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Budapest Business Journal www.bbj.hu | April 30 - May 14

The wild days of Hungary’s wonder horse
Overdose, born an ugly duckling, became the number three sprinter in the world – a real life fairy-tale, the Hungarian dream.
Andrea Fazekas He speaks on two mobiles simultaneously, shuttles from one handshake to the next and sees investors coming to him by yacht from Slovakia. Zoltán mikóczy, owner of overdose, the Hungarian wonder horse, is quite busy these days. The Slovakian-Hungarian contractor certainly would not have pictured such a future when he started in the racehorse business by deciding with friends to borrow some horses from Hungary. And probably none of these would have happened if he had not hit on overdose, completely by chance, three years ago at the famous horse auction in Newmarket. The details of the bay stallion’s purchase became legendary, as overdose, better known by his nickname Dózi, is now regarded as the wonder horse. At the time of the auction, nobody wanted the short, lopsided thoroughbred. Neither did mikóczy, not really. His fancy was caught by Dózi’s gait and walk, so he put up his hand, “just for fun,” and because the price was foolishly low for an english pureblood. The 47-year-old contractor hadn’t planned to buy anything at all, because he had already bought four too many horses a month earlier. Finally, he bought Dózi for a mere €3,500, a ridiculous price for a horse who has won 12 out of 12 races, turned into a national hero and is expected to win the Ascot Derby, one of the biggest horse races in the world. overdose is now third in the world rankings; his current value is €5-€7 million, which could rise exponentially if he wins his races this year.

Dózi is a horse on a mission: world domination, or else

overdose is no exception. He knows which of his runs are good and when he is celebrated by the audience after winning. He is very proud of himself. This is easy to believe if you ever see him just An oVerDose oF HeArt posing for photographers: he pushes out his bottom and stretches his forelegs, unmoving for if you think overdose’s capabilities are surely moments. He pulls up his lips as if blowing a kiss. being overvalued by the enthusiastic press or his He has a few eccentricities, just like most raceteam, just watch the past races on record. The real horses. overdose sweats a lot during racing and challenges, the prestigious european and Ameri- when he is nervous. He detests it when they attach can stakes, are still to come, but Dózi has won all his box to the car with him facing backwards. He of his races with one or more lengths advantage. loves to drive at 130 km/h. How does he do it? every professional around him says it’s his heart. He woulDn’t HAVe MADe It tHe HungArIAn seABIscuIt This is easy to see. Jockeys usually whip the horses to speed during a race, Dózi’s back never precisely because Dózi is such a high-strung Now the country goes on and on about over- has to be touched. in fact, this is how Sándor and proud horse, many european professiondose, who has also earned world recognition. in ribárszki, overdose’s trainer recognised the horse’s als believe that ribárszki’s patient training might fact, The New york Times reported Dózi’s success winning spirit. most horses had to be encouraged have been the key to his successes. edward player, and expectations on its cover page. to sprint in trainings, but Dózi had to be held back. the head of Whatton manor, home of Dózi’s sire, The last time Hungary or anything Hungarian The Hamburg Trophy comes to mind, when he said that if Dózi had stayed in england, he probamade the cover page was probably in 1956, when won limping on three legs after an accident. bly would have been handled as an ugly duckling. Soviet tanks rolled in to repress the revolution. Horses often have strong personalities and He might never have had the careful training that The article, titled “Hungary’s Spirits Are back up, would break him in without breaking him. on a Horse” hinted that overdose could restore , A round of tough decisions, such as not to the country’s spirits in the current crisis the way run again in paris against rival marchand d’or, Seabiscuit did during the Great Depression. or not to fly to the Hong Kong Sprint. either overdose has many names. He is called the could have ruined his health. These decisions were jointly made by mikóczy and ribárszki, budapest bullet in the uK, and das Wunderpferd (wonder horse) in Germany. in Hungary, he is but were supported by the whole team. ribárszcompared to Kincsem, the country’s star mare, in ki’s Training Centre in Alag, home of Dózi, fact, the most successful sprinter ever, unbeaten in employs a primary jockey, several secondary all of her 54 stakes in the 1870s to 1880s. riders, a feeding specialist, a stableman and security guards hired specifically for Dózi. A DreAM coMe true The size of the team and the Alag center’s services are very modest in comparison to similar overdose has changed many things since his facilities abroad. This is of course not too surprisbreakthrough. He has turned mikóczy’s life on its ing, as racing in Hungary was a dying sport before ear, making him leave his almost 20-year-old steel overdose. And neither mikóczy nor the training Dózi’s debut was in 2007 in Hungary, and business for horse racing, and he has also left his center has ever had a star like Dózi. mikóczy conhe has been running the stakes ever since mark on the others engaged in his career, being, fesses they are just learning how to manage such then in order of importance. In 2009, he will as the New york Times article says, hopefully a celebrity. The huge press attention, for example try to add three British trophies such as the expected to stimulate reforms in the industry. is sometimes too much for the shyer members of Ascot (handed over by the Queen) to his col“it’s a great story,” Jimmy George, marketthe team and overdose himself. lection. Also, we might see him dealing with ing director of Tattersalls, europe’s biggest horse some unfinished business with Marchand d’Or, auction house and Dózi’s original seller, said to eVen wonDer Horses neeD Money against whom his victory was invalidated last reporter András Kepes who shot a film about the year. His jockey for the whole season is the Belhorse. “He is a dream horse, a freak, and his story everywhere in the world where horse racing is gian star, Christophe Soumillon. Dózi ran in is like a romance (...) He was taken to a country a received business and a highly respected social April at Kincsem park, where he will probably event, such as in Australia, Arabia, uSA or Westwhere racing was stagnating, and now everybody never race again as he has outgrown Hungary. ern europe, the system of breeding, training and is excited about him, not only in Hungary (...)The

story is every horse-owner’s dream come true: get a cheap horse whom nobody wants and then wins all of the races.”

running horses is well-equipped, often even luxurious. The training center where Dózi is going to stay until July is a horse paradise with a swimming pool, solarium, different gallops and practice runs, special food with herbs, etc. Naturally, it costs a lot, almost HuF 500,000 per month. Such accommodation and the other expenses of travel to transatlantic races will make overdose much more expensive. in fact, as the owner told the budapest business Journal in an exclusive scoop, their current funds will run out. (mikóczy’s company is sponsored for this season by CiG insurance. oTp bank has also brought money to Hungarian racing because of overdose, sponsoring the national grand prix.) The owner is now on the verge of signing a contract to share overdose with two Slovakian investors. one member of the syndicate is a former classmate of mikóczy, while the another got involved because he fell in love with horse racing. Further details are not decided yet, the exact terms of the agreement will be set in the near future. rIsKIng It All Dózi’s present “rent” at Alag comes to HuF 200,000 a month, which includes food, care, accommodation and training. The only other expense is his vitamins. However, everyone involved wants Dózi to have better, especially as his rivals are training in better circumstances. but mikóczy does not want to take his horse abroad or sell him. He has had an almost 5 million offer, supposedly from an Arab sheikh, but Dózi is not for sale yet, for several reasons. Firstly, mikóczy wants Dózi to stay Hungarian, which is important to him, being an ethnic Hungarian in Slovakia. He is also expecting the success of Dózi to translate into interest being reborn in national racing. besides, he wants to keep overdose as his own for as long as he can resist the offers. He wants to enjoy the triumph of his Wonder Horse at the stakes they have not been at yet. And he knows that the value of overdose will multiply with each stake he wins. So, now he is trying to make staying at home work out. but every day he keeps overdose running, he risks it all, hoping that his wonder horse does not have an accident.

Overdose

Photo: Anna Györffy

Photo: Anna Györffy

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