My Car Quest

April 21, 2024

Thoroughbred Horses and Collector Cars: A Comparison of Hobbies

by Wallace Wyss –

Maybe as a nostalgia nod toward my short-lived career in the Bitterroot as a cowboy, I now spend time each week suitably cowboyed up at a horse breeding ranch. One of my tasks is to sell off the loser–the one who didn’t have “a nose for the wire.” The ranch owner, an extremely elderly man, chose this as his hobby after running a paper company though there seems to be much more chance of losing money than making it. He sees this hobby as his last chance to make the grid at the Big One: the Kentucky Derby. Horse racing’ equivalent to LeMans. When I see the money spent I think of car collectors and see some parallels.

You might say: “Wait a minute–you can’t expect a horse that’s won only a couple of regional races to win the Derby” but it’s happened. I am thinking Giacomo in 2005. It was not the favored horse. Closing Argument, a 71.60-1 shot, dueled with Afleet Alex in the final sixteenth of a mile, but then both were passed on the outside by a grinding 50.30-1 shot named Giacomo, who entered the Kentucky Derby with one win from seven starts for Jerry and Ann Moss and had previously finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby.

Race Horse

To our author, these horses remind him of when he went to the Porsche factory and found a storage yard where they had old race cars parked, some fully prepped but never raced, that could be used as street cars…it’s like buyin’ a dream.

I think it’s less likely a sports car at Lime Rock–could be elevated to run at LeMans with only a couple victories under its belt. So the old man’s dream is one I rain on, but reachable, going by thoroughbred racing history.

Here’s some comparisons: When you buy or breed thoroughbreds they come with family backgrounds like a Ferrari that’s been vetted by an expert like Marcel Massini. It can be sold largely on pedigree. If you buy a horse that’s only half thoroughbred it might not be eligible to be in a race against thoroughbreds. Car comparison: you buy a used exotic that’s powered by an engine that’s not the type it was sold new with it’s always going to be worth less than an original.

Horses die on you. Even if well fed, one day you go out to the stable and a horse that seemed alive and well the day before is dead. In the car world if the engine breaks you order it rebuilt or replaced. Both cost a lot to maintain. With collector cars repairs can cost thousands. But horses are the same. I’ve seen the old man’s veterinary bills–a tall stack, not one below $1000.

The sad secret of horse racing is that if a horse breaks a leg, there is no repair. Horses don’t like to wear a cast. They are put down, killed. But plenty of collector cars have blown engines only to have them rebuilt (putting in an engine with different SN than it had when new does lower the value though)

If you have race horses that racked up victories, their value goes up in value. Same with a vintage racer. Of course with vintage cars its value is much more if it scored class wins “in period” (such as LeMans in the ’60s if it’s a ’60s car)

If you have a jockey who’s simpatico with the horse and together they score win after win, that’s the same as employing a race driver who can coax the ultimate performance out of the car without blowing it up. There’s a certain status to using a race car for other tasks. So as well with a thoroughbred horse, to go barrel racing with a thoroughbred, you can brag of its former career or at least is lineage.

Emotional feedback from the beast – I’ve had it in a couple of cars, my Ferrari GTC/4 (even though it never ran on all 12 cylinders), my ’69 Corvette, but the exhilaration I felt in Montana on a horse in full gallop was even more satisfying because I felt like I was back in the true Wild West.

But the horse breeding world has it all over the car world. First, if you extract the seed from a winning stallion, you can breed more carrying his seed. In cars, I can’t think of any comparisons. Engine oil? Naw. Put a stallion in a stable with a mare in heat and wha’cha know sometime later there’s the whinny of a third horse. As far as I know you can’t put two collector cars together in a barn and then expect another…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE AUTHOR Wallace Wyss is a co-host on KUCR FM’s weekly “Autotalk” show, broadcast from Riverside, CA.


Lance Reventlow and the Scarab

Lance Reventlow and the Scarab

Thoroughbred Horses and Collector Cars: A Comparison of Hobbies
Article Name
Thoroughbred Horses and Collector Cars: A Comparison of Hobbies
When you buy or breed thoroughbreds they come with family backgrounds like a Ferrari that's been vetted by an expert like Marcel Massini.


  1. Chris Lackner says

    Here’s an Iso Grifo 7 Litre (the prototype, actually) with horses for company!

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