Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ah Chicago...

"That toddlin' town. City of the broad sholders. Hog butcher to the world. Home of the pig-sicle."

- Hawkeye Pierce, M*A*S*H*, "Adam's Ribs" (November 26, 1964)

Chicago and I have been flirting now for a few months. We're up, we're down. We're together, we're not.

Before the economy really went south last fall, I had touched based with Tammy Domenosky, an accomplished thoroughbred race trainer to see if she would be interested in training for a group I was trying to put together to run at Hawthorne and then here at Canterbury over the summer. I had met Tammy here at Canterbury a few times and I really liked her commitment, style and skill with horses. She had done right by several folks I know already and was really starting to make a name for herself. A young trainer on the rise. It was a great opportunity.

As the fall turned to winter and the market kept a tumbling and folks' 401(k)s became 201(k)s, our core group of potential partners whittled down to next to nothing. There is no question that disposable income was hard to come by. We all know that this business is not for the faint of heart. You don't get in to make a fortune, you get in to have some fun, watch your horse run and be a part of one of the greatest games on the planet. We've all heard all the marketing angles:"Own your own sports franchise"; "Be a part of the sport of kings", etc. I've even used some of the trite expressions in my own advertising. The bottom line is, though, you're in it for the love of the game, the beauty of the animal, the thrill of the race. Ask my wife, I'm a nervous wreck before a race, but it takes me back to the same kind of nervousness I used to have before I ran in a race or before a game - and I'm addicted to it. I want to bring that kind of thrill to as many people as I can and, yes, our goal is to make money for our partners. It's hard to be successful, but it has to be your goal. Know the risks but do what you can to make money.

I digress. As Chicago and I flirted through the winter, we never quite got close enough to consumate the deal. In the interim, we purchased a controlling share in Minnesota-bred Thoroughbred Miss Belle Express and a small (12.5%) stake in Standardbred I Am Woman through
VIP Stables. In addition, we continued to watch Fizzy Pop's progress back to the races. Missy and Fizzy were in Florida and I Am Woman was back East prepping for what we thought would be a season of racing at the Meadowlands or Yonkers. As for the Hawthorne partnership, I pulled the plug about a month ago and took down the offering from the website. "Nice try", I thought, "but bad timing." It happens.

As you've read here, I Am Woman qualified at the Big M, but it was thought that she may not have what it takes to compete there just yet. She's a smallish filly and she looked like she needed some seasoning and time to mature - if that was to come at all. So where does she get shipped off to? Chicago! And what does the little lady do when she gets out here? She reels off three straight wins and garners a good deal of attention - mostly thanks to Janine Starykowicz and the exposure she has given this blog over at
Chicago Barn to Wire the last few weeks. I am extrememely grateful for the readership and welcome to those of you following thanks to the links. Readers unfamiliar with Barn to Wire may want to click and take a look - you will not find finer or more complete coverage of Illinois racing as you will there.

After a tough fall meet at Hawthorne, what does Tammy do the first weekend back racing? She goes three for three including winning the Merry Colleen Stakes with Mongoose Gold at nearly 7-1, sits near the top of the trainer standings and has compiled over $53,000 in earnings. Not a bad weekend of work and a testament to her ability to get horses ready to race.

Now I'm torn. Do I start beating the drum for Hawthorne/Canterbury again or just leave it alone? The business has to grow, but are we just spinning our wheels at a time when folks just don't have the money to get involved, even if they really want to? I don't want to just throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks, but if there is truly an opportunity here, I don't want it to pass by. After removing all mention of Hawthorne and a new claiming group there from the website just a month ago, is it just flaky for me to put it back up again? That is a real concern, too. I don't want us to be seen as a group that is running around everywhere with no real plan. But when opportunity knocks, can we afford to ignore it and not change up the plan a bit?

Oh, Chicago - you are SUCH a flirt!


Wind Gatherer said...

your link to VIP stables is broken, I think.

Ted Grevelis said...

WG - you were correct. Thanks. It is up and running now.