Thursday, July 9, 2009

Terry Finley: West Point Thoroughbreds

Terry Finley is the founder and President of West Point Thoroughbreds, Inc. A graduate of West Point, Finley is a former Army Captain and Airborne Ranger who holds an MSBA from Boston University. He has been involved in the Thoroughbred industry for more than 25 years, gaining hands-on experience working with thoroughbreds as a teenager and starting racing partnerships in 1991.

OOF: Too say the least you’ve lead a very interesting life, what first attracted you as a teenager to Thoroughbred racing?

TF: I’ve always had a sense about horses. I used to go to the races with my father and I worked at race tracks and farms. I’ve always been very comfortable and confident around horses.

OOF: I read that your first foray into racing partnerships was with a Sergeant under your command, from that you built West Point Thoroughbreds, quite a jump, what were the steps and processes along the way that made it possible?

TF: When my wife and I returned from Germany we settled in New Jersey. There was a sergeant from Louisville who always talked about the races; he was a big Pat Day fan. He rekindled my love of the races, the smell the look of the horses and I decided to get back into the game. My wife and I claimed a five thousand dollar horse from Philadelphia Park which was my first foray into ownership. We then put together a business plan and started working on attracting partners.

OOF: How did you first start attracting partners?

TF: Advertising, we put an ad in the Philadelphia Park form, classifieds, all over the place. At one point we printed up flyers and put them on windshields of the cars at Philadelphia Park until security saw us and made us take the flyers off every car.

OOF: You advertise a great deal more than other partnerships, in fact you’ve even had an ad on my blog through ad sense, how has the amount of advertising you do made a difference in your business?

TF: Well, we had to separate ourselves there were very well established partnerships, Dogwood, Team Valor, who in their right mind would want to go with West Point. At that time we didn’t have the bankroll to get the good horses. I didn’t come from the thoroughbred business, their was no family involvement. I had no business experience how else do you attract attention you go to you’re bootstraps; you get good horses and take care of you’re clients.

OOF: Your ad (Sherm’s Call) where a guy is relaying via the phone the horse winning a race is the best Thoroughbred related ad ever, how has it impacted your business?

TF: People know it, we played it too much in the beginning, if you think about it the number of images we see, we developed an ad people know and remember very accurately how it feels.

OOF: Is their any particular type of individuals or group of individuals that you target with your advertising?

TF: Not really, it would be easy if you were selling a Maserati you would have demographics, sales figures, it would be a different model. We have a range of clients from a billionaire to someone with a 60K income who saved up because it was their dream to be a part of a big horse. It was that school teacher in the winners circle when we beat Rags to Riches. We focus on customer service, buying quality horses, and taking care of business.

OOF: Has the economy affected your advertising philosophy, and if so how?

TF: To a great extent no, no real drop off in actual dollars has occurred. We’ve had some clients shift some money around and some big investors who’ve help us weather the storm. But we’ve had three good years which put us in a good position. An investor doesn’t care if your company has done well in the past they want to win.

OOF: When looking to purchase a horse are there any specific characteristics that you look for, such as their balance, a look in their eye, pedigree, etc…?

TF: Depends on the horse, we like to buy at the two year old in training sales. In the past four years we’ve had five grade one winners, I don’t think there’s too many who could say that. What has helped is our ever improving institutional knowledge. If you look at a horse in a 1/8 or a 1/4 mile workout some guys are really more strenuous than others. The speed at this distance is not really that big of an indicator of what the horse can do. We group the horses by consignor. Some don’t gallop out because their not in condition to do so; some don’t do “Zingers” (speed work) for different reasons. Once these factors are known we can compare and contrast not just their time but all factors. If you look statistically at how poor we as buyers are when big money is paid at auctions it doesn’t work out (Editors note: Green Monkey). We are there ten days before the auction watching horses being pushed beyond belief. I tell everyone year after year the ones left standing are the real deal. They get sharper every year and we must know the tendencies of these sellers. If a horse is over weight from one seller they were hurt and couldn’t continue training. Yet another consignor all their horses are overweight, you have to be able to discern the difference. They keep getting smarter so I tell my people we have to keep getting smarter too.

OOF: Do you put a higher value and or emphasis colts or fillies, or does it matter?

TF: Some what, I see people year after get messed up with that, they have to do it on the track. Pedigree is important but we’re not going to get stopped by that, the sales companies filter out the lower level horses. Their so expensive to sell consignor won’t sell the lower level horses due to their reputation. It’s a very good process, consignor sell good horses, sales company appraise the horses and determine it they should be in the Fasig-Tipton, or another lower sale.

OOF: Do you find there is a larger partnership market for colts or fillies, or once again does it matter?

TF: I don’t think that really matters, more and more to people it doesn’t matter, I mean a good filly has a residual value but there’s no dream of the Derby.

OOF: One last question where do you see the future of West Point Thoroughbreds?

TF: I guarantee I’ll never do anything else; this is the first thing I think about in the morning, and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. My wife runs the administration side; we have ten employees which makes us from an infrastructure side the biggest partner company. We know we’re in show business, nobody needs a horse on their investment portfolio there’s other investments they could make we understand that. We work hard to get good horses, to provide quality service and take care of our clients. It’s a privilege to own and be around the horses.

1 comment:

Glenn Craven said...

I've always liked what I've seen and heard from Terry Finley and West Point, and I have an online friend who has owned shares of good horses through West Point and recommends them highly.

I'm also something of a "fanboy" of their bloodstock advisor, Buzz Chace. For me, getting to follow him around at a sale someday would be like being backstage for Pink Floyd, circa 1976.