A crash course on the economics of modern racehorse ownership: Julie Hobson bought a 0.02% share of Seize the Grey for $127.

When the horse won the Preakness Stakes on Saturday evening, she — and every other microshare owner — earned $158 of the $2 million purse.

But Hobson also spent $2,000 just to get to Baltimore after her flight was delayed from her home in Northern California. The night before the big race, her daughter wondered if they ought to give up.

No way, she thought.

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“You only live once,” Hobson said. “You only can live this dream.”

It took her going nearly two grand in the red, but on Saturday, Hobson found herself in a place someone with such a small investment in racing would almost never find herself: the winner’s circle.

Though the microtransaction service MyRacehorse, 2,570 people had bought a share of Seize the Grey. According to MyRacehorse founder and CEO Michael Behrens, 512 people applied for ownership privileges traditionally given only to deep-pocketed backers by tracks where their horses race.

Hobson was among the lucky few who, after the NBC cameras had cleared, was welcomed into the circle with a spirited chant of “SEIZE! THE! GREY!”

“This is what it’s all about,” Hobson shouted as she squatted in the front row, sloshing around a nearly empty wineglass. “Right, everybody?”

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Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who collected his seventh Preakness win in more than four decades racing in Baltimore, said one of the things he’s proud of is that each win has been for a different client. But even the 88-year-old had never seen a winner’s circle quite as rambunctious as this one.

“They really turned ’em loose,” Lukas said. “I’ve been in some cattle drives that were more organized than that.”

It’s a relatively new experience in racing but perhaps a path forward for an industry that everyone who knows it even casually says is in decline. The attendance at the 149th Preakness was not particularly encouraging — for most of the day, the clubhouse and infield looked less than half capacity.

But the fervor of Seize the Grey’s ownership, with hundreds who personally attended the race, was an electric counterpoint to the notion that horse racing is only for an elite class.

Only a few paces behind Lukas as he collected his seventh Preakness win, Eddie Bauml, a MyRacehorse investor, shouted as he walked with his wife: “Coach, we did it! We’re famous! I’m with the Coach!”

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Bauml said he told anyone who would listen that, if Seize the Grey got the lead, he wouldn’t be caught. Hopefully, some lucky bettors heeded the owner’s insight.

“For a $5 and $10 bettor, you get in there, you feel like part of racing,” he said, gesturing across the green expanse of the paddock. “Look at this. This is the greatest experience in the world. I recommend it to everybody.”

MyRacehorse had its own dedicated section that housed hundreds of the owners. The energy in that tent, owner Riley Ward said, was totally incomparable to any sporting experience he’s had before.

“If you were in that stand, it was electric — I mean, it was un-be-lievable,” said Ward, who also cashed in a $300 bet on Seize the Grey. “The money’s great, but I’m never gonna have this experience the rest of my life. God willing, maybe again, but wow.”

The overall turnout of Preakness, which race officials declined to provide until Sunday, seemed disappointing, and for the last few years track owners Stronach have reported millions in losses in Maryland’s signature horse race. Investments in headlining music acts have failed to deliver the younger audience and financial returns that were once hoped for, helping push a state takeover of Pimlico.

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But the future of the sport may lie in these fanatical ownership groups. Many of the horse’s owners have been following Seize the Grey closely since he was a yearling. As the wins stack up, the investment deepens. Many MyRacehorse owners in Saturday’s circle have stock in other horses. George Hegys said he keeps a spreadsheet of all the horses he owns in his pocket.

Hobson said Baltimore isn’t the furthest she’s traveled with the MyRacehorse crowd. She flew to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates along with other MyRacehorse owners who partied alongside her.

“It’s the experience,” Hobson said. “That’s what MyRacehorse gives you — something I never would have done on my own.”

Amid a diminishing drove of fans who come to see horse racing, the microshare community, while certainly not very lucrative, is a way to experience racing at its most visceral: when the horse you own has skin in the game. How much you own doesn’t seem to matter as much when you’re winning.

A retiree who took up ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rick Donovan said being a MyRacehorse owner has leveled the playing field, bringing him into an ownership box that seemed unattainable just a few years ago. And he’s got a lot of friends there with him.

“There’s just so many people here, and they’re all rooting for the same thing,” Donovan said. “You bet $1, $100, a million dollars — it’s all the same thing. It’s all the same experience.”

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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