On a rainy Saturday in May, SUNY Oswego alumnus Tom Bellhouse ’86 stood trackside at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., cheering on one of his company’s most famous investments—racehorse, Always Dreaming. The thoroughbred went on to win the “greatest two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby.
As the chief operating officer of West Point Thoroughbreds, Bellhouse of Saratoga, N.Y., is part of the team that owns the 3-year-old racehorse. The company currently manages equine portfolios for over 500 partners and a stable of over 70 horses, including Always Dreaming, whose other owners are Brooklyn Boyz Stables, MeB Racing Stable, Teresa and Vinnie Viola and Siena Farm.
Bellhouse described the once “sport of kings where one person owned 50 horses” having been transformed so that “50 people can own one horse.” But he still advises people that owning a racehorse isn’t about making money or even breaking even on your investment.
“That is not what you get into this for,” he said. “You decide to own a racehorse if you have a passion for it. It is more like being part of a country club or renting a dock in a marina.”
His passion for horse racing began as a child when he would attend horse races at Belmont with his grandfather. He dreamed of becoming a horse jockey like Steve Cauthen and remembers cheering on Alydar who failed to beat the 1978 Triple Crown winner, Affirmed.
His arrival at SUNY Oswego signified the start of his social maturity, he said. Serving as a resident advisor in the Lonis-Moreland-Mackin residence hall complex provided him with the people skills he relies on heavily today.
“I really learned how to get along with other people—people from all different backgrounds,” he said. “The biggest thing I learned was to be helpful; you had to listen.”
After Bellhouse graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, the New York native decided to stay in the Oswego area, taking on a range of positions including assistant coach of freshman basketball at Oswego High School, insurance salesman with Northwestern Mutual, salesman for Oswego County Distributing and perhaps most notably the owner of Excuses, a tavern on Utica Street.
“I loved the quality of life in Oswego,” Bellhouse said. “I was very happy there and had a ton of friends. Owning a neighborhood pub was great, and I still have friends from Oswego.”