February 2020 Member of the Month: Matt Schera
Matt Schera is the TOBA February Member of the Month
Horse racing is full of unpredictable factors—and who better than a meteorologist to forecast those ups and downs? Matt Schera uses skills cultivated in meteorology and investments to build up a quality stable. His persistence has paid off four days into the new year, as his Island Commish captured the Jan. 4 Kitten’s Joy Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park.
A Pennsylvania native, Schera didn’t grow up going to the track. Instead, it was his mom who became entranced by Thoroughbreds. He skeptically watched her visits to Penn National before falling for the sport himself. “I was like, ‘Where are you going?’” he recalled. “And she’d come home with the Daily Racing Form and there would be a pile of them laying there. And one day—I think it was in the summer and I was in high school—and I started looking through the old Racing Forms that were lying around.”
Schera inadvertently found himself drawn into the handicapping game. The first horse to catch his imagination, however, was a grand gray. “I started becoming a really big fan of Holy Bull,” Schera said, attending the champion’s emphatic triumph in the 1994 Haskell Invitational Handiap (G1) at Monmouth Park. At that point, Schera was hooked, regularly making the 90-minute trek from Pennsylvania State University, where he was attending college, to wager at Penn National.
Schera was at Penn State to study meteorology. “Ever since I was a little kid, talking like, five or six years old,” he said, “I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up and I was obsessed with the weather.” In the winters, he’d rush outside each morning to measure the snowfall. “It’s kind of my personality, I guess,” he admitted, “to go all in on things when I get involved in them.”
That work ethic came in handy, both professionally and recreationally. “My strength was really in forecasting the weather,” Schera observed, “and I think part of what I learned by going to the racetrack and handicapping races and managing money—I think all them ended up tying into the transition I made from forecasting weather after I graduated college, at Accuweather for two years.” He shifted to work as a meteorologist at a commodities trader, examining how weather patterns informed commerce, markets, and investments. Eventually, Schera moved to work at a hedge fund. Currently, he resides in Greenwich, Connecticut, and works at a hedge fund, trading commodities.
After observing other owners from afar, Schera decided to take the plunge in 2013, purchasing youngsters at the 2013 Saratoga sale. He explained that “actually, my strength is in claiming and buying horses that have run already,” with race records he can analyze, noting it made more sense financially for him to buy proven horses. Island Commish typifies this approach. “That horse,” Schera commented, “that’s a perfect example of one that—the horse had already raced a few times, showed it had some talent, and I purchased it privately and I just felt like I know what I’m buying a little more.”
Island Commish was bred in Kentucky by Julia B. Rice. He sold for $20,000 to Clark County Thoroughbreds at the 2017 Keeneland November sale, then realized $32,000 from SRL Racing at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling sale. Island Commish is on a three-race winning streak, closing out 2019 with back-to-back victories in optional claiming races at Gulfstream Park West.
Schera has 34 runners in training, including seven or eight newly turned two-year-olds. He owns seven broodmares and retains breeding rights in a runner-turned-stallion, Race Day. That son of Tapit took the 2015 Razorback Handicap (G3), Oaklawn Handicap (G2), and Hagyard Fayette Stakes (G2). Now a second-crop sire, nine-year-old Race Day stands at Spendthrift Farm near Lexington, Ky. for $7,500.
Schera has also done well purchasing runners in Europe, racing Irish-bred Glorious Empire to a victory in the 2018 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1T). Now nine years old, Glorious Empire isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “But he’s still in training,” Schera said, “and we still have some hope that he’ll come back in a big way this spring or summer.” But when his horses’ desire to run flags, Schera has no qualms about giving them time off or retiring them to second careers. With talented runners and such a care for animals, there are surely clear skies on the horizon for Schera and his team.