Friday, January 11, 2008

Going Shopping

As we speak (or as I write), Ms. Trainer is shopping for us in Ocala for a young filly or colt that is sound and has some potential that we can work with through the winter and tune up for Canterbury this summer. As I mentioned previously, the odd claiming rules prevent us from claiming a horse at the Tampa meet until we run in the Tampa meet, so we're looking private purchase - both here and in Ocala, by the way. There seems to be a nice supply of horses out there and a relative dearth of buyers. Hopefully that means we can pick up a nice horse under our budget. That's always a good thing, but being under budget does not limit our drive to get the best horse we can. I'd rather be over budget with a good horse and make money in the long run than be under budget on an iffy horse and end up costing us money.

I found a nicely bred colt in Ocala, a Grand Slam that cost in the mid-40's to breed. He was bought with the intent of pin-hooking him in a later sale (pin-hooking is the art of buying in one sale and developing the horse a bit further and reselling at a later auction). As the colt developed he turned out a bit in front and his value plummeted and went unsold. Then he went 'on-sale' as a potential race prospect. There are plenty of horses that have conformation flaws that do very well on the track (see John Henry, for one), but then the horse was vetted and it was determined that there is a small bone chip in one of his joints. His offer price dropped from $15,000 to $10,000 to now $7,500. His current owner has lost a bundle on him and he may be a stallion prospect. Who knows where this boy will end up?

This brings me to two points: the preparation for two-year olds in training sales and the uncertainty of anything in this business.

In the ad for this youngster, it stated that the horse ran .11 for a furlong in preparation for the Ocala sale. This is a pretty good work, though it is only 1 furlong rather than running 3 at .11 a clip. My concern is the stress on young two year olds to train them that hard for a sale. Their joints aren't fully matured and, in my opinion, you do more harm than good in trying to glam them up for a two-year old in training sale. Taking the time to let a young horse develop will pay dividends in the future if you just have the patience to wait.

Looking at this young prospect from a leading sire out of a stakes winning mare, you'd think to yourself, How can he miss? Yet he did miss and he missed badly. Low level claiming races are filled with horses like him. Andrea's Pearl, a 5-year old gelding out of Tank's Prospect mare by Smart Strike (2007's leading North American sire by earnings) was bred with a $75,000 stud fee. Include the price of taking care of the mare as well as him as a weanling and yearling and you have yourself a $100,000 investment. He didn't race at 2 and raced 11 times both at 3 and 4 and won a total of two races and a little over $31,000, or about $5,000 less than it cost to train and board him for those two years. Now he is running in $8,000 - 10,000 claiming races at Tampa Bay in Florida and he's gelded, so there is no future at all in the shed for him.

Our hope is to hit a home run, our goal is to at least get ourselves a nice singles hitter, but it's an uphill battle filled with promises and broken dreams. As Tom Hanks character said in A League of Their Own, "Being hard is what makes it great. If it was easy, everyone would do it."

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