Archive » September 23, 2010
By Pat Murphy, Contributing Writer
Does Rich Sulpizio use a crystal ball to run his Thoroughbred racing farm successfully? The Thoroughbred racing industry, like many other businesses, in these perilous times, is suffering. In years past, the Valley was a center of fabulous California Thoroughbred breeding farms. Now, with the closing of River Edge Farm, our large establishments are down to Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, Lone Oak and the Sulpizio’s Magali Farm. Gabi Sulpizio tells me their success is due to a combination of Tom Hudson with his knowledgeable management skills, their devoted employees, and her husband’s talent for running the farm like a business enterprise. They have made some strategic changes.
Tom invites me on a tour of the farm and first we visit the training center with its 72-stall barn and 25 grass paddocks. Here they do lay-ups, which are the conditioning of yearlings and the training of race horses right on their own track. The famous jockey Jerry Lambert is on the staff and gives us a wave as we pass. “Right now, we are conditioning 12 yearlings for the Barrett’s select sale in October,” says Tom. “Once in a while, we send some Cal-breds back to Kentucky to the Keeneland sale. Our farm is 238 acres and our well pumps 1,600 gpm. The water’s free, but the electricity to pump it is so costly that we’re considering going to solar or wind power.”
We pass 10 and 20 acre pastures where the yearling fillies are in one pasture and the yearling colts in another. “We raise 80 to 100 foals a year now,” he tells me. “We used to raise 125 to 150, but have cut back. About four years ago, we were breeding 300-400 mares to our stallions and had 560 head of horses here at one point.”
We both agree that there are few things more fun than watching a horse race, and that it is sure to come back. But it is in drastic need of the right kind of promotion. The answer to having successful racetracks is getting the involvement of young people, just as the raising of Thoroughbreds for racing needs an infusion of young breeders. So, exciting promotions that appeal to college age and older people who want to do something different and have a good time may very well be the answer. The strange fact is that at one point, a group of Valley Thoroughbred breeders were actually trying to buy Santa Anita Racetrack but were turned down.
Now we pull up next to the foaling barn and see the comfortable big box stalls where the mares give birth to their valuable foals. “It’s all on camera, Tom says,” Rich and Gabi were in Australia and watched one baby being born, last year. We keep three to four people on duty here at night. And the mares that are close to foaling are up here. But we have a man checking the pastures with a big spotlight about every five minutes to make sure the horses are O.K. After foaling, they go to another special barn.” As we enter the a-joining breeding area, we see that the ground is covered with black shaved rubber that comes from Kentucky. It’s a soft surface so that if a stallion or mare should fall they are not injured. They also walk horses healing from leg injuries here on the soft springy surface. Then an elegant stallion is led by, and is introduced as Roi Charmant.
“He was a very fast sprinter and has won about $380,000,” Tom tells me. “Now he is standing here at Magali, and his owner breeds all his mares to him.” But it’s a handsome Arabian gentleman that teases all the Thoroughbred mares to see if they are in heat. His name is Galeon, and he was one of the Magness stallions when that farm was located here.
“We stand four stallions here now. We are way down on our numbers of mares but plan to add to our mare population this year. With the changes we have made, we are now extremely profitable and don’t have to take a dollar out of Rich’s pocket.” So how does Rich make all this work? He has been greatly successful as the President of Qualcomm Communications. They design the chips that operate cell phones. In addition, he and his son-in-law invented a new system that improved the existing horse software. It’s called Paddock Pro and cuts down on time spent for billing. Tom says that they went from spending 60 hours monthly for billing to 10 hours. It also keeps track of exactly where each horse is. It is such a hit that it is widely used in Kentucky now.
Next week we’ll visit with Gabi Sulpizio, who loved horses as a little girl but never dreamed that she would one day be the co-owner of a magnificent Thoroughbred Racing establishment.