Monday, October 16, 2006
Women jockeys don't seem to last very long at the top levels, Julie Krone is the last one that I remember and she is now retired, but there are a few around, mostly at smaller tracks. It's still a man's world at the track, you have to be a tough woman to make it in any job around the racetrack, and a woman jockey has to be tough as nails.
What I notice about women riders is that since they can't and wouldn't be inclined to try to use muscle to get a horse to do what they want, they find a way to control horses with finesse instead. I think this makes for a better racehorse and usually also a more physically sound racehorse, because the horses don't use the wrong energy fighting their rider. There are many female exercise riders, at least in Kentucky. Being an exercise rider is still a hard life though for a man or a woman.
You should understand that trainers are constantly approached by people who want to get involved but can't or won't put up the funds necessary to get started, and as a result trainers are mostly a cynical bunch I'd say. When they first meet you they have to figure out if you really have the money needed to get started, and that takes a fairly extensive question and answer session to determine. A lot of trainers just don't want to spend the time. So they brush off the average joe owner and concentrate only on acquiring wealthy owners as clients. I think it's important for a trainer to have owners at all levels, because I think the spoiled trainers with owners that pay bills without even looking at them tend to get lazy. Also it's silly for trainers to compete against each other for the limited pool of wealthy owners. It's important to bring new owners into the business at all levels.
The Texas Horsemen's Partnership at http://www.texashorsemen.com can give you some information, or the Texas Racing Commission at 8505 Cross Park Drive, Suite 110, Austin, TX 78754 (512) 833-6699. Please let me know if you have problems getting the information you need or contacting these organizations. They should have some kind of information package to send you that will explain the requirements for getting your trainer license.
In general there are not "courses" for learning how to become a trainer, most trainers work for another trainer starting at the bottom level job (hotwalker or groom) and working up to assistant trainer. Then you take the "trainer test" in the state where you wish to train when you feel that you are capable. If you already know horses and good horsemanship in general but you are not familiar with racing, you could possibly achieve this goal within several years, about the time it would take to get a university degree.
It's a good idea to tell a trainer who will claim a horse for you that you want to go over the horse's past performances before making the final decision. You can ask him to fax the page of the daily racing form to you or you can ask the horse's name and which race he's entered in and look it up at drf.com or equibase.com. Then the trainer can go over the horse's chart with you and tell you why he'd like to claim that horse. Also ask the trainer what he knows about the horse, has he seen it in person, does it look sound, has he seen it race or train before, etc.
Horses are entered for a race only 2 days in advance generally so you may only have 1 day notice if you want to be there when the claim is put in. Also keep in mind that more than one owner/trainer could try to claim the same horse in the same race. When that happens they draw names to see who gets the horse!
Also you and the trainer may decide that a particular horse looks good on paper only to find that he looks terrible in the paddock before the race. So you could make the trip only to come up empty. Sometimes it takes several tries to successfully claim a horse, especially at Keeneland and Churchill where there are many people trying to claim horses.
If your trainer has a horse that is already racing that needs an additional partner, this is an option to consider. If he has such a horse he should fax you the pp's (or email them) and go over it with you. Or if it's an unraced horse, he should send you photos, full pedigree, description of it's training history and readiness for a race, and why he thinks the horse will be a winner and good investment.
This totally depends on whether you have a very knowledgable person pick the horse that can make up it's cost quickly - not an easy task. No guarantee you will make any money at all back on your original investment. Worst case scenario is that a horse is injured soon after you acquire it and requires a lot of vet care and time to recover. In that case you will likely take a loss. I'd say the chance of breaking even in 6 months is about 50%, in my mind the chance of breaking even in 1 month is about 5-10%. I would advise to plan on not breaking even, that way if you do make a little profit, it's a bonus.
The goal is to pay for the horse's expenses so you can enjoy yourself without worrying about how much it costs. And it's the same as going to the track to bet or going to a casino - more fun when you make a little money or come out with as much money as you went in with.
Your trainer would be the one to direct you on getting your license, so if you haven't got a trainer yet you need to do that first, and your accountant should advise you on taxes. You can also go to http://www.arci.com/license.htm for info about the owner's license, and the National Racing Compact web site at www.racinglicense.com for info on the multi state license - it's $225 plus $100 for KY, $25 for LA, $70 for IL, $40 for FL, for example.
If you don't use an accountant for your taxes, ask your trainer to recommend one who understands the tax rules on racing activities, you won't have to worry too much about that until it's time to file but wouldn't hurt to talk to an accountant to ask what the tax implications will be. Taxes and deductions on racing ventures vary from state to state.
You can go to www.equineline.com and get a pedigree report using a credit card. If you win the horse, ask the raffle organizers for contact info for whoever had the filly before the raffle, so you or your trainer can ask about the background of the filly. Probably if you win there will be no problem getting all the info you need on the filly, and there will likely be plenty of trainers around offering their services to help you with the horse. Your trainer can arrange to transport the horse, if you don't have a trainer lined up then definately do that first. The horse will come with the original registration papers which include a basic pedigree. The horse's papers are required to be on file at the racetrack where the horse will run, so generally the trainer gets the papers along with the horse when the horse is delivered, and they submit those papers to the racetrack secretary. The racing secretary keeps the papers on file until the horse is shipped to another track. I could go on and on but I'll stop there.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
- The short answer is it's rare for a $1500 horse to be competitive at a high enough level to make any profit and it's pretty rare that someone can make a living at horse racing alone. The amount of money needed up front is dependent on where you race, costs vary by track and state. One thing is fairly certain, the cost of the horse itself is usually less than the cost of maintaining the horse.
In my area, Kentucky, to be competitive you would need a horse that could compete at about the $10,000 claiming level, and generally you would have to pay at least $10,000 for a horse that is ready immediately to compete at that level. Costs for training and maintenance of the horse could be as much as $2000-$3000 per month. A sound, fit horse could run about every 3-6 weeks and may be able to make back his expenses in purse money in Kentucky if he always finishes 1st-3rd, but a horse that consistent is rare, and he can't run all year long every month, breaks are inevitable.
Owners and trainers who make money race at the highest levels where the purses are highest, $50,000 and up, but it's expensive to acquire a horse that can race at that level. Some owners and trainers who make a profit take the opportunity to sell a horse that they acquired inexpensively and developed into a much more valuable racehorse. For instance if you claim a horse for $5000 and move him up the claiming ranks to the $20,000 level in just a couple starts, then he'll hopefully be claimed from you for $20,000 in a race that you win, so you get a profitable price for your horse plus the winner's share of the purse. This scenario is NOT a common occurance so the opportunity for profit is really pretty rare.
That being said, I believe that a lot of wealthy owners do benefit from some tax advantages when they buy racehorses and end up taking a loss, but there are a lot of rules about what qualifies as a tax deduction or other tax advantage and I am not at all qualified to speak about that.
As far as breeding horses to race or sell as a career, it's very difficult to make a profit. I believe the successful breeders are creative and diversified, and often have capital investment from outside sources to keep the business going.
This also applies to trainers - the profitable ones are creative about their business, for instance not afraid to own a few horses themselves or in partnership with owners, enabling them to earn more purse money when the horse wins and enabling them to sell the horse when it's value is at it's highest level. Many trainers also offer farm lay-up and shipping services in order to make more money themselves rather than using outside services.
How are jockeys assigned and can a request for a given jockey be made? Does trainer and owner have any say so in this area?
- Sometimes the first jockey you pick for a horse ends up not getting along with the horse, it's best to let your trainer evaluate the jockey's ride on the horse and decide whether to stick with that jockey or use another. Also you might not always be able to get the same jockey since he may have committed to ride another horse, in that case you have to pick another. Your trainer should always go over the race with you after it's over and explain everything that is happening in the race. Over time you will be able to see little things that happen in a race by yourself. When a trainer enters a horse he names a jockey to ride. Usually he informs the jockey's agent in advance to make sure the jockey will be available, and at that time the agent makes a verbal commitment to the trainer to let his jockey ride the horse.
from West Point Thoroughbreds (this is from 2006) -
What does my initial investment cover?
Your initial investment covers the cost of the horse as well as all training expenses, fees, supplies, and mortality insurance through December 31st, of the horse's two-year-old year. From the time of your investment through the end of the two-year-old year you will not incur any further expenditures. West Point Thoroughbreds sells 10 percent units in each horse. The minimum buy in to a horse is 5 percent.
What does maintenance and training cost per quarter?
Costs for a horse in training at the track break down in the following manner (all figures are approximate):
Trainer - $75 a day, approximately $6-7k per quarter
Vet - $500 a month, approximately $1,500 a quarter
Blacksmith - $130 a month, approximately $300-400 a quarter
Stable Supplies - $100 a month, approximately $300 a quarter
Vanning - $200 a month, approximately $600 a quarter
Medication - $300 a month, approximately $900 a quarter. West Point Thoroughbreds places its horses on gastroguard to prevent and treat stomach ulcers as well as EPM medication.
Management costs - $500 a month, or $1500 a quarter. WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS EXPENSE IF I WOULD BE A SOLE OWNER OR PARTNER?
On average, the cost for a horse in training will be between $11,000-12,000 to cover all training, maintenance, and management costs. However, most horses do not spend the entire year in training.
A cost of approximately $40,000 per horse per year can be assumed.
Besides the initial expenditure and the training and maintenance fees, are there any other costs involved?
The only other fee is for mortality insurance (covered by initial expenditure during two-year-old year), which is charged annually and is 4.9% of the purchase price of the horse (not the syndication price). For example - if a filly is purchased at auction for $130,000 the annual fee for mortality insurance to the partnership would be $6,370. Therefore the annual cost for a person with a 10% stake in the partnership would be $637. If there is a major surgery the partnership is covered up to $1000, the partnership will be responsible for anything additional
Initial Expenditure - $34,000 Training and Maintenance – For each year thereafter approximately $4,400 to $4,800 (if at the track the entire year)
Purses earned at the racetrack are typically distributed as such:
First place receives 60% of the total purse
Second place receives 20% of the total purse
Third place receives 10% of the total purse
Fourth place receives 6% of the total purse
Fifth place receives 4% of the total purse
Per industry standards, trainers receive ten percent (10%) of any purse earnings. Jockeys receive ten percent (10%) of a winning purse, five percent (5%) of purses earned for finishing second or third, and a flat fee of $60 to $100 per mount for finishing off the board
- In my opinion West Point TBs is a "boutique" partnership group that is aiming for high priced horses and owners with deep pockets. All their numbers are high because they use the most expensive trainers and they sell shares based on the idea that everything is high end. To me I can't see paying a trainer $75/day in 2006, very high. Vet bills could be $500 but the horse better have something wrong for it to be that much, for routine vet work that is ridiculous. Blacksmith could be $130 but depends on which blacksmith you use and if the horse needs special shoes, that is a tad high to me. Most trainers don't charge extra for everyday horse supplies like buckets, lead ropes, cooling out blankets, etc. But if he needs a special type of equipment that can't be reused on another horse, such as a special bit or saddle pad, then you might get charged for that. Routine medication/vitamins shouldn't cost $300/month but I don't blame them for estimating high that way if it's less then the owners are pleased. Most partnerships don't charge a management fee, especially if it's just 2 or 3 people going in together on a horse. Most trainers will divide the bills up themselves and bill each owner for their share without any "management fee".
I'd say the cost to have a horse in training should be more like $2500/month or $30,000/year and it could easily be less since your horse may get a break from the track for a couple months here and there, layup at a farm is typically about $25/day, and if your horse is claimed then it will take a while to find a new horse, so you'll have breaks in your bills during that time also.
What do you feel the potential would be as far as the horse and its ability to provide income after expenses? As an estimate, can you break down the cost for trainer, jockey, vets, etc?
- I would guess that expenses are much the same for both Illinois and Kentucky. I mentioned in the last post the page to look at the breakdown of the trainer's "day rate", with farrier, vet, shipping and some other small expenses on top of that. These extra expenses can vary greatly depending on the horse you end up with, which is why it's important to have a good horseman pick a horse out that hopefully will not have too many "extra" expenses, or if he does have special needs such as custom farrier work or special vet care, he is a good enough horse to make up his expenses in purses. Since expenses can vary, that's another good reason to have some reliable partners to share expenses, that way nobody is overwhelmed if an unusual expense arises.
Whatever you do, insure any horse you claim or buy with mortality or loss of use insurance. A lot of people don't know but you can call an equine insurance company right before a race that you plan to claim a particular horse from, on your cell from the track when the horses are in the paddock if necessary, give the company the horse's details, and they will cover the horse in the race that you claim him out of. When you claim a horse you own him from the time the gates open on that race you claim him from, so if he should break down during the race, you would take the loss. If you have insurance before the race you will be covered for the full claiming price. The company that I have used in the past to cover a horse I plan to claim is Independent Equine Agents, I believe a search will turn up their web site.
Most tracks pay purse money through 5th place - 1st place gets 60%, 2nd gets 20%, 3rd 10%, 4th 5% and 5th 5% and occasionally they break it down even further and pay through more places so every horse gets something, depends on the track. There is no entry fee generally unless it's a stakes race.
I think what happens is say the 1st place horse wins his 60% of the purse. The track takes 10% of that 60% and puts it in the trainer's "horseman's account" at that track, and takes another 10% of the 60% and puts it in the jockey's "horseman's account", and the remainder goes into the owner's "horseman's account". So the money sits there in the horseman's account until you go to the "horseman's bookkeeper" at the track and ask for a check. So as an owner or partnership you can leave your money sitting there indefinately until it's needed to pay for expenses or to use for claiming the next horse - you can use your horseman's account funds to pay for a horse you claim at that track.
Similarly if someone claims your horse the track puts the money paid for your horse directly in your horseman's account. A lot of owners just keep turning that money around constantly in the quest to increase the funds by claiming, winning, and possibly losing the horse to another claim but making money in the process to claim the next one (this is Jere's specialty:)
- There is a cost analysis for racehorse owners at http://www.racehorsetrainers.com that was done a few years ago, but you can get a better idea of where the money goes. I will guess an competent midwest trainer at the track will have a "day rate" of $60-$65, or about $1800-$2000 per month. So with 3 partners figure at least $600-$700/month for expenses. Farrier, vet, shipping, and some other expenses could be extra on top of that. This is why it's a good idea to get a horse that can run hopefully about a month after you get him - to try to keep some money coming back in instead of watching it all go out for a long time before the horse has a chance to race.
update 2011: racehorsetrainers.com has a lot of other good general info for owners and has been updated in 2011, including the article with the expense breakdown for the day rate at http://racehorsetrainers.com/wordpress/article/do-you-know-where-your-day-rate-money-goes/ - amy
- I'd say most trainers would rather start a relationship with an owner by helping the owner claim or purchase an appropriate horse rather than getting a horse that someone else picked out that may not be suited for a profitable level of racing. And yes many trainers from your part of the country will be at Keeneland to buy horses this month, but the Keeneland Sept sale is Yearlings, so they are a year away from racing (or more). Probably best to try to claim a horse or buy a horse privately that is ready to run. Most trainers have owners that are always willing to go in as partners on a new horse or who are looking for a partner on a horse they already own (to help share expenses).
Can a throughbred be purchased any time of the year from Keeneland?
- You would run a horse in a cheap claiming race even though it might get claimed because you have a chance to win the race and get the winner's share of the purse, plus the claiming price, thus likely making a very nice profit. Keeneland and Fasig Tipton have sales throughout the year, there is one every few months. But again you need your trainer to advise you on whether to claim, purchase privately, or at auction. Their recommendations may depend on where and when you will be racing the horse, and how much money you are willing to spend on a horse.
Remember it costs as much to take care of a cheap horse as a more expensive one, the real expense is the daily care and training. With several partners a new owner can put in $5000 initially and get a pretty nice quality horse, plus split the costs of training and board.
You mentioned a 2 yr old in training. (Never raced before?) Are they readily available? I thought I have seen 2 yr olds already racing at Fairmount.
- In TB racing claimers are divided up by quality/ability into price levels, so a $5000 claimer would have less ability than a $10k or $15k in theory but a good horseman can find a $5k claimer that may be able to move up to $10k or more, however it would be the 1 in a thousands horse that runs for $5k claiming and then moves up to the stakes level. It's pretty rare for a $5k claimer to move up to $10k or $15k UNLESS the horse moves from a tougher track like Churchill or Keeneland where he ran for $5k to a track that has less quality horses running every day, like Fairmount or Hoosier Park.
Sometimes you can get a $5k horse at Churchill and run him at a higher level at an "easier" track like Fairmount, but you must have a really astute horseman to pick the right horse if they are to move up in claiming level. The other part of the equation is the purse money - generally a bigger purse for $5k claimers at Churchill than for $10k claimers at Fairmount so even if you win the higher level at Fairmount you probably won't make as much money as you would running for $5k at Churchill.
The problem with claiming a $5k horse at Churchill is there aren't many races to run him in (if they even have $5k races, sometimes the "bottom" is $7500), most races are for higher level horses, and trainers stabled at Churchill are discouraged from claiming a horse and promptly running back at another track because that takes away from full fields at Churchill. For that reason most trainers wait until the end of a meet to claim a horse, good idea to spot horses and watch them run once, wait for them to be entered back near the end of the meet and then take him. You could find something to claim at Turfway or Keeneland for $5-$15k and then run back at the Churchill fall meet. Better to get with about 3 partners and you each put up $5k to claim a $15-20k horse.
2yos in training are readily available but more often than not you pay more than the horse ends up being worth if it hasn't raced yet because you have no idea of it's true ability. 2yos are racing but it's highly unlikely you'd find good ones racing for a claiming price under about $30k. Trainers and owners tend to enter 2yos at a higher level than they should be to find out their ability before dropping them down to where they belong.
Also, it appears to me that there are other breeds running in the races such as Quarter Horses, is this correct or am I seeing other types of throughbreds?
- You can only name or rename a horse if it has not yet raced, so that means a weanling, yearling or two year old that you buy privately or at auction.
It's fun to speculate on a young horse that hasn't raced yet, but also very risky because you don't know it's ability yet and young horses tend to have physical problems along the way that hold up training and cost the owners in time and vet bills. There is no guarantee that a young horse will ever make the races at all.
It's also risky to claim a horse but I would recommend starting with a cheap claimer (or inexpensive 2 year old in training) and wait on the horse that you will name yourself until after you have learned the ropes a bit. A horse that is already racing or at least has shown some kind of form on the track in training will give you some confidence of it's ability.
If you want your own horse, your trusted trainer can certainly find you a young one that is within your budget that you can name and follow through their road to the races. It's important that you tell your trainer what your budget is upfront because they can present you with horses priced from $5000 up to $100,000 or more.
Quarter horse racing looks fun to me also but I don't know much about it. I do believe that all the things I've told you apply to other breeds as well as thoroughbreds. I recommend thoroughbreds because the return on investment is best with them in my opinion.
- All the trainers I know run horses at Keeneland although they aren't based there - it's a pain when Keeneland has to take over so many of the barns to accomodate horses entered in their huge sales, making training stables move their horses around, so not too many trainers are actually based there.
It's highly advisable to have a very experienced horseman help you choose a horse - to claim, buy privately, or at auction. You can get a bargain at Keeneland or Fasig Tipton but it's never a sure thing, you must have someone who knows the people involved with the horse, knows what to look for in a horse, knows how to spot problems, and knows what a horse should be worth.
- Trainers tend to move every few months, although some stay in one place all the time. I think trainers would prefer to meet an owner in person at the track during the course of racing, maybe you can try to contact trainers that way, even ask other owners for recommendations. Send me your number and I will have Jere pass it on to some recommended trainers - he knows the trainers in your area, I only know Kentucky trainers well enough to recommend. Don't give up, finding a good trainer is a harder job than finding a good horse.
? I am writing to you in hopes of finding someone who can work with me on my road to becoming an owner of a quality throughbred race horse. It appears to me that trying to get information about who can supply a solid race horse along with trainer and other information is kept out of general public's grasp I am interested in finding out more and hope that it leads to ownership with a team of needed people ( trainers, jockey, etc ) in my corner.
- If you'd like me to recommend some other advisors or trainers, I'd be happy to suggest some that I know are honest, ethical, knowledgable horsemen. A half and half partnership with a good trainer as part owner or with a couple of that trainer's other owners who will educate you along the way would be a good option.
It is not a good idea to try to buy or claim a horse on your own, a trainer's help and recommendation is essential, and it has to be a trainer who has a good reputation for honesty, integrity, and horsemanship. Your first step is really to find a trainer who you can get along with and trust. The thing to do is to ask the racing office to give your name and number to the trainers you want to talk to so they can choose whether to call you back.
Most owners don't get to see their horses in person very often, maybe just the occasional Saturday morning during training, and of course on race day. To keep up with their horses, owners get regular email or phone updates from the trainer, you would let the trainer know how often you would expect an update - the regularity of updates from the trainer is one thing to make sure you and the trainer agree on before you pick a trainer.
Jere will be keen to offer training services when we get back to the states, but for now we're in Saudi Arabia at least through March 2009. We would also be available to help you pick a horse to buy privately or to claim when we get back in town, but for now it would be best to pick a trainer first, make sure you see eye to eye and that trainer is willing to educate you, and work with your trainer to pick out a horse.
Whether you do a partnership or not really depends on your budget. Plan on $15,000-$30,000/year for expenses related to owning a horse by yourself, in addition to the initial purchase price (upkeep often costs more than the horse itself). Splitting the costs between partners lessens the risk of the investment.
Monday, July 10, 2006
What do you love about racing or your job at the track? What do you hate about it? If you are an owner tell us what is good and bad about owning racehorses. If you have participated in group ownership of a racehorse, tell us what was good and bad about the experience.
Our long term goal is to organize the ideal thoroughbred racing partnership. We need suggestions from you. When we begin to implement your suggestions and organize our partnership we will contact you if you fill out our survey at www.racingnation.net indicating your interest.
I am Amy Stevens, I'm from Louisville, Kentucky, and I maintain many horse related web sites, most of them racing related, including racehorsetrainers.com, horsesales.com, some trainer sites, a couple farms, a couple bloodstock agents, racing related horsemen's organizations including the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund, and retired racehorse placement program Second Stride.
My husband and partner is trainer Jere R. Smith Jr. from New Orleans, Louisiana. We are both currently working in Saudi Arabia. Jere is employed as trainer for King Abdullah and Sons Stables. We want to put together very well organized thoroughbred racing partnerships to claim or purchase privately when we eventually return to the states. Our goal is to step up where other racing partnerships have failed to provide a fun and profitable experience for the owners.
We still get so many questions from people who want to own a racehorse that we decided to put all these questions and our answers in this Blog. We hope other owners, trainers and anybody with interest in horseracing will also add their comments.
I'm sure there's a few people out there who know me and Jere, so feel free to tell what you know about either of us. Jere in particular has quite a "colorful" history from a lifetime at the track, and we invite any comments, good or bad. Really!