OSWEGO — This Saturday (May 20), when the horses enter the Pimlico starting gate ready to run the 142nd Preakness Stakes, 1986 SUNY Oswego alumnus Tom Bellhouse will be trackside, cheering on one of his company’s most famous investments — Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.
As the chief operating officer of West Point Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, Bellhouse is part of the team that owns the 3-year-old racehorse, who will be seeking a win to secure the second leg toward Triple Crown glory.
The company currently manages equine portfolios for more than 500 partners and a stable of more than 70 horses, including Always Dreaming, whose other owners are Brooklyn Boyz Stables, MeB Racing Stable, Teresa and Vinnie Viola and Siena Farm.
“We could see that the horse has great potential,” Bellhouse said of Always Dreaming. “If he wins at Pimlico, I can tell you there won’t be five people left in all of Brooklyn when the Belmont comes round. To have a New York-based horse have a chance at the Triple Crown, well that would be incredible!”
But one race at a time, he said.
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 winning, making money or even breaking even on your investment.
“That is not what you get into this for,” he explained. “You decide to own a race horse 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 who 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 adviser 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 East 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.”