Insider Tips with Headley Bell-- Tip #2: Choose Experience

Insider Tips with Headley Bell-- Tip #2: Choose Experience

The Mill Ridge Team on Nov 29th 2021

“The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.” ~ William Osler

Headley Bell understands the value of his experience in the thoroughbred racing industry and how that value translates to his clients.

As Managing Partner of Mill Ridge Farm, and as the principal thoroughbred bloodstock agent of Nicoma Bloodstock, his experience as a fifth generation horseman began as a groom on what was then his mother’s farm, to his role today. Mill Ridge Farm has expanded to 900 acres and Price Bell, Headley’s oldest son, is now General Manager of the Farm.

The grandson of Hal Price Headley and son of Alice Chander (who have both been inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame), Headley Bell has dedicated his career to the horseracing industry. As a thoroughbred bloodstock agent, Headley has handled the purchases or matings of thoroughbreds since 1979, when he launched Nicoma Bloodstock as the purchasing arm of Mill Ridge Farm.

Since then, he has assisted Roy and Gretchen Jackson in the mating that produced Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, and Street Sense, mated for Jim Tafel to become Champion 2-Year-Old and G1 Breeders’ Cup winner in 2006, Kentucky Derby winner in 2007, and since then, has become a successful stallion. Mill Ridge Farm, as a thoroughbred racehorse nursery, has raised 36 Grade 1 winners since 2000. Included in this group are eight Breeders’ Cup winners, one Kentucky Derby Winner, and three Horse of the Year titles.

“Progress comes from the intelligent use of experience.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Choose Bloodstock Agents with Industry Experience

Headley Bell of Nicoma Bloodstock and Mill Ridge Farm

Experience isn’t worth much if it isn’t used to make better decisions as you move forward. The experience of the Bell family is evidence of that--it’s a legacy of growth and innovation that’s rooted in strong traditions.

Alice Chander, as one of the first women in the racing industry to make a name for herself and her farm as an owner and breeder, broke barriers in the male-dominated horse racing industry.

Today, the family carries on the traditions of breaking down barriers and forging new ground.

Headley’s first tip for choosing a bloodstock agent is to choose your agent based on the relationship. But if that relationship is formed with an agent without deep experience in the thoroughbred racing industry, you may be taking an unnecessary risk.

“One can’t really replace experience with raising thoroughbreds, or fake it,” says Headley. “There are so many intricacies to this industry. If you don’t have the experience to back up your work, you’ll be found out pretty quickly.”

That experience--with both the successes on the track and in the growth of the farm--shines through as “The Mill Ridge Way”. Headley Bell has shaped and grown this concept over the years by focusing on the success and education of his clients. In many ways, he is a steward of the industry who ushers owners--both new and experienced--through the nuanced world of buying and selling thoroughbred racehorses, pinhooking, matings, and caring for broodmares and foals.

“I always say that I love all of it--I love everything about this industry, from seeing foals born healthy in the middle of the night, to then seeing that foal grow to race and to win one day. Helping guide owners with their buying choices is a privilege, and one that I take seriously,” says Headley.

Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” ~ Robert Kiyosaki

Choose a Bloodstock Agent with A Record of Success

An experienced, discerning thoroughbred bloodstock agent will tell you the truth when it comes to buying and selling racehorses: if you’re only in it to win, you might be choosing the wrong game to play. Yet when the successes come, they are what drive owners to continue seeking the winner’s circle. Nicoma Bloodstock, with Headley Bell at the helm, is no stranger to that success.

From 167 mares purchased by Nicoma:

  • 10% of the mares produced a Grade 1 winner.
  • 20% of the mares produced a Graded Stakes winner.
  • 32% of the mares produced a Stakes winner.
  • 46% of the mares produced a blacktype runner.

These statistics show an ongoing commitment to both the investment in the horses and to their owners. An experienced bloodstock agent is equally committed to the success of their clients. Nicoma clients include, but are not limited to, Darley Stud, Juddmonte Farms, Live Oak Stud, Sagamore Farm, and a host of individuals and corporations investing in horse racing.

Experience brings responsibility along with it: not just to Headley Bell’s heritage, but to the land, the horses, and his clients. Stewardship is important to the Bells. The land matters. The horses matter. Doing things right matters. That commitment is to the future for the farm and to future generations.

Once you experience “The Mill Ridge Way”, you become a part of that future, as well. Choosing a bloodstock agent with both the experience of the past and a keen eye on the future is a balance. Once you’ve found that right relationship, you’ll embark on a journey of thoroughbred racehorse ownership that is full of excitement, passion, and the highs and lows that come with competition. It’s about the horse, but it’s also about the love of the race.

If you’d like to begin a conversation with a bloodstock agent at Nicoma Bloodstock about potentially owning your own piece of thoroughbred racing history, contact us today at (859) 224-1000 or learn more here.