Sunday, February 24, 2008

Targets In Our Sites

Time is moving on and we are moving closer to acquiring our first horse. I spoke with Bernell today and we touched base on a couple of horses we liked. I was happy to see that we both were zeroing in on the same horses. It was was a source of pride that I could take a look at a couple of targets and a veteran horseman like Mr. Rhone backed up my assessment. I'm starting to move with more confidence around the form and with my trainer. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but it's nice to be validated that I'm on the right track.

Our targets are varied. One is a veteran claimer with potentially some breathing issues - hence the bargain price on this recent allowance grass winner. One is a lightly raced 3 year old that left a field of $12,500 claimers 12 lengths behind. Unfortunately for him, there was one horse a length in front of him. At $12,500 he's a steal, but from what I've seen this season at Tampa, a great effort at $12,500 will mean a push up the ladder to $16,000 rather than nailing the win at $12,500 and possibly losing the horse to a group like ours. I think in the hands of a Bernell Rhone, this gelding will improve. We're looking at a sound, hard knocking four year old that would run every day if he were allowed. It is a varied group that has advantages and disadvantages to each of them. The good thing is that the list is getting longer and we can be choosier. Now with spring coming, more horses are arriving off of layoffs that will open the field even wider for us.

It's been interesting looking for horses this winter. With all the claiming races, you'd think that it would be easy, but it really isn't. Class drops that look too good to be true usually are. And by usually I mean 99 times out of 100. Looking at 50 claiming races a week generally yields no additions to the target list. I would say that I add one about every two weeks. Also, I've dropped one each month as well. Those are the ones you're glad you didn't pull the trigger on. The most important trait is the faith that your trainer can get more out of the horse than it's current trainer can get out of him. Claiming from a top conditioner is usually a mistake. The top 10 folks are usually separated by very little when it comes to ability, so there won't be a whole lot of improvement to be had. They have wrung all they can out of the animal and is probably what your trainer can get out of him, too.

Trying to gague owner circumstances is important - maybe they need to get out of the business and are just looking to cash out quickly. But how do you tell the difference between that and a horse with physical limitations that is being dropped to become someone else's problem? Hopefully by having good information from trainers and friends that can get you information that others don't have. Unless you feel that your trainer can improve the horse, there is generally no point in claiming one. I would argue that the only exception is an older hard knocking bottom of the rung claimer that will get you a few wins a year, be in the hunt most starts and will pay it's way every year - but that's a hard segment of the business to turn a dollar in.

Patience is something that I've never really possessed, but in this game it certainly can be a virtue and I'm willing to wait for my clients.

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