Kentucky born and bred, just like so many of the Thoroughbreds he deals with, Matt Bowling bleeds blue through and through and is making quite the name for himself in racing and breeding business.
Born and raised in [gasp!] Louisville, Matt was more or less your average kid, loving sports, regardless of whether he was playing them or watching. It was the competition and strategy behind the game that drew him in, which is why when he discovered horseracing, he became a fan instantly.
“I’ve always loved the game. Growing up in Louisville my friends and I would go to Churchill Downs and pool our money to play the Pick 3s,” said Matt. “I really caught the bug when my older brother bought a small piece of a racehorse. I was still in high school and I thought it was the coolest thing on the planet.”
And just like that, Matt was hooked.
Matt ventured an hour east to Lexington to immerse himself in horse country and attended college at the University of Kentucky, graduating with a degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in Equine Science.
Never afraid of hard work and always eager to learn, Matt worked at several Lexington-area Thoroughbred farms doing everything from learning to foal out mares and care for newborns to grooming and preparing horses for major sales at Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland.
“I loved all of it, but ultimately I wanted to be a bloodstock agent,” said Matt, meaning he wanted to be the one creating the strategy behind breeding, purchasing, sales and racing decisions for himself and his clients.
Upon graduation, Matt landed a job handling stallion seasons for Empire Stud, one of New York’s premier Thoroughbred breeding farms. Matt was learning from the best, selling seasons to their stallions and honing his skills on the business side of the Thoroughbred world.
Eventually Empire Stud was sold to the Lexington-based Vinery and Matt transitioned into an agent role with the internationally respected bloodstock matings and stallion syndication firm, The Stallion Company, before venturing out on his own to form his own business, the aptly named Bowling Bloodstock.
Playing a Different Kind of Pony
While horses are Matt’s professional passion, they play a central role in his personal interests too but in a new and different way than he’d ever imagined.
“A few buddies of mine were getting into playing polo and they asked me to tag along and check it out,” said Matt. “I could ride a little, but I’d never played. It was really fun, and now I try to play three to four evenings a week if I can. I’m not very good, but I’m having a blast!”
Matt has gotten so interested in the game that he is even considering getting a polo pony or two. True to form, he’d like them to be Thoroughbreds.
“I’d love to turn an off-track racehorse into a polo pony,” said Matt.
Matt’s future polo pony/ponies won’t be the only horses he owns. He has nearly ten Thoroughbreds of varying ages that he owns in partnership with various people, including popular TVG racing anylast Nick “The Sarge” Hines.
“I’ve known Nick for years. The first horse we bought together cost $30,000 and we ended up selling it for $180,000, so we’ve enjoyed good luck together,” said Matt.
Matt and Nick pinhook horses together, meaning they purchase them with the intention of selling them for a profit in the future. The duo currently has six newly-turned two-year-olds that they are planning to sell this spring.
“We bought the six yearlings at the Keeneland September Sale last year and we plan to sell them at various two-year-olds in training sales this year,” said Matt. “We’ve been really fortunate with the entire group up to this point, but we have a colt by Hard Spun that we are already getting calls on [from potential buyers].”
Making a Name for Himself
At thirty-five years of age, Matt is exactly where he hoped to be at this stage of his life. His Bowling Bloodstock has gained a reputation for achieving success for his clients, whether it be in the auction ring or on the racetrack, and he is also a partner in Vinery Sales, a full service Thoroughbred agency that consigns horses at public auction.
“I’ve been very fortunate in this business by being able to surround myself with people smarter than myself,” said Matt.
He also recently dipped his toe into the farming side of the horse business, leasing a 350-acre plot of land from Spendthrift Farm that now carries the banner of Bowling Farm.
“When I got the opportunity to lease the farm, the first call I made was to Kathie Maybee,” said Matt about his friend and now partner in the farm. “Kathie is one of the best caretakers of horses I’ve ever known. She was like my Number One Draft Pick to be partners with if I was going to embark on running a horse farm. She answered the phone and we’ve hit the ground running, moving more than 100 horses onto the property within the past month.”
When asked about what moments stand out as his biggest career accomplishments thus far, it’s not a single instance that he pinpoints, but rather a growing theme.
“So many of my best clients have been with me since the very beginning,” said Matt. “I love working on behalf of clients. I love seeing a group of clients get their picture in the winner’s circle or hugging after they just sold big in the sales ring. There’s nothing like it.”
The joy Matt gets from being involved with The Sport of Kings is evident, but he also acknowledges that the sport, and the business associated with it, needs to continue to refine itself in order to grow.
“I’d love to see a requirement for bloodstock agents to be licensed at some point,” said Matt, a bloodstock agent himself. “In other businesses, whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, real estate agent, insurance agent or whatever, if you screw someone over, you are in jeopardy of losing the license that allows you to do business.”•