This Weekend

As you know, we did not claim a horse opening weekend.  We thought about a couple but thought better of them. It’s a good thing, too, because both I was looking at finished up the track!

I think there is a better than average chance that we get a horse this weekend.  There are more “open” claiming races this weekend from $5,000 to $16,000.

By open claiming races I refer to races where there are no conditions left.  Claiming races are classified by price, as you know.  But there are also striations within each claiming rank.  Here is an example in the $5,000 ranks from “easiest” to “hardest”:

$5,000 claiming, non-winners of 2 races lifetime;

$5,000 claiming, non-winners of 3 race lifetime;

$5,000 claiming, non-winners of 4 lifetime;

$5,000 claiming, non-winners of a race in the last year;

$5,000 claiming, non-winners of 2 races in the last year.

$5,000 claiming

You either want to pick up a horse early in the process or one that has cleared it’s conditions and proven it can compete in “open” claiming races.  Our focus is on the latter.  Those horses tend to be a bit more consistent and have at least proven that they can win races.  A horse that still has conditions left is nice too – unless they can’t make the climb.  So our plan is to go the safer route (safe being a relative term in the realm of racehorse ownership).  We’re very hopeful that there will be one or two this weekend that we can drop a slip on.

Stay tuned.

Rundown of Horse Acquisition

Though I gave a bit of a rundown earlier on claiming a horse, I want to dive a little bit deeper on both claiming and private purchase and how it applies to our situation this year.

I’ll tackle the private purchase leg first because that’s the quickest. Clay has a bloodstock agent he uses in California to look for talent. That is how the alumni group bought Mr. Lexis. He does, however, come with a price tag: 5% of the purchase price. Then there are shipping costs from California that runs north of $1000. For a higher level group buying a relatively expensive horse that might make sense, but buying a horse for around $8,000 it doesn’t. The bigger issue is that while Clay was looking in California, he felt that the asking prices were way too high. One horse they wanted to sell for $7000 finished 3rd in a $6250 claiming race!

Claiming in different locations is difficult as well. First of all, you have to be licensed in those locations. That gets a bit difficult and awfully pricey. Secondly, I want Clay to be involved in the process because he needs to want to train whoever we get. The third issue, and this is where it can get weird, is that different tracks have different rules for what can be done with claimed horses. For example, at Arlington Park a horse that has been claimed cannot leave the grounds for 45-days. At Gulfstream a claimed horse can’t leave until the end of the meet. These various rules make it tough to claim in places where we don’t intend to run.

So the lack of quality at Hawthorne prevented us from picking up a reasonably priced horse that we’d like to run the rest of the year. It’s not the end of the world though it most certainly is not the ideal situation. Clay already has his eye out and our pupils will hopefully get larger after entries start getting drawn next week.

We’ll get there – hopefully very soon!

Last Weekend at Hawthorne

We will be taking one last look in Chicago this weekend as the Hawthorne meet comes to a close. We may even look a bit higher than our $10,000 budget per horse and start with one for now and then go ahead and claim another at Canterbury once we have a race or two under our belt.

We have scoured CA but finding something in our price range plus shipping, plus a 10% commission for the agent has made it a bit difficult. In looking at other locations: Florida, Ohio, Kentucky we have licensing issues. Not issues, per se, but the requirement to be licensed prior to claiming which would have amounted to 100s of dollars with no guarantee of finding the horse we want. Also, the further afield that we go, the less input we have from Clay which I do not like. I want him to have as much input as possible on a horse that he will be training.

If we do not get anything this weekend, we will come out swinging when the meet starts here at home.

Choices are Improving…Slowly

It looks as if the choices are starting to improve at Hawthorne with the influx of horses from Fairgrounds. The exodus from Oaklawn has begun as well, so we are hoping that there will be some options to go after over the next few weekends. Arlington opens on May 1 and we’ll also be looking there should there prove to be nothing worth reaching out to take in the next few weeks.

We’ve looked briefly at a few but have rejected them quickly. Clay’s philosophy, and I agree, is that we don’t want to get something just to get something and then be sorry that we did.

So we continue looking and soldier on.

Claiming

No. We haven’t claimed anything yet. Admittedly this part of the experience, waiting for the horse, is rather boring. I figured I’d take the opportunity to outline for folks the claiming process and reiterate some of what we are looking for.

Claiming a horse is relatively straightforward, but there are specific rules that govern the process.

First, you pick out the horse you want to buy. Clay and I sort through Past Performances and check on possible targets. For the Club, we’re looking at a horse from about $5000 – $10,000, a horse that has shown some consistency over a moderate (20 or so) number of starts and one that is perhaps coming from a barn that may not be as accomplished as Clay’s. In other words, something that Clay can improve upon with his training regimen. For example, one year we claimed a horse named Ask Eddy who came from a barn where he had lost weight and didn’t receive property nutrition. Clay went ahead and laid him off for a few weeks, changed his feed, de-wormed him and then got him ready to race. He won the first time for us and then won twice more. We’d like something solid that can run every 3 or 4 weeks for us. He may not shoot up the class ladder but would be good for teaching us a bit about racing.

Second, you check the horse out in person. You can’t really walk up to a barn and say, “Hey, I’m going to claim your horse tomorrow, can I have my vet check him out?” but you do want some degree of comfort because, in most jurisdictions, claiming is the epitome of “buyer beware” because once you own the horse, you inherit everything that may be wrong with him.

So Clay takes a close look at the horse as it walks over for it’s race and his behavior in the paddock. If he sees signs of a physical ailment (sore, crooked leg, etc) that could be an indicator of future issues, we pass. If he likes what he sees, we move onto step 3.

Third, you fill out the claim slip EXACTLY and then drop it in the claim box in the racing office or the bookkeeper’s office depending on the racetrack. Any error and the claim is voided. For example, one claim slip was filled out at Keeneland Race Course but on the “track” line, the trainer wrote in “Keenland” rather than “Keeneland”. The missing “e” cost them the horse.

The claim box is locked and the claim slips time stamped. Various tracks have different deadlines to have the claim slip in: 5 minutes to post, post time, etc. When the gates open, the claim box is open and, if you have the only claim in on a horse, it’s yours from that moment forward. Should the horse pick up a check in that race, it goes to the old owners, but should the horse suffer an injury – or worse – in the race, the horse belongs to the new owners. New York and California have rules to protect new owners against catastrophic injury, but very few other jurisdictions. When the horse comes back after the race, a track employee is there with a tag that is snapped onto the bridle and the horse heads off to the new barn.

Should there be more than one claim on a horse, a “shake” is instituted. In a case like this, each claim slip is given a number which corresponds to a number on a small pill/ball. The pills are placed in a bottle, shaken and tipped. The number of the claim slip that corresponds to the first pill out of the bottle wins the horse.

In a rather long nutshell, that is the process of claiming a horse.

Ready…Set…CLAIM!

We’re at Hawthorne and have touched base with the licensing folks and we’ll be ready to go next week. Additionally Clay and I have spoken about what we’re looking for and I told him “A couple like last year, just a little better!”

Seriously, though, we are looking for a couple of horses between $5000 and $10,000 that have shown some consistency and durability. If we happen across a solid MN-bred, more the better.

Now we’re on the lookout and with racing moving to 3-days a week in Chicago shortly and the barns filling up, our next runner is out there somewhere!

Close for 2015

We are very close to launching the 2015 edition of the Canterbury Racing Club. We are just waiting for a few folks who have indicated that they are returning or are in but the check and paperwork has not yet arrived. I would anticipate that would be done sometime this week and I will finalize our licensing, transfer some money to Hawthorne and we can start shopping. I know that Clay already has his eye open but, as we’ve seen, it can sometimes take a while to find the horse or horses we want.

It looks as though we are going to close right around the 150 member mark this year. This will be less than last year but right about where we were 2 years ago. Some of the drop off is no doubt the migration of some folks to the Canterbury Alumni Group as well as some normal attrition.

We will also have nearly 30 new members this year and to you all I say “welcome”. Please remember that this is a learning experience and no question is a bad question. That’s why we’re here. Hopefully we’ll win some races along the way while we peel back the curtain a bit on the Thoroughbred industry.