Thursday, January 15, 2009

Qualified, but Meet the Gavel

She'll be Hip # 209 on Monday morning at the Tattersall's January Select Mix Sale at the Meadowlands. I Am Woman (Blissful Hall - Wild Proposition), my last Standardbred, is being sold by the folks at VIP Stables. I can't say that I blame them, really. She was a good buy at the Pennsylvania sale last year where they bought her and the market has been OK for racing age Standardbreds this past year (not great by any means, don’t get me wrong). There is a very good chance that she'll bring a decent chunk more than what was paid and we'll all walk away with a couple of shekels more than what we've put in over the little under a year that we've had her.

She did qualify today. The race went in 1:58 flat which was a bit faster than the 3yo colt and gelding race earlier in the cold morning air of New Jersey. (As an aside, waking up this morning we were 40 degrees colder in the Twin Cities than the 21 that was the official reading at the Meadowlands.) She finished 4th against that pace which wasn't bad considering she was beaten by three fillies that have already won races, some of which were stakes, and have placed in races with over $100,000 in purse money. In fact, one of the fillies had won an event at the Red Mile in 1:55 last year. All in all, I think it was a nice showing and should bode well for her prospects on Monday morning.

It's really hard to tell not being there how good the race was or how she carried herself. Unlike Thoroughbred racing, the Standardbred 'charts' contain little or no info and the 'charts' for the qualifying races are even sparser. It would be great to see that change, but it certainly doesn't make fiscal sense to hire the manpower to get that done. In any event, I am saddened by her imminent departure as I have always felt that she has a lot of potential. I can understand the decision to sell and I'll continue to follow her career closely.

I also think that this will get me out of the Standardbred business for a while. I think I'll take my 12.5% share of whatever she sells for and set it aside to give me a bit of flexibility on the Thoroughbred side. What I wouldn't mind doing is finding a harness trainer that will have a string at Running Aces this summer and maybe buy a pacer later this Spring that'll run close to home. The money won't be great, but it sure would be fun. That, though, would probably be a solo venture. Even though purses are expected to increase by about 25% there this summer, they weren't too great to start with (Class A pacer races for $4000; $2000 claiming for $2,000) so syndicating may not really be attractive. Though I guess for the right price, folks could buy into a local pacer for a couple of hundred bucks so it may make some sense. However the first thing to do is to find a trainer and that has not been easy.

I'm not sure why it's been hard to find a trainer. Maybe I'm comparing it too much to their Thoroughbred cousins: plenty of trainers, find one, claim a horse, you're in business. They move their string from track to track (turn-outs not-with-standing) and your horse goes along. However, a lot of the folks outside the major harness racing centers back East and in Canada, own, train and drive their own stock. Grabbing outside clients is just not something they seem to be interested in doing. If you're training in Chicago and racing for mid-range purses of $7500, why would you pack up stakes and come to Minnesota? Maybe you’d make the trip from Ohio, but if purses are roughly comparable (though they may be a little higher here next year), why would you pay to move your string? I think the meet here becomes more of an opportunity for the Fair circuit folks in the upper Midwest to have a racetrack for a few months. This is great, but it certainly doesn’t help someone buy a horse or two who doesn’t want to train and drive their own.

Another drawback for a guy like me is what happens when racing is over? I certainly can’t afford to race for a few $3000 pots over the summer and then turn the horse out for eight and a half months. The Fair circuit at $1000 a race doesn’t make a whole lot of fiscal sense either. The only thing that makes sense is to be able to move the horse to Chicago, Ohio, Pennsylvania, NY or NJ for the winter. The vicious circle? A horse competitive in those circuits is ‘too’ competitive for here. In other words, if I have a horse that can do really well here, wouldn't I just keep it racing elsewhere over the summer where the pots are bigger? For argument's sake, let's say I want to race here for less because it's home (a home town discount, if you will). I'll need to pick up a horse that I feel will be competitive somewhere. My guess would be Chicago because of it's proximity to the Cities. If a Chicago trainer is not moving his string up here (unlikely) then I would need to race with him until I ship to Minnesota. But what do I do when I get up here? I'll need to find another trainer (see above: not easily done) and when we're done up here, arrange to ship back to Chicago. Ugh.

So I’ll be out of the harness game when the gavel falls Monday morning. I think someone is going to get themselves a nice young filly. I know that I’ll miss the game. Racing every 10-days or so is fun and engaging. Maybe I’ll join VIP again sometime as a small percentage holder (though I like owning bigger pieces myself or running the partnership) but for the time being I’ll focus on my r three thoroughbreds and the business and see what I can do there.

TED'S NOTE: I Am Woman finished 5 lengths off the lead in a very good time of 1:59 flat. She even took a quarter two wide under cover and finished her final quarter in :29.1. Not bad for a qualifier. I hope buyers take notice - she's already staked up nice and ready to roll!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ted,
I've added a widget for your blog to your page at our site, hope this helps it stand out a bit.