, Bernick and Shore. (Courtesy of Nexus Racing Club)
SAM BUSSANICH: Dare came up to me at Keeneland and she said “Let’s buy a horse with a bunch of young people,” and we were discussing that there were not any young ownership groups out there where you can be a part of something with people around your age. I quickly agreed to that crazy idea and we told Sophie about our plan and she quickly jumped on board.
We knew about the Churchill Downs Racing Club and thought that was pretty neat, but we also thought that could be pricey, too. We wanted something affordable. All of the sudden, it kind of just clicked; the light bulb came on after Craig retweeted one of my tweets about bringing the younger generation into the sport. Although I followed him already on Twitter, I went through a lot of his recent tweets, because when someone that important to the industry favorites a tweet about growing the industry, I thought he had to be at least somewhat interested in growing the industry.
During the first week of February, we called him up and told him the idea, and he was all for it. The best part about it was that he even mentioned getting other owners involved, like LNJ Foxwoods and Starlight Racing, which also have helped so much with Nexus. We believed that we needed great owners that would support us, and quality horses for the best experience possible.
TORDJMAN: Tell me, in short, what the framework is for the Nexus Racing Club. Who can participate, how do they get involved?
SUTTON: Nexus Racing Club is a Thoroughbred racing club that young people, ages 18-25 in particular, can join for an initial membership fee of $100. Nexus Racing Club will race through lease agreements on select horses. These horses will be leased with established owners, which are currently Glen Hill Farm, Starlight Racing, and LNJ Foxwoods.
Nexus does not own equity in the horses and the owners retain all rights to their horses. Through the lease agreement, though, Nexus will be associated with the horses and allow club members to have an ownership-like experience. It should also be noted members will not be making any profit due to being a club and owning no equity in the horses. Rather, it is a priceless experience for members that will be the focus.
TORDJMAN: In one sentence (it can be a long, rambling one), what is the goal of NRC?
SOPHIE SHORE: Our goal is to get young people involved in the racing industry in a brand new way, through ownership, with the hope that they will invest their passion in the industry into becoming a lifelong participant in and advocate for the sport.
BUSSANICH: The goal of Nexus Racing Club is to provide an inexpensive way for the younger generation to get a glimpse of racehorse ownership while networking with people their age and with prominent owners in the industry.
TORDJMAN: Let’s take a step back. How did you get into racing?
SUTTON: I’ve always loved horses, and always watched the major horse races each year. It wasn’t until 2007, after Rags to Riches’ Belmont Stakes victory, that I became enthralled by the sport. I followed all the horses, learned about all the people and it’s been a obsession of mine ever since. I decided ownership would be my best route to gain an entry to the sport, as I did not have any prior connections. I was able to buy a small piece of a filly about two years ago and it’s been such an amazing ride with her.
SHORE: I got into racing when I was very young, having always been that girl who was obsessed with horses. I grew up in New York and first went to Belmont, my home (and favorite) track, when I was 7 years old, and that was a life-changing experience for me. I spent that next summer at Saratoga, and that kind of sealed the deal.
Whenever I got the chance, I would head too the track, spend the day there, and just talk to people, whether they were handicappers or average racing fans. I guess this would be a good time to thank NYRA (New York Racing Association) for all those good experiences. They definitely got me hooked. Now, I’m just trying to increase my own involvement in racing in a number of capacities. I just enjoy learning. I want to contribute to the growth of the sport, really, because it’s such a part of who I am.
Bussanich working as a photographer at Churchill Downs. (Courtesy of Nexus Racing Club)
BUSSANICH: I got into racing when I was about 7 because my grandpa took me to Calder Race Course in Florida. After that, I became obsessed with racing and then eventually riding horses. I am now a student at the University of Kentucky, because I wanted to be in Lexington and be engaged with everything horse racing.
TORDJMAN: What is it about ownership, specifically, and that experience that made it the focal point of this effort you three have now undertaken?
BUSSANICH: Growing up, I thought the coolest thing in the world was standing in the paddock when horses would be getting saddled; I always wanted to be inside the paddock. During the Keeneland race meet, some of my college friends tag along in the paddock with me and then we will go to the winner’s circle and watch the race, and they will always think it is the coolest experience ever. They will always ask me to help them get back into those exclusive places and watch. When us founders thought about it, we realized that these little experiences actually do mean a great deal for people that do not get to do it often, or at all. So, what if we got to let people do this — go into the paddock to watch the horses — but with their very own horse? It would be the ultimate dream for a lot of people, including myself. We want people to know it does not have to cost them thousands of dollars to have an ownership experience, that there is an affordable way to have a great experience in this game.
SUTTON: I believe horse racing is a unique sport in that it can be easily accessible through ownership. However, this access is not seen as many believe Thoroughbred ownership is only for those with large amounts of money. Ownership has been my “in” to the sport as a college student, and many of my peers have asked how I was able to get involved. I think creating NRC as a low-cost introduction for young people can help educate them on how ownership can be a great experience, as well as directing young people to ownership options if they should find themselves with disposable income in the future. Ownership is a great way to get new people in the sport and keep them in, rather than the track being a rare visit. Owners are essential to the industry, as without owners there would be no reason to breed Thoroughbreds and in turn no horses that would be racing. Finding ways to develop more owners should be sought, and we hope NRC can contribute to that.
Sutton, Bussanich and Shore. (Courtesy of Nexus Racing Club)
SHORE: The three of us feel like there is so much to be said for ownership’s unique place in the sport. We think it offers so much access, certainly more than the average fan would get. As an owner, you get access to restricted areas, a somewhat heightened experience, and the horse, which is most important. Every time I have brought a friend to the track, I make sure to bring them to the paddock where they can get an up close view of the horses. We really think greater access to the horses changes things, so that’s something we want to capitalize on through ownership. We want to give our members something to root for, and owners get, most importantly, the thrill of seeing something that is uniquely theirs succeed, which is an experience we think will really hook our members.
TORDJMAN: Tell us a little bit more about the people and organizations that have supported the launch of NRC. How have they stood behind you, and how important is that when you’re trying to get a new idea like this off of the ground?
SHORE: We have three absolutely amazing partners and we would be nothing without their support. Craig Bernick has been with us since the beginning, and has really helped us mold Nexus into what it is. He brought Megan Jones along, and she has worked tirelessly with us in putting Nexus together. Jaime Roth (and by extension, Solis/Litt Bloodstock) has been so generous to partner with us and guide us along this journey, as have Jack and Laurie Wolf and Starlight Racing. There are so many others, including Alex Evers, Walt Robertson, Laura D’Angelo, and Barry Weisbord, who have also played tremendous roles in getting us to where we are, and we would be remiss in not thanking them.
TORDJMAN: What would your vision be for the evolution of NRC over the next few years?
BUSSANICH: The goal of Nexus is to introduce new fans to the sport, so I want the members of Nexus to eventually become lifelong participants. I hope if someone wants to get into the sport or just get a little bit more involved, the first thing they think of is to join Nexus Racing Club. It would also be a goal of ours to partner with more owners so our club expands with more horses as we get more members.
SUTTON: We hope to grow by working with more partners and hopefully growing our membership base. I’d like to have many members with little prior experience in the sport join Nexus. Some young people may want [a way into] the sport but see no entry. It is a hope of mine for Nexus to be that connection to Thoroughbred racing for those people.
TORDJMAN: How can people connect with you and find out more information about getting involved with NRC?
People can follow us on Facebook (Nexus Racing Club), Twitter (@nexusracingclub), and Instagram (@nexusracingclubtb) for regular updates. We can also be found at nexusracingclub.com. Here, people can subscribe to our general email list for Nexus news.
For more information on racehorse ownership, visit OwnerView.