Economic, Environmental Pressures Slow Demand For Retired Racehorses In Australia

Economic and environmental pressures have caused demand for retired racehorses to slow in Australia, reports 

Nicki Cook, a trainer who works with Racing Victoria’s Off the Track program, specializes in retraining retired racehorses out of her program Shory Park Horses. She has said that the slowdown has affected her business and she fears the ramifications may be insurmountable if conditions persist. 

Cook has re-trained and sold hundreds of retired racehorses, but says that she is struggling to sell any of the 25 she currently has in her care; she has sold just one since the beginning of August. 

She believes that higher interest rates, increased cost of living and feed prices, and threat of drought have combined to make potential horse owners reluctant to buy, particularly Thoroughbreds. Cook traditionally would be able to sell a horse after giving it six weeks of retraining, but she now has the horse in her care for about six months. Some of the quirkier horses she’s had in her care for almost two years. 

Prices for the horses have also markedly declined; while she used to be able to demand $3,000 to $5,000 per horse, she now can’t sell some of the completely retrained horses for even $1,000.

Cook is a recognized trainer with Racing Victoria, meaning she receives $100 per month for each horse in her care from the organization. The program is funded through a two percent deduction from the state’s overall purse pool. 

Currently her farm is full, with no ability to take on more horses, though trainers call her each week with horses needing a place to go as they retire. 

In an effort to offset her expenses, which are nearly $7,500 per week, Cook has had to adjust her business plan which will now include selling horses directly from the track with no retraining, in addition to lowering the price tag on some of her trained horses. 

Retired racehorses will arrive at Cook’s farm, be assessed and ridden very minimally: in the arena, down the road and over a jump. If the horses are sound and willing, they will immediately be offered for sale. She is hopeful that this move will allow her to sell more horses more rapidly, opening stalls for those horses that are retiring from the track and in need of a place to land. 

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