SALT LAKE CITY — The pageantry and fervor that goes into the Kentucky Derby shows just how important the race is to the community of Louisville. Horse racing is often called the sport of kings. The thousands of horse owners in Utah can appreciate the cost that goes into owning a horse. But race horses are a whole different league.
You could get one a foal for a $1000, or you could spend up to $16 million for the caliber of horse that competes for the Triple Crown. And buying the horse is the cheapest thing horse owners will do.
"The cost is in the training, the entries for the races, vets, shoesing," said trainer Glad Vantassell. "They call it the sport of kings for a reason."
Owners can expect to spend about $30,000 dollars a year to keep their horse in training. Vet bills can easily surpass $500 every month. A ferrier to keep shoes on the horse, another $100. Hay and feed can cost $250.
None of that includes, shipping, entry fees, jockey fees and everything else that goes along with owning what amounts to an equine version of an NBA player.
"They're taken care of the same way, you're wrapping their legs, you're icing their legs after they run," Vantassell.
If the horse isn't winning at the track and earning a paycheck, owners can quickly lose a small fortune. So what is it that keeps their passion — and pocketbook — coming back for more?
"Horse racing is the highest highs and the lowest lows," Vantassell said.
"There is nothing in the world more exciting than winning a race," said breeder Steve McIntyre. "I don't really care if it's a $1000 maiden or a $625,000 Rio Dosa Rainbow Futurity."
In Utah, there aren't the same kind of opportunities to raise the race purse. So for many, it becomes something between a labor of love and an expensive hobby that also requires a little of what money can't buy.
"If you're gonna be successful in the race horse business you'd better have a little bit of luck, or a lot of luck," McIntyre said.
The sport is a labor of love for jockeys, too. Uriel Dominguez, a jockey at the South Jordan Equestrian Center, said he rides anywhere from 25 to 35 horses on any given day.
"You have to if you want to make a living at it. You can't just ride for one person," Dominguez said. "You have to ride as many horses as you can."
Dominguez did not always love the sport.
"My dad bought a racehorse when I was really young, and he just brought me into it," he said. "I didn't like it, I didn't want to ride at first, and he made me, and now I love it."
Contributing: Keith McCord