04/04/2016 9:04AM

Giwner: Stop standing on the sidelines

When purchasing a horse on TheStable.ca, you'll see a picture like the above to illustrate how much of the horse is available. The yellow portion represents Derick Giwner's share.

Life is way too often filled with excessive talk and little action. Rather than sit on the sidelines, I elected to step up to the plate to get a first-hand feel for the talk of the sport, TheStable.ca.

Usually my involvement includes a conversation with particulars of a horse or venture and concludes with a story. In this case, long before I picked up the phone to call founder Anthony MacDonald, I had other plans.

Rather than simply writing a story about the new fractional ownership opportunity, I elected for the test-drive approach. That’s right, I purchased a share in a horse. Well, actually a filly named Ohello Blue Chip. And unlike my first experience with trying to buy a horse more than 15 years ago, this one came with no hassles or fuss. But let’s provide a bit of background first.

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TheStable.ca offers anyone who wants the opportunity to purchase shares of a horse with limited financial responsibility. Each horse has 100 shares with new owners able to come in for as little as 1% (right up my alley). The venture started with 24 horses and 2,400 shares and has been so successful that only 146 shares remain.

Daily maintenance (training) is set at $2,000 per month but does not include major vet work (my share would be $17 a month). If a horse is not in training and is turned-out to a farm, the fee would be dropped to coincide with the basic costs ($600 per month).

One visit to the website and you can find all of the horses in the stable with detailed reports, videos, and just about everything you need to make an informed decision on a purchase. But the biggest selling point has to be MacDonald himself.

You have to appreciate anyone that has a passion for what they do and MacDonald is all-in, literally, on this venture. Rather than just sit back and earn his training fees, he even refinanced his house to invest personally.

“I took some equity out of my home to purchase an interest in some of the horses,” said MacDonald, who added that he was surprised that his wife agreed. “I felt that I make a living in the industry and why wouldn’t I invest in it.”

The first year of business is always tricky and MacDonald admits that the 2015-16 season is unlikely to produce a profit. “We put a substantial amount of money into marketing,” said MacDonald.

What started as simply an opportunity for MacDonald to build a business has molded into an entirely new ballgame for the 39-year-old Ontario-based conditioner. He has story after story of people calling from Wisconsin, Maryland, or even Europe looking to become more involved with harness racing.

“What this site can do for the industry is immense,” said MacDonald. “It has increased exposure by bridging the gap between our industry and the general public.”

TheStable.ca does more than just offer the “Average Joe” a chance to own a horse. MacDonald stressed that it provides another viable option for breeders who didn’t quite get the amount they had hoped for their yearling at the sale or for a smaller breeder that wants to retain a percentage of their horse. They can now place the horse with MacDonald and begin the process of training down while at the same time selling off pieces of the horse to prospective buyers.

My horse (all 1% of her) is one such horse that fit into one of the above categories. Ohello Blue Chip was hammered down for $19,000 as HIP 934 in Harrisburg last Fall but was never sold by Blue Chip Farms.

“It doesn’t show it on paper, but her mother was very talented. This is her first foal,” said Blue Chip Farms owner Tom Grossman, who had a $20,000 minimum on the daughter of American Ideal-Cheer My Dear. “It cost me a $10,000 stud fee and $20 to $25,000 to raise her. I’m not going to sell that horse under the cost of production. I know she (Cheer My Dear) can throw a champion.”

Grossman was thrilled with the opportunities that TheStable.ca could potentially bring to the industry, saying that he wanted to place two to three horses with MacDonald but he ended up selling some privately.

“Anthony is a well-organized, articulate and honest guy,” said Grossman, who compared the new venture to that of the pin-hooking business on the Thoroughbred side. “I’ve tried twice to get the pin-hooking thing started in harness racing. Selling 2-year-olds in training is a giant part of Thoroughbred racing. For whatever reason it hasn’t taken off in this sport, but there are plenty of $20,000 yearlings that go on to be champions. This has the potential to be a huge help for the breeding business.”

One of five horses with shares still available, Ohello Blue Chip is now the sole member of the Giwner stable. All it took was a phone call, an envelope, stamp, and a check for $325.00 (U.S.) to purchase my one share (total included stakes fees and first month of training) of the New York Bred filly priced at $35,000 CDN. I will have to get an owners license again as MacDonald strongly feels that all owners should be licensed, but he promised to help me and any of his other new owners with the process. “That’s my job,” said MacDonald.

I’m certainly not looking at the purchase as an investment and I’d be shocked to see her in September racing for $225,000 on NY Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway, but it seemed like something that was worth an experiment. From what I’ve seen so far on her personal page, she lacks the picture-perfect gait. It is early April and plenty can happen between now and June.

So my journey begins with Ohello Blue Chip and I invite you all along for the ride. I’ll post periodic updates on her progress and at the very least, hopefully have a good story to tell all year for my investment.

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