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 third 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 7: LET YOUR TRAINER DO THE JOB! I spent over 40 years in the radio broadcasting business specializing in radio programming. Over those years, I endured an endless stream of radio salespeople who all thought they were better radio programmers than the radio programmers, even though they had no experience! They always would show up when there was the slightest rating wobble. That taught me well in the racing business too. I chose trainers with good track records of success. When I lost races, I didn’t second guess. I just listened as to why. I wasn’t going to be one of those radio salespeople. Over the course of your ownership career, you will have far more valleys than you will peaks. More lows than highs. It isn’t 50-50. Mickey Mantle didn’t even bat 500. Never get too high on your highs…..just be excited and enjoy THAT day. And never get too low on your lows. There is always a tomorrow. Above all, let your trainer be responsible for the job and don’t be the Monday morning quarterback. It’s ok to ask what happened, after all it is your money. You have a right to know. You are the owner. But it isn’t ok, as a newby owner, to reconstruct the race for the jockey OR redo the training program for the trainer. After a while, if you don’t like what’s going on, get a new trainer. We will cover that in PART FOUR. Constantly second guessing your new trainer puts your new relationship at odds from the start.
GUIDELINE 8: DEALING WITH INJURIES. DON’T SHOOT THE MESSINGER! You just bought your yearling, spent another year breaking and training, another 3 months at the track getting schooled in the gate making final preparations for that first race and you get that dreadful call from your trainer with the news that your horse sustained an injury that will take 6 months to heal. His two-year-old season is wiped out missing the fall turf races which is why your bought him to begin with, because of his turf breeding. Wow! You just hit your first racing valley and you haven’t run your first race and boy are you mad, disappointed, upset, kick the cat, never do this again, why me, it must be the trainer---NO-STOP! Dealing with injuries is part of the game. Get used to it. An interesting observation that I’ve noticed about horses. If we catch a cold we take a few antibiotics and keep on going. If a horse gets a bad cold, things don’t go that well for him. It takes a while to recover. His immune system seems to be more sensitive to a virus. It takes more time. The bottom line is with all injuries you have to be patient on the recovery time. You can’t hurry a horse back into training. Give your horse the best care possible. Sometimes though the best medicine is rest and your patience.
GUIDELINE 9: MY HORSE JUST GOT CLAIMED! Claiming races are the backbone of American thoroughbred racing. We dream of standing in the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby but the reality is the sport is driven by the 10,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs. With so many horses competing for purse money at several different levels, the racing secretary is scheduling races to accommodate as many horses as possible to make it attractive to bettors. Your trainer is entering your horse into a race that he believes he can win and yes there is always a chance your horse can be claimed by another owner. I’ve had many horses claimed from me over the years. I’ve only lost one that I regretted and that was Count On Lou that I talked about in Part One. The last I heard, Count On Lou retired on his breeder’s farm. What a happy ending! My trainer and I were never bitter or angry when a horse was claimed from us. How could we be? We were doing the same thing. Trainers understand the claiming game. My trainer has schooled me well on that over the years and yours will too.
In PART 4 we will look at these guidelines:
GUIDELINE 10: HAVE A STRATEGY
GUIDELINE 11: IT DOESN’T HURT TO TAKE A BREAK
GUIDELINE 12: HOW DO I HANDLE IT IF I HAVE TO CHANGE TRAINERS