Horse owner Adriano Sorella is ending his partnership with trainer Casie Coleman, putting all the horses they own up for auction with the exception Vegas Vacation, with which they won the 2013 Little Brown Jug, because of financial reasons and philosophical differences.
Fourteen horses they own will be dispersed August 2 at the Meadowlands. Vegas Vacation is not part of the sale because he is currently sidelined with an injury, Sorella said. Sorella owns at least 25 percent of the horses and in some cases 50 percent.
Sorella, who has been active buying horses in recent years and is also one of the more high-profile owners in Ontario, contacted Harness Racing Update to provide specifics for the dispersal, amid various rumours, including suggestions he is broke.
“I’m just trying to make a decision based on the fact the horses aren’t doing well,” he said. “The stable as a whole is not doing well.”
Sorella said the plan was to include Vegas Vacation, who did not race in 2014 because of an injury and has only started six times this season without a win, in the sale. He said he abandoned the idea because of how it would be perceived selling a Jug winner. It became a moot point when the horse suffered another injury.
“I’m going to stay in horse racing,” Sorella insisted. “I’m getting out, but I know I won’t be out for long. I’ll be back in horse racing, but there’s a couple other things I’m doing right now that are a lot more important to me. I’m merging my company with another company and this is taking up a lot of time. I have no time for all these horses. When the racing is going bad and you have no time for all these horses, you have to start picking and choosing your priorities. That’s just it. It’s easy for people to say, ‘oh, look at you, you’re a quitter’ but you’ve to say to yourself ‘what do I have more time for?’ I’m looking at the horse racing, I’m losing money and my business is booming.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it wasn’t a hard one, either. Up until two weeks ago I had 16 horses racing and the stable would have made just $500,000. We’re in the middle of summer. I understand there’s a lot of two-year-olds that haven’t raced yet, but if your two-year-olds are already qualifying and you can tell they are sires stakes horses or lower-stakes horses at best, you’ve got to say to yourself what makes financial sense here? If you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and you can’t foresee yourself making that kind of money or even breaking even in the stable, you’ve got to start making changes.”
He said he discussed the idea of buying claiming horses “just to keep the ball rolling,” but Coleman, who switched a few years ago to racing young horses bought at sales or homebreds, didn’t want to go that route, so Sorella figured it was best to end their business relationship.
“I totally understand (her decision),” he said. “I’ve got respect for her. She only wants two-year-olds, three-year-olds, good free-for-allers and I get that. She cut her stable down to 40-plus horses. She wants to have the best she can possibly have. I like that mentality of only having the best, but at a certain point I need to start making money, too.”
Sorella said he asked one of Coleman’s assistant trainers, Andrew Harris, if he would claim horses for him, and he agreed. But Coleman didn’t favor that idea and Sorella said that contributed to his relationship with her going in a “downward spiral.”
“I understood what she was trying to say, but I didn’t get it,” he said. “I understood her point, but I didn’t get her point. There’s some really nice horses going into the sale and it really sucks because you’ve got so much money tied into it. But what are you going to do? It has to make sense. I’m trying to wipe the slate clean and start all over again.”
Sorella, who began as a harness racing owner seven years ago with Casie through a program to introduce new owners to the business, is hoping to remain friends with the veteran trainer, who has won numerous awards and major races in recent years. Coleman has been voted Canada’s trainer of the year several times.
“You’ve got to look at it from my point, it’s a business decision,” he said. “A dozen-plus horses and every one of them is losing money in that barn and you have to say to yourself ‘I know there’s good horses here, I can see them,’ but in that stable, it’s a high-powered, high-results stable, and what’s the politest way of saying the bills are expensive in that stable, so your horses have to be performing to the maximum peak. That’s basically what I’m saying. I don’t know what the nicest way of saying that is because that’s what the truth is. You’re in a high-powered stable. If you play for the Detroit Red Wings it’s a little bit different than if you play for the Minnesota Wild because there’s more expected from you. There’s a lot more that comes with the territory. The horses get everything that they need, they are treated great, she’s good staff. Her two assistant trainers – Anthony Beaton and Andrew Harris – are the best assistant trainers I’ve ever met in my life. Those guys could both be (head) trainers someplace else. I have all kinds of respect for them. It’s hard because I like those guys, but what are you going to do?
“At some point you have to say what makes sense and what doesn’t? I’m in the middle of building a $3 million house, do you think I want to stare at millions of dollars lost in horse racing? It doesn’t make sense. The accountant looks at me and says, ‘You’re crazy, dude.’ She’s saying, ‘Adriano, you’re nuts. You’re bleeding out of every single finger right now. ‘
“When you’re backed against a wall and you’ve got to make a decision, you don’t want to be a statistic (where people are saying, ‘Look at that guy, he lost all his money on horse racing.’ That’s not happening here. I can go on taking a beating on these horses, but I’d rather wipe the slate clean and know I’ve lost $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 in livestock and start all over again.
“The big thing I’m trying to make people understand is these horses are not garbage. I’m trying to max out as much money as I possibly can get out of these horses going into the sale, but I’m trying to make people understand they’re not going to sale because I’m trying to get rid of bad horses. They’re going to the sale because I’m getting out, wiping the slate clean. Some people are going to benefit from it buying some nice horses and they’ll eventually see I’m starting fresh and most likely it’s got to be a different trainer.
“I’m building a house right around the corner from Mohawk Racetrack, I’m not getting out of horse racing. We just seem to not be on the same page anymore, myself and Casie and that’s never good. There’s a possibility of getting destroyed and losing millions of dollars when you’re already coming off a really bad year where you lost $750,000. Do you really want to get killed like that?
“I notice on social media people saying, ‘maybe he got too big.’ Does it really matter if you have 20 horses losing money and you cut down to 10 horses losing money? It doesn’t make any sense. So big deal, instead of losing 10 horses losing $100,000 each, you’re losing five horses losing $100,000 each. That makes no sense to me. That’s not business.”