The Steps to Buy Thoroughbred Racehorses: Investing in a Weanling

The Steps to Buy Thoroughbred Racehorses: Investing in a Weanling

The Mill Ridge Team on Nov 10th 2021

Weanlings and Horse Boarding at Mill Ridge Farm

As a potential investor in a thoroughbred racehorse, you have many paths to ownership. You can invest in a broodmare and her foal, a weanling, a yearling, or a two-year-old preparing to race for the first time. You can even buy a thoroughbred racehorse through a claiming race and walk away from the track as the new owner of your very own thoroughbred. In fact, at any time in a racehorse’s life, they are available for purchase.

The right time for every buyer is different, depending on your goals, budget, and passions. Sometimes all it takes is falling in love with the right horse, and allowing your wallet to follow your heart. Yet for the savvy investor, a deeper understanding of both the life cycle of the racehorse and their abilities leads to a potentially more fulfilling investment. In many ways, buying a weanling is a good place to start.

What is a Weanling?

In the thoroughbred racing world, foals are moved away from their mothers and weaned at approximately four to six months of age. Between that time and January first of the following year, they are considered weanlings. Following January first, all thoroughbred weanlings become yearlings at the same time.

Once separated from their mothers, the weanlings are housed and turned out in the fields with other weanlings, where they become acclimated to the social structure of the herd. They also spend more time with people at this age, as they are brought into the barn each morning for a few hours. A farm’s goals for weanlings are to give them positive experiences with humans and to nurture them along as they grow and develop.

At Mill Ridge Farm, we see ourselves as a nursery for young horses, in that we don’t train horses to race on our farm. Our goal is to prepare young horses to race by giving them the environment they need to grow in a healthy way, where horses are allowed to be horses while also receiving the finest care in the industry. A horse race, after all, is the manifestation of herd dynamics with horses. Their time spent running and playing in the fields is the beginning of the development of their will to win. In addition, they become familiar with people, their grooms, farriers, and veterinarians.

When is the Time to Buy?

Buying a Weanling Thoroughbred Racehorse

This year’s Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale begins November 10, 2021, and is the perfect time to purchase a weanling. A weanling is an interesting balance of factors that are known, like their bloodline, and factors that are yet to be determined, like their ability to perform on the track. To compare to people in sports, identifying a star weanling is like trying to identify the next LeBron James while playing middle school ball. Yet with careful consideration of bloodlines and temperament, a weanling can be an exciting prospect as an investment.

First of all, the price for a weanling is typically lower than buying a proven racehorse. This is due not only to their untested abilities, but also because the investment you will make in their care, training, and upkeep over the next few years will be critical to their performance down the road. A weanling is generally sold at 70% - 80% the value of a yearling.

Secondly, a weanling can be purchased for a reasonable price to be sold later for a higher price. This practice, called “pinhooking,” can provide a steady return on investment.

Pinhooking Explained

The term pinhooking, as used in the sale of thoroughbred racehorses, stems from the tobacco industry, when a buyer would literally “pin a note” on young tobacco plants to buy with the intention of selling later at a profit. To pinhook a weanling is the same process, where a buyer--at a sale like the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale--invests in a young horse with the intention of selling it as a yearling after overseeing its care for a short period of time.

What Should a Prospective Buyer Look for in a Weanling?

A weanling should be a good size--not too large, and not too small. Although all farms handle weanlings differently, at Mill Ridge, we constantly strive to find the right balance of handling and turning them out to play, run the hills of the farm, while building their foundation for strength and growth. Their future success isn’t just about size as much as it is about identifying the future athleticism in a weanling.

The conformation of a young horse will change as they grow. You should look for the right balance and shape that is consistent with top thoroughbred athletes. There’s a presence and athleticism in a young horse that can serve as an indicator of its abilities in the future.

In addition, with the assistance of your bloodstock agent, you should meticulously examine any horse’s bloodline. “It’s important to see the balance and athleticism in a horse, along with their pedigree, which is always an underlying factor,” says Headley Bell, principal agent at Nicoma Bloodstock. “Weanlings are an exciting prospect every year when new stallions turn out their first crop. It’s always something to look forward to, because there’s so much potential.”

Nicoma Bloodstock Agents at Mill Ridge Farm Make the Difference

Buying, selling, and raising top grade thoroughbred racehorses is our legacy at Mill Ridge Farm and Nicoma Bloodstock. The bloodstock agents at Nicoma use their experience and understanding of bloodlines to match their clients with the horses that meet their budgets and their goals for long-term success.

The relationship between Mill Ridge and Nicoma is familial: Mill Ridge buys horses through Nicoma Bloodstock in order to provide the best to their clients. Headley Bell was one of the first in the industry to call for a bloodstock agents' code of ethics.He worked with industry leaders, and after two years of work, theThoroughbred Agent and Consultant Association (TACA) was founded in 1989. Together, they established a Code of Ethics, which is the foundation for the Sales Integrity Task Force used today.

Buying or selling thoroughbred racehorses without partnering with a bloodstock agent is a complex process that often yields unsuccessful results. Using an experienced team of trainers and bloodstock agents can help you reduce risk and make better investment decisions. Look for sellers who put horse welfare first. This is your investment, so don’t settle. Let a bloodstock agent guide you and help you see a horse’s potential before the horse is proven on the track.

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.