By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports
Had Shreveport native Sharilyn Gasaway held a grudge one night 33 years ago, she might not be enjoying success in the horse-ownership business.
Gasaway was waiting to be picked up for dinner by her boyfriend, Brent.
She waited. And waited. And waited.
“He was still at the races,” Sharilyn remembered. “I’m sure he got into a big race and had to stay for it.”
Eventually, Brent, a horseracing enthusiast, showed up. “I was really kind of mad at him because he was late,” Sharilyn said. “I was really in a bad mood.”
But as the evening grew late at Queen Chinese restaurant on Fairfield Avenue, Sharilyn’s mood changed.
Brent made up for lost time by asking Sharilyn to marry him.
All was forgiven.
Sharilyn graduated from Captain Shreve High School, then earned an accounting degree from Louisiana Tech. Eventually, she became Chief Financial Officer for Alltel — the former cell phone company. After Alltel was bought out by Verizon in 2008, Sharilyn came into a little extra money.
“Well, could we buy part of a horse now?” Brent asked.
How could Sharilyn’s answer have been anything but yes?
“He always, always wanted to own one.”
Now, the Gasaways, who live in Little Rock, have part-to-full ownership in 20-25 horses.
“We do a lot of partnering,” Sharilyn said. “We don’t want to own one percent. If the horse wins, you want to feel like you should be in the winner’s circle. A lot of horses, we own 50 percent with someone else. Some horses we own a third. It just depends on the partnership.”
This racing season — which for Gasaway began last December at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs — horses in those partnerships have grossed more than $1.073 million. Not bad, for someone who didn’t grow up around animals, someone who knew nothing about horses until after she met her husband.
“We just love nothing better than getting up and going to wherever the horses are,” Sharilyn said. “If they’re at the track, we go there that morning and see them in the barn, talk to the trainer, talk to the jockeys that are coming by. It’s just a whole race family.”
Sharilyn and Brent have had their share of excitement. They’ve found horses just about every way possible. Some, they learned about through their racing relationships. Some, they bought at sales.
“I think we only paid $20,000 for this horse,” Sharilyn said, referring to All Right, of which they owned half.
“He broke his maiden his second time out, in a $350,000 stakes race. That’s the highest race we’ve ever won.”
Unfortunately, the Gasaways weren’t trackside to watch.
“Louisiana Tech was playing Arkansas (in football) and my nephew, Connor Smith, played for Tech. We thought, ‘He can’t win a $350,000 stakes race. He hasn’t even broken his maiden.’ It was his second time to run.”
And some horses were claimed by the Gasaways. Honey Bunny was wanted by 15 people.
“We won the shake and got (him),” Sharilyn said. “That horse won five in a row for us. She won the Winning Colors Grade III race. We ended up selling her as a broodmare for $300,000.”
Not bad for a $16,000 investment.
“That doesn’t happen every day. Those are the things you wish for.”
Currently, Sharilyn and Brent have three “big” horses.” Hollis was claimed for $50,000 in 2020 and “has won over $500,000 just for us.” Mucho was claimed for $80,000 in late 2020. “He’s earned close to $400,000 for us.” Top Gunner was claimed last year for $30,000. “He’s won more than $340,000 for us.”
That includes a fifth-place finish in last Saturday’s Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Sharilyn’s parents live in Shreveport, but it’s not easy for them to get in the car and drive to see their daughter’s horses race. They could travel the short distance to Louisiana Downs, but right now, it’s not good business for Sharilyn to have her horses run at the Bossier City track.
“The (purse) money just got so bad,” Sharilyn said. “A Maiden Special Weight (race) is 20-something thousand. At Oaklawn, it’s $85-90,000.”
“The purse structure at Oaklawn, the purse structure at Churchill Downs — it’s just gone so high that an Allowance race is $140,000 now,” Sharilyn said. “You can spend more money on horses because you now have a better chance of getting it back. Before, you never could.
“We would never spend $500,000 on a horse, but if we were in a partnership that did, the only way it makes sense is the fact that if they win a couple of allowance races and break their maiden, you’ve kind of broken even and you just hope they can do something else and go on to stakes races.”
Now semi-retired, Sharilyn sits on the board of two public companies. She also manages her family’s horse-ownership business. And she has set a good example why not to stay mad at someone.
Had Sharilyn not been so forgiving all those years ago, look at all the fun she would have missed.
Louisiana Downs races Saturday through Tuesday. Post time is 3:05.
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com