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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By HRI Foreign Staff: Racehorses are famously costly to own, but why are they so expensive to buy and which currently active horses are the most valuable in the United States? Here are some of the most expensive racehorses running today in the USA:

Racehorses are famously expensive to own, with one of the highest recorded sums paid for a working racehorse standing at a whopping $112,500, when a 2-year-old Belgian stallion named Mcllrath’s Captain Jim was bought at auction in Illinois. With sports gambling on the rise, racing lovers now have an incredibly wide array of horses to choose from when they’re placing bets, but which United States-based racehorses running today are really worth that hard-earned wager money?

Why Are Racehorses So Expensive?

There are a number of reasons why racehorses are such a costly investment. Primarily, the price of a horse is measured by its age, track record and thoroughbred, with typically expensive breeds of racehorse including Mustang, American Trotter, Arabian, and Thoroughbred (in ascending value). While it’s possible to purchase a Mustang foal in the US for up to $30,000 (or the foal of a winning American Trotter race horse for approximately $40-50,000), Thoroughbred foals are usually only sold at auction and can fetch anywhere from $5 to $10 million. It’s worth remembering that the average sales price of racehorses in the United States is more than $76,000, and that’s without training and upkeep fees.

In order to keep a winning racehorse well-trained, healthy and happy (factoring in essential additional fees such as upkeep expenses, twice-monthly farrier fees, insurance and veterinary bills), full owners can usually expect to pay out between $30,000 to $50,000 each year. Despite the fact that horses are expensive to buy and maintain, they can undoubtedly produce astronomical returns on the track. Even when their racing days are over, these majestic animals can still be extremely valuable well into retirement, with one former racing stallion famously generating $35 million in one year as a breeding stud. Racehorses are expensive because they can be a life-changing (and risky) investment.

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1. Hot Rod Charlie

Taking his name from American classic cars, Hot Rod Charlie is an expensive racehorse that typifies Americana. Placing highly on the national leaderboard, Hot Rod Charlie has reportedly generated staggering combined earnings of $6,795,477 during his illustrious career. Bred in good old Kentucky and foaled back in 2018, the racehorse has gone on to win some top US racing titles including the Pennsylvania Derby and the Louisiana Derby in 2021. Other recent notable appearances from this famous dark grey colt racehorse include second placing in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the 2021 Belmont Stakes and the 2021 Kentucky Derby respectively. 2021 was evidently a very good year for Hot Rod Charlie, who also picked up the 2021 Secretariat Vox Populi Award. As this all-American horse entered into his fourth racing season this year, he is still a great indicator of what a truly good expensive racehorse can do on the track. In 2022, Hot Rod Charlie was entered into the Dubai World Cup and also took an easy 5+ furlong win in the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge.

2. Midnight Bourbon

While its name may sound like a late-night cocktail bar, Midnight Bourbon was in fact one of the most expensive and valuable horses running in the United States. Unfortunately, this expensive horse died suddenly in April 2022, but Midnight Bourbon has still made the list due to his staggering value and the fact that he completed multiple races this season, his fourth year on the tracks. Foaled in Kentucky in 2018 and trained by the great Steve Asmussen (generally considered as North America’s top trainer with a winning record including the Breeders’ Club Classic and the Dubai World Cup), this Thoroughbred dark grey colt racehorse had an illustrious career which included first placing in the famed Lecomte Stakes in 2021 and a second-place position in the Preakness Stakes the same year. In 2022, Midnight Bourbon was placed second in the Louisiana Stakes and fifth in the Dubai World Cup, shortly before succumbing to sudden gastrointestinal illness. Despite his unexpected death, Midnight Bourbon still places highly on many American racehorse league tables this year, generating reported overall earnings to the huge value of $3,557,970. Time will only tell which young foal or yearling is likely to take his place on the leaderboards next year.

3. Life is Good

Yet another Kentucky-bred horse that has made our list of expensive American racehorses is Life is Good, the 2018 foal that was sired by the legendary racehorse (and one of the most valuable sires in the world) Into Mischief. As if that wasn’t enough to get you interested, it’s also worth noting that Life is Good’s dam is a foal of the iconic racehorse Distorted Humor, which has produced two winning foals consecutively. Bred at the famous Gary & Mary West Stable, Life is Good is a Thoroughbred bay colt who has had enormous success on the tracks and generated reported overall earnings of $3,414,200, placing it just beneath Midnight Bourbon on the leaderboard. With Midnight Bourbon’s untimely demise, it seems that Life is Good is looking better than ever this year and going into next season. Some of Life is Good’s most notable performances include triumphant victories at the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the 2022 Pegasus World Cup.

4. Rich Strike

Rich Strike is another Thoroughbred racehorse hailing from Kentucky, this time at the world-famous Calumet Farm in 2019. This stunning chestnut colt was sired by Keen Ice and his dam is Gold Strike who was sired by Smart Strike, a half-brother of the 1991 Triple Crown Champion. This in-demand racehorse was purchased in 2021 by keen horse trainer Eric Reed (under RED-TR Racing) for a relatively cheap $30,000. Despite the comparatively low value of this purchase, Rich Strike places beneath the valuable Irish horse Lord North in many racehorse leaderboards, generating huge reported overall earnings to the tune of $5,001,492.

5. Epicenter

Purchased as a yearling for the princely sum of $260,000, Epicenter is an attractive bay colt that was born in 2019 by the famed Kentucky breeders Westwind Farms. Just like many of the best American racehorses (including some of the others on our list), Epicenter’s trainer is Steve Asussmen, with Winchell Throrougbreds LLC acquiring ownership. This racehorse’s recent record speaks for itself: Epicenter achieved 1st place spots in Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star (G2) races this year. Reportedly generating notable overall earnings of $1,940,639, Epicenter is hot on the tails of Rich Strike, who places slightly higher on many racehorse leaderboards in terms of sheer earning power.

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