By Katie Merritt
Owner Joy Gorra was raised in Fargo, North Dakota, but has lived in Minnesota since 1987. She grew up watching the Kentucky Derby with her dad every year, and when she made the move to Minnesota, she began coming to the racetrack to watch the horses run in person. In 1999 she decided to take a chance and lease a racehorse.
“The worst thing happened,” she said, laughing. “The horse won. When the summer was all said and done, the horse made a little money and I was like, ‘Hey! This is really fun!'” Of course, official ownership was the next step.
Over the years, Gorra has dabbled in ownership of both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. Her best horse to date was a Quarter Horse named Pistol Packin Perry, who won the Canterbury Park Derby in 2005, at which point it was a Grade 3 stakes race. “He was a special horse and I was very fortunate to have had that experience with him,” said Joy with a smile. When he finished racing, he stood as a stallion here in Minnesota before Joy decided to sell him to stand in Texas. “It was sad to wave goodbye to him,” Joy said, “But you have to look out for what’s best for the horse, and I knew he would get more action in a different state!” Though she no longer owns him, Joy very much looks forward to seeing his progeny hit the track.
Joy’s favorite thing about owning racehorses is the opportunity it allows her to spend so much time on the backside. “Since getting to the Winner’s Circle can be pretty tough, you learn to find new enjoyment too, and for me that is going to the backside early in the morning,” she explained. Whether she is watching the horses train, listening to the backside banter, or learning something new about horses, every moment for Joy is a learning experience that she’s grateful to be a part of. For Gorra, the life education that a person receives through racehorse ownership would be beneficial for just about anyone. “You learn about horses, you learn about the industry, but you also learn about business and you learn about people,” she explained, constantly referencing the lessons she’s learned through her racetrack experience.
By owning racehorses, Gorra has gained a real appreciation for all of the people involved in getting them to the races, from the grooms to the trainers to the jockeys. “For one person on the team to win, everyone has to win,” she said, acknowledging the importance of every role and every voice in the process – a process and experience that she highly recommends. “Anybody looking for a new business venture, I recommend they take a look at a Minnesota- bred yearling. Maybe they can have as much fun and education as I have”