Purchasing two in-foal broodmares at the 2022 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale doubled the size of Apricot Valley Thoroughbreds’ broodmare band. The mares Tiptoe and Turning Point were the latest step in Colin Davis’s methodical entrance into the racing game.
Davis, a resident of Cobourg, Ont., is new to racehorse breeding and ownership, but familiar with the equine stars of the sport. Growing up, he attended races at Kawartha Downs and in the last decade has owned multiple off-track Thoroughbreds.
“I’ve always been interested in owning and managing horses. I did a little bit of riding myself, but that wasn’t really my thing,” said Davis. “When I used to go to Kawartha Downs in my teens, I found more enjoyment watching the horses than betting on them.”
As Davis went looking for more information on the racing industry, he found Ontario Racing’s Horse Ownership 101 Sessions. An initial meeting with Elissa Blowe provided clarity on what style of ownership matched his vision.
“Elissa said I seemed like the kind of person who in five years could own a handful of broodmares,” said Davis. “I thought it was interesting she saw me like that, so we sorted of gamed it out a little bit.”
A new owner has a wide variety of choices when deciding how they’ll begin their journey. Owning a broodmare, the option that piqued Davis’s interest, is among the most hands on.
“He already had a farm, and some retired racehorses, so I knew he had barns and paddocks,” said Blowe. “After the broodmare idea was in place, it was all momentum rolling down hill, and the idea got bigger and bigger.”
Blowe connected Davis to leading bloodstock agent Marette Farrell, and he headed to the Bluegrass State for the 2021 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
While there are no guarantees in breeding, following a sound process can help stack the deck in your favour, and Farrell and her team were impressed with Davis from the outset of the partnership.
“The way he spoke to me on the phone captured my attention,” said Farrell. “I realized that he had done a lot of homework regarding what he wanted to do, how he wanted to go about it, and what his end goal was, which was to breed good horses.”
Davis spent four days, “pounding the pavement” with Farrell and one of her colleagues Martin O’Dowd. He left Kentucky with two mares purchased through Ontario Racing’s Mare Purchase Program (MPP).
The MPP is a component of the Thoroughbred Improvement Program. When purchasing in-foal mares at recognised public auctions outside of the province, Ontario residents can apply for an incentive totaling half the purchase price, to a maximum of $25,000 per mare and $75,000 annually per person or partnership.
The two mares Davis purchased in 2022 were also supported by the MPP.
“(The MPP) has been instrumental,” said Davis. “The first year I would have started with one mare, and then went to two. Each year you try and get an economy of scale, but it just sets you back because it’s the same leg work, and the same expenses but no efficiencies.”
Blowe’s original idea of Davis owning a handful of broodmares in five years has been achieved in less than two, thanks to the MPP.
“Anyone I mention the (MPP) to in Kentucky says, ‘Wow, I’ve never heard of anything like that,’” said Davis. “I am really fortunate because it allows me to spend more on mares against some rivals in bidding, and allowed me to get two mares this year when I was only thinking of one. It’s honestly been amazing and the best thing that I’ve seen.”
The program allowed Davis to target quality by stepping up to the price point where he and Farrell could purchase mares by proven broodmare sires. Tiptoe is by Tiz Wonderful the broodmare sire of 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Wonder Wheel and Turning Point is by Hard Spun.
In 2021, he brought home Johansson by Pioneer of the Nile and Renata by Medaglia d’Oro.
“It’s a fantastic program,” said Farrell. “It’s been done the right way to enable people to step out of the zone that they were in to buy something better, and the returns on that will be major down the road. The goal was to help the quality of racehorses in Ontario, and I think they have succeeded in a major way.”
In addition to his burgeoning band of broodmares, Davis has dipped his toes into racehorse ownership. He connected with Sovereign Award-winning trainer Catherine Day Phillips and is a partner in three horses.
One of his horses, an Ontario-bred filly named Millie Girl, made her racing debut in 2022. In her debut start on July 16, Davis’s first as an owner, she won a maiden special weight at Woodbine.
“Coming down the stretch Catherine and I lost where Millie Girl was, because it looked like she dropped back to fifth,” said Davis. “Then my wife started screaming and saying, ‘She’s first’, and I was like ‘Oh my, I missed the whole thing.’”
The Davis family, Colin, his wife, and their two daughters Josephine and Felicity, made their way to the winner’s circle, savouring the moment. The picture taken that day on the Woodbine turf hangs in their barn.
That winner’s circle visit is one of the many thrills Davis has experienced along his Thoroughbred journey. He’s enjoyed each step of the process, from looking at pedigrees, breeding his mares to new stallions, and watching the babies grow and develop at the farm.
“It’s all just been an education; working with Catherine, working with Marette, and learning from Elissa,” said Colin. “It’s been interesting, and the funny thing is now I am helping out new owners, who are asking the same questions I was a year ago.”
Davis is eager to share the knowledge he has gained thus far, to help anyone interested in the business experience the same enjoyment he has.
“It’s a different world, with a lot to learn once you get into it,” said Davis. “But if you can bridge that gap, it will help people get in the door, because once you’re through that door, it is a lot of fun.”
For more information on Ontario Racing’s Mare Purchase Program click here.
To learn how you can become a Thoroughbred breeder, click here.