Curtis Landry freely admits he has a horse problem. And he wants to share it with you.
So he started up what he’s calling the Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club, a first for Edmonton. Similar crowdfunded syndicates have been successful in Seattle and Vancouver. For a one-time fee of $250, you can buy a piece of the action, call yourself an owner, pat your horses on the nose, feed them carrots, cheer them on at Northlands Park, sweep out their stalls every morning if you so desire.
“You can be involved as much or as little as you like,” he said. “You can show up on race day, sit in the grandstand, watch your horse, go home after the race and never think about it again. Or you can show up every morning, come watch them train, clean stalls, brush the horse, get involved as much as you possibly can handle.”
Landry is all in, as you might expect.
“Buying these horses is my addiction, racing them is my passion,” he said. “Nothing brings more joy to me, outside of my family, than watching these horses win races and knowing everything that goes into getting them to that point.
“For someone who has even the remotest interest in horses, there’s no better way to get introduced to the racing industry because of the cost-control aspect of it. On top of that, you’ve got somebody extremely experienced like me offering to teach them the ins and the outs of the business.”
Landry owns the horseflesh — unraced two-year-olds Krissy Fortynine and Swift Sally Swift and four-year-old Streakin Discreet — and is leasing them to the club for the season. When fully subscribed at 200 memberships, the club’s $50,000 stake will feed, stable and train the horses for the Northlands Park racing season. Landry takes care of them after that, on his dime.
He structured the club that way for a couple of reasons; primarily to provide cost control and certainty for members. But also because of the uncertainty surrounding next year, when Northlands is planning to be out of the horse racing business. If that happens, and Landry is by no means convinced yet, he’ll move his operation to Balzac for the thoroughbred season.
But by then, he figures he’ll have you hooked, anyway. One win ought to do it.
“You could compare it to having your first child.”
The membership fees cover costs. If one of the club’s horses is claimed, that revenue goes into the pool, as will the potential race winnings. Any surplus will be split on a per share basis at the end of the season.
He launched the project at the beginning of May and said he has about 80 club members, not quite half his goal of 200. Members hail from the Edmonton area, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, B.C., Lethbridge and Cochrane. He’s doing what he can to grow the grassroots of a shrinking industry.
“We need to get this sport back in the spotlight where it used to be in the ’70s and ’80s, when it was the place to be in town.”
Landry, 43, grew up with the smell of the backstretch in his nostrils. His dad Peter ran horses on B tracks in Lethbridge and Grande Prairie in the mid-1980s. In 2008, Curtis and brother Darrell joined their father and the trio accumulated horses for Alberta’s A tracks.
Curtis also worked for the family oilfield business, but it was sold in 2012. He worked as a consultant with the new owners for a while, but hung it up entirely in 2013. He’s retired, at 43.
“If I keep playing with these horses too long, I’ll have to go back to work,” he laughed.
It’s an expensive hobby, all right. They say you can finish with $1 million in the horse business, if you start with $2 million.
“I couldn’t even begin to speculate what I’ve actually spent. Right now, I have partners on a lot of different horses, and I have a percentage on about 20 horses at the track.”
That makes him a middling player. Some larger operations have interests in 40 to 60 of the 750 horses in the Northlands Park barns.
“I think the big wave of the future is getting costs controlled by developing syndicates, getting like-minded individuals together, grouping them up with five or 10 people, get them buying one or two horses,” he said.
Landry’s plan is to put together some smaller syndicates in the fall, prime purchasing time for the new crop of two-year-olds, and introduce new owners to the sport.
“It’s a lot more fun, when you win a race, getting your picture taken with 20 or 30 other people than it is to walk over there by yourself.”
He figures he’s been to the winner’s circle about 100 times; nine of those trips were with Tell Me Lies. Purchased for $12,000, she won nine races, finished second four times and made more than $266,000.
“My very first win was a two-year-old named Gold Omega. It was our very first start, going three and a half furlongs in a maiden special, he won by about five lengths.
“You’re hooked right there and it’s in the blood and it’s never leaving. It’s pure excitement. Pure joy.”
And it can be yours, for $250.