CALLING ALL NEW OWNERS
BY DAN MASON, HRRN
From time to time, I’m asked how do you get into the horse business? I too asked that question many years ago. This is the fourth of a five part series that might help some in the HRRN Nation who are contemplating jumping into the business. In this series, I will cover 15 guidelines that have shaped my experiences over three decades.
GUIDELINE 10: HAVE A STRATEGY By now, you may be a few years into your new racing business. Assuming you are still alive and well, it’s now time to contemplate a new stage. For me, it was my strategy to take advantage of my state’s (Maryland) bonus program. I claim Maryland breds. Maryland breds are eligible for 30% bonuses on winnings. That is a great situation for an owner if you have a winning horse. Almost every state has some type of bonus program. So now, rather than claiming random horses from all over, I favor my state bred horses for my best return. Fast forward to Maryland’s best day of racing, The Maryland Million. There are a few races on the card that are open to claimers that have attractive purses. Last year, I had entered a horse named I Stand Alone, a gelding that I had claimed only a few months before. He ran fourth at 30-1. Down the stretch I thought he would win the race. Even though he was 4th, it was a fun day for my family just being there. I have another horse ready to go this year and God willing, I’ll be back again. For a while, I was claiming mares that would look good in a catalogue and then selling them several months later at broodmare sales. That worked well for a few years. I always and look for an angle. It’s a lot more fun and much more creative that way.
GUIDELINE 11: IT DOESN’T HURT TO TAKE A BREAK In full disclosure, over all these years, there have been a few times when I have had to take a break from the business. Yep…totally walked away. Just walked through one too many valleys. It happened after an injury to a promising horse. You think “this is the one” and your hopes are high and BAM, the racing gods come down on you like a ton of bricks. Your horse will be fine. He will make a nice field horse for the local farmer but not so good for me though. I just couldn’t open the checkbook again. I took a year off with no return in sight. My trainer and I remained friends. I never blamed anything on him…just bad racing luck. It was April of the following year and the new racing season was getting into new gear, and before you knew it the Preakness was at Pimlico. My son came to visit from Florida. We had a great time at the track and the following week I was in the racing secretary’s office renewing my license and a month after that I was looking for a new horse to claim. There always seems to be a horse around the house now. It was good to walk away when I did. It helped me put everything in perspective with the peaks and valleys. I see so many horses bought at the horse sales for six figures that end up running in 10,000 dollar claimers as 3 year olds. I can just imagine how those owners feel. It is a tough game and sometime it helps to sit on the sideline to catch a breath.
GUIDELINE 12 HOW DO I HANDLE IT IF I HAVE TO CHANGE TRAINERS Sometimes relationships go bad, expectations aren’t met, miscommunication, bad chemistry, whatever….it just doesn’t work out…blame it on anything and everything except the horse. It all adds up to you wanting to make a change in your trainer. Rule 1: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A NEW TRAINER BEFORE YOU FIRE YOU OLD TRAINER. Your horse needs a barn to go to. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories on how these changeovers happen. I’ve only had to do it twice. Once, I was just switching tracks so that wasn’t a big deal. The other was tougher and based on performance. In that case I kept the focus on the results and not the person. The racing world is a small world. RULE 2: AFTER YOU MAKE YOUR CHANGE, SAY LITTLE AND LOOK FORWARD AND NOT BACKWARD. You want to be known as a straight up owner. The sport has plenty of good people that need each other’s support. It should be built on success and not failure.
In PART 5 we will look at these guidelines:
GUIDELINE 13: THE PEAKS
GUIDELINE 14: THE VALLEYS
GUIDELINE 15: REFLECTIONS