By Julie Sarno
Horse racing is a tough business. Del Mar resident David Batchelder is used to tough businesses. He chooses to own racehorses as a way to have fun and relieve stress. Batchelder is a partner in Bloom Racing Stable LLC. He and his wife, Sylvia, own part of 12 racehorses.
Batchelder serves on the Board of Directors of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. He had dabbled in ownership with West Point Thoroughbreds, where family friend Jeff Bloom served as a vice president and regional manager, prior to forming Bloom Racing Stable in 2011. Once Bloom Racing Stables was formed, Batchelder became more involved. The group’s first horse was Majestic City. Batchelder bought an ownership interest in Majestic City prior to his first race in July of 2011.
Majestic City won his first, the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (G3), and finished second in his next start, the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, an impressive beginning for the handsome chestnut son of City Zip. In November of 2011, Majestic City raced in the Breeders’ Cup (at Churchill Downs that year), which is to racing what the World Series is to baseball.
“We went to the Breeders’ Cup with Majestic City,” recalled Batchelder of his first Bloom Racing runner. “There, we saw people who’ve been in racing their entire lives waiting for a horse good enough to be in those races. And we were there with our first horse.”
Batchelder and his Bloom Racing partners received a dose of reality when Majestic City finished next to last in the Breeders’ Cup. Partnership members sometimes change, but Batchelder continues to own part of Majestic City, now 4. Majestic City finished fourth in the Bing Crosby on July 28 at Del Mar.
Batchelder’s business is investments. He is the founder and principal of Relational Investors LLC, a $6-billion investment fund based in San Diego that specializes in strategic block investments. He deems the company an “Activist Investor.” Internet source Investopedia defines an activist investor as “An individual or group that purchases large numbers of a public company’s shares and/or tries to obtain seats on the company’s board with the goal of effecting a major change in the company. . .” Examples given were Carl Icahn and Kirk Kerkorian.
In the past, Batchelder has gone on the boards of companies to help revitalize them. Batchelder has served on the boards of 10 companies, many of them Fortune 500, including Intuit, maker of Quick Books and Turbotax. An example he gives is Home Depot.
“We invested in Home Depot and I went on the board to work with management to revitalize the company,” said Batchelder of his 2008-2010 stint as a Home Depot board member. “We work with the companies to help correct what is causing their undervaluation in the market – problems which cause your stock to trade at a discount. With a shareholder on the board, it makes a difference.”
The owner credits his involvement in racing to Jeff Bloom. Bloom, a former jockey, and his family lived near Batchelder’s daughter and her family. Bloom’s daughters, Hannah and Ashley, are friends of Batchelder’s grandchildren. Racegoers at Del Mar know Bloom as the emcee for Breakfast at Del Mar each Saturday and Sunday during the race meet.
Bloom founded and manages Bloom Racing Stable, LLC, in 2011. He has horses with trainers Ron Ellis in Southern California and Gary Contessa in New York. Many owners choose to own racehorses in partnership, a more affordable option than individual ownership. In addition to the purchase price of a Thoroughbred racehorse, the costs for maintaining one range from $35,000 to $45,000 annually. The acquisition cost of a horse coupled with the feed, training, shoeing and veterinary expenses make partnerships more palatable.
Batchelder’s wife enjoys equines as well and he readily acknowledges she is more knowledgeable than he is when it comes to horses. She is a dressage rider. The couple own Los Robles, a ranch near Santa Isabel, where they have nine horses, including two former racehorses. Sylvia enjoys the process of converting them into dressage horses. The couple have three grown children and two grandchildren.
“When we have a horse in to race and Sylvia comes to the track, she goes to the barn, then to the paddock.” said Batchelder. “She watches the races close to the track and then goes back to the barn with the horse.”
Batchelder’s other racehorses include two named by his wife, who puts a lot of thought into the process. One is ‘Cackle the Cuda,’ named in honor of drag racing champion (and Rancho Santa Fe resident) Don Prudhomme, who was known for his 1970 Plymouth Barracuda and the throaty engine noise it made when he revved it. Another is “A Red Tie Day” named for husband David’s tendency to wear a red tie when he has a potentially contentious business meeting on his calendar.