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New Owners Coming Into Texas’ Racehorse Ownership Game

By Jennie Rees, national Turf journalist

March 24, 2022 -- After years of his wife encouraging him to get on Facebook, Kenny Heisig finally joined in order to view photos posted by his fishing buddies. He saw the fish photos all right, but got hooked on something else.

Not long after Heisig created a Facebook page, an ad for a New Owner Preview Event at Sam Houston Race Park appeared. “It kind of hit me in the head,” said Heisig, a racing fan who had never felt it feasible to become a racehorse owner. “I’ve always been interested in it, but you never have that opportunity, right?”

That changed when he attended the Texas Thoroughbred Association-sponsored event in mid-January. Heisig was so impressed with what he heard and the people he met that today he owns a small piece of 12 two-year-old fillies after buying into a C.J. Thoroughbreds syndicate.

Mary Ruyle (left), Executive Director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association and Texas Racing Commission Executive Director Amy Cook (right) welcome Kenny and Bem Heisig as Texas’ newest racehorse owners during the Houston Racing Festival weekend at Sam Houston Race Park.

Now the retired chemical-industry executive from Sugar Land outside of Houston is about to attend his first horse auction, with the TTA’s Two-Year-Old in Training Sale on April 6 at Lone Star Park. Heisig views it as an education opportunity and also will be at the April 4 “breeze” show, where horses entered in the sale have timed eighth-mile workouts (or sometimes only gallop) to allow prospective buyers to analyze their motion and stride.

“There are not many examples where an everyday, average guy can participate at a reasonably high level in a sport as an owner,” Heisig said. “Even though I’m a minority owner in a syndicate, I hope to get a taste of that.

“After the event, I determined, ‘Wow, this is pretty attainable.’ Before, I was thinking, ‘Can I do this? It’s just an empty hole, just a place to burn cash.’ But being part of a syndicate, it became a possibility. Yeah, I knew people owned horses, and yeah I knew there were yearling sales. But I didn’t know how to get into that,” commented Heisig.

Heisig doesn’t plan to buy any horses at the TTA auction. Rather, it’s part of his effort to learn as much as he can about the industry’s inner workings.

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can from Corey and Mike,” he said, referencing C.J. Thoroughbreds president Corey Johnsen and vice president Mike Renfro, the latter the former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver. “Corey is a Texas Hall of Famer. It would be like if I was a high school baseball player and Craig Biggio asked if I wanted to go to spring training with him and follow him around.”

Meanwhile, Bem Heisig is happy Facebook led her husband to horse ownership.

“She’s 100 percent behind it,” Kenny Heisig said. “She’s very interested in it, looking forward to following our horses and cheering them on. Even if you own just a small piece of one, it’s still yours.”


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