Tinkler's big bet on racing empire doomed to fail

In the end it seems the financial inevitability has caught up with Nathan Tinkler.

In the end it seems the financial inevitability has caught up with Nathan Tinkler.

The announcement that the coal prospector is selling all his racing and breeding interests - for an asking price of $125 million - is a surprise only in the length of time it has taken to come.

Tinkler believed he was a trailblazer, but in reality he was just one in a long line of wealthy men who believed they could enjoy immediate racecourse success on the back of a big investment, only to be disappointed.

What set Tinkler apart was the amount of money he lost and the predictability of his demise.

After spending big on untried horses and stud farms, he said he would equal the achievements of Bob and Jack Ingham - whose cerise colours were carried to victory in nearly every prestigious Australian race - within three years.

That declaration was one part hubris, two parts total ignorance. It set the tone for his involvement in the sport.

Tinkler sought to create a racing empire that would pay for itself, but the reality is that only a handful of operations in the world ever manage this and all have been developed over decades rather than years.

Tinkler ran before he could crawl; lavishing hundreds of millions of dollars on property and bloodstock without any discernible plan for growth.

A self-made man, he rejected offers of assistance and advice and, initially, there was a revolving door of employees, leading to his racing operation being widely known as Pat'n'sack rather than Patinack.

A Fairfax investigation revealed his racing empire was costing him more than $600,000 a week in 2011. His successes could never sustain those outgoings.

Even from the outset there were concerns about his financial standing as trainers, suppliers and auctioneers went unpaid for months.

As his fortune dwindled with the collapse in coal prices, his staff were forced to go without super and the list of creditors suing him reached double figures.

When he sold his stable star - Black Caviar's younger half-brother All Too Hard - for a reported $20 million earlier this year, it signalled the end of a dream rather than shrewd business.

The horse, a champion in its own right, could win millions on the track and potentially earn more than $10 million a year in stud fees. That Tinkler couldn't hold on to such an asset revealed the depths of his financial predicament.

Patinack's price of $125 million appears optimistic given the perception of a fire sale, but even if it was realised it would represent a loss of hundreds of millions.

There is an old saying within racing that the only way to make a small fortune from the sport is to start with a bigger one. Tinkler has found the truth out the hard way.

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