Tuesday, October 16, 2007

First Horse

A few years ago I had some money that I had made in the stock market lying around. It wasn’t a ton of money, but I knew it was enough to get me anywhere from 5 – 10% of a racing partnership so I started doing some research. I eventually came upon a group based in Southern California that had been in business a few years and had shown some success - particularly in claiming horses and running them up the ladder before getting them claimed at a profit. I liked that angle and I really liked dealing with the managing partner who was very forthright in answering all my questions and had nothing to hide. I bought 10% of a group in Texas and another 5% in a newly formed group in NY. I was more excited about the NY group, but the TX group was cheap and figured for 10% it was well worth taking a shot.

The Texas group claimed it’s first horse, Thunder High on February 24, 2006 out of the 2nd race at Sam Houston for $7500. Our hope was to run him up the ladder and get him claimed a few levels up and build the stable from there. We ran him back in a $13,500 allowance race near the end of March and he made a move near the stretch and got to a length of third before fading to 5th. Coming out of a $7500 claiming race, we didn’t think that was too bad. Our trainer brought him right back about a week later in a $10,000 claimer. In this race he just showed absolutely nothing while finishing out of the money in 6th. This time he was given a month off and came back in another $10,000 claiming race. This time he was severely outrun and finished 33 ¾ lengths back in 7th. The amazing thing was that there was a horse behind him! Thunder came out of this race with a sore foot and that helped explained his deteriorating form. He may have had the condition for a while before it came to light, we just don’t know. It’s hard when the horses can’t tell you what’s ailing them.

Thunder was given a few months off and returned to the races on August 12. He finished a dismal 8th at Retama Park in a $7500 claiming race. He came out of the race OK and his foot was fine, so he was entered back in a few weeks later for a $7500 tag again. This time he finished 6th of 11 in a really flat race. No early speed, no late kick. Nothing at all, just herded around the track. He got as good a trip as he could have, but just showed nothing at a price of nearly 50-1. By this time we were all praying for a claim, but knowing that he has showed nothing to warrant a purchase. We dropped him as low as you can go - $3500 on September 14 and hoped for the best. He ran a carbon copy of his last race and finished 6 of 12 showing nothing at all. We made a deal with the trainer to take him off the group's books and to split any purse money should the horse run again.

Thunder showed up one last time finishing dead last at 145-1 in a $10,000 claiming race where he was in way over his head. Either his feet gave out or his heart was just not in it anymore as he started to associate racing with soreness. As gentle a horse as Thunder was reported to be, I had heard that he was given to a 4H club – a transition that I think would be perfect for him. I lost it all, but it was a low cost investment and gave me a lot of insight into the business end of racing and how tough the claiming game is especially.

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