If you win big this weekend at the Kentucky Derby (like, really big) and want to park those winnings in some real estate, you may be in luck. The luxury market has surpassed pre-crash heights in many arenas, but relative bargains in horse-centric properties are still possible.
“Equestrian properties in really desirable areas are still probably 20 percent off [their] previous peak,” says Caren Kelley, broker/owner of Equestrian Real Estate in Del Mar, Calif. “Many people feel it’s an undervalued asset.”
But which horse haven to choose? Both Kentucky (naturally) and Florida vie for the title of “Horse Capital of the World.” But while Lexington caters to thoroughbreds, Ocala, Fla., attracts “all different breeds and disciplines of horses,” says Joan Pletcher, a real estate agent representing equestrian properties in Ocala. Fox trotters, quarter horses, gypsy vanners—they’re all at home here. Meanwhile, Wellington, Fla., is a favorite for dressage and show horses. And there are plenty of horse enthusiasts in Southern California, too.
What to look for depends entirely on what kinds of horses you intend to keep and what you plan to do with them. “It’s a very individualized market,” says Kelley. Your choice of property will depend on the type and number of horses you’ll have—that helps determine the acreage and the type of facilities you’ll need. And then comes the even trickier part—making sure it works for humans, too.
Perhaps these properties will do the trick.
Padua Stables is serious horse business. The 768-acre farm comes with 11 barns, holding 202 stalls, a three-quarter-of-a-mile dirt track, and a one-mile turf track, both built by racecourse designer Dennis Moore. The estate also includes a broodmare/foaling center for breeders; hot walkers (a kind of merry-go-round for horses); and round pens, or fenced-in walking areas. There’s also an executive office complex, three maintenance buildings, three greenhouses, and a hay and feed storage building. The price is $17.9 million.
For the humans, things aren’t too shabby. The main residence has eight bedrooms and 10 baths, in addition to 13 other homes on the property for guests and workers and a 22-room, 7,000-square-foot dormitory. Spring-fed lakes and grandfather oaks are throughout the grounds.
If you don't know the equestrian community of Wellington, you certainly have heard of the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Local brokers Engel & Völkers report an influx of European buyers attracted to the exclusive equestrian mecca, where three prime listings in the $10 million-$20 million range are on the market.
The first is a 10,931-square-foot, $12.75 million home in Wellington, with three beds and six baths and a 20-stall sporthorse facility. The 4.5-acre farm also has solar power, a quarter-mile, all-weather track, and eight paddocks, plus an edgeless pool and outdoor kitchen. Also on the market is a five-bed, nine-bath, 13,715-square-foot, Mediterranean-style home for $13.95 million, with a six-stall barn and tack rooms, feed rooms, and wash stalls. A nearly 20,000-square-foot, $19 million home rounds out the paddock with seven beds and eight baths. There are 35 stalls and room for owners, grooms, and managers as well.
Santa Ynez, Calif.
If you don’t want to dedicate yourself solely to horses, Quail H Ranch’s 296 or so acres in Santa Ynez, Calif., are also primed for grape growing. For the equines in the family, there’s a horse barn, plus roping and exercise arenas, and irrigated paddocks. For the humans, there’s an 8,244-square-foot, ranch-style home, with four bedrooms and seven baths. The public rooms in the house open onto a covered porch with its own outdoor fireplace; five additional fireplaces are inside. There’s a library with a bar, a caterer’s kitchen, and a butler’s pantry. There are also two guesthouses on the property, which is on the market for $21 million.
Like the area, but Quail H is lacking a certain cachet? Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is nearby—and has plenty of room for horses, too.
Stone Canyon Ranch is the opposite of southern genteel architecture: It’s modern and dramatic. Its 10,000 acres include a four-bed, five-bath, 7,900-square-foot main residence designed by architect Ugo Sap. The show barn looks more like a museum than a horse home, and four other barns are on the property, along with a hay barn, two training arenas, and two riding arenas. There are also two lakes, a river, and streams.
There are 5,000 square feet of additional quest quarters, a tennis court, a pool, and 360-degree mountain views. The property, designed to appeal to a discerning horseman (or woman, since it was acquired for the previous owner’s wife), is on the market for $32 million.
Want to be close to the Derby action? A local agent reports one potential buyer was interested in buying this Louisville home just for his Derby parties, as it's only eight miles from Churchill Downs. The estate has 158 acres and four houses, including a 16,000-square-foot main house built in 1905, and a 3,500-square-foot carriage house. There are also two 900-square-foot caretaker houses, plus an indoor pool.
Now for the horse facilities: The 20,000-square-foot barn has 24 stalls, plus an apartment of its own.
But with all that, the driveway (yes, driveway) may be the most commendable feature: a mile long and designed by the Olmsted Brothers, one of whom co-designed New York's Central Park.