Jeff Lifson asked me to write a few words about managing travel as a Thoroughbred owner. I currently am invested in six horses spread throughout the country. Just to give you some perspective I live in Texas and I have no home track. So like the nomadic Ground Transport over the 18 months, I have seen my horses run at the following tracks.
· Del Mar
· Santa Anita
· Indiana Downs
· Golden Gate Fields
· Churchill Downs
· Fair Grounds
Making plans and then having your horse scratched or not entered can be frustrating, but you need to be flexible in this game. There is nothing worse than hearing “we drew the 14 post so we are not racing this weekend”, or “the race didn’t go”, or “that race had too much speed”. The health and well-being of the horses and jockeys should always come first.
However, I have found over the last few years that if you play your cards right, you can see your horses run the majority of the time.
So here is my advice:
1) Get to know you trainer.
Some are planners and you can see a few weeks in advance where they are going to run. Others are known for making game time decisions. With that said, as well as you know your trainer, you still need to be flexible. It’s much easier to plan ahead with stakes horses. Mike Stidham has been great about letting us know where Ground Transport is running weeks ahead of time, but last fall he made a last minute decision to bypass a race at Laurel for one at Penn National. This totally ruined our weekend plans and a whole print run of t-shirts, but we knew Mike was only looking out for the horse.
2) Use frequent flyer miles first.
I travel on American Airline, and if I book using miles, I can rebook any flight for one year with no penalty. Right now I have flights from Dallas to Florida and New York that I can use at almost any time to see my horses run.
WPT tip: Southwest is a great option for horse owners as well, as there are no cancellation fees!
3) Don’t pay for flights until you absolutely have to.
I’ve booked flights on hold for this Saturday and Sunday to see Lavender Chrissie run at Gulfstream Park. The cost for those flights has not changed at all over the last week. You don’t always get that lucky, but a lot of times you do. Her trainer Dale Romans is more apt to change his mind based on current facts and circumstances, so with Dale I usually don’t book until the last minute.
4) Read the condition books.
This will give you a good idea as to when your horse may be running. Especially as your horse matures, you have a much better idea as to where and when they will run. As I said, it can be easier to plan ahead with stakes horses, but not always!
5) Plan client meetings near the track.
Clients love to go to the track to see your horse run. But if your horse doesn’t run, you still can have a meeting and write off a business expense.
6) Plan to go on days when West Point has other horses running.
One of the best days at the track I ever had was when Miss Lafayette scratched but Rock Me Baby ran huge in a stakes race at Del Mar. The West Point team let my clients and I in the paddock and as always we had a great day and it was a huge success.
7) Know your horse.
If your horse never runs off the turf or in the slop then look at the weather forecast. If you have a horse that runs at Fair Grounds on the turf, don’t go, they always come off :).
There have been times my horse hasn’t run and I’ve still gone to the track and had a great day because I love the races. If your horse doesn’t run, make Jeff or Tom get up early and meet you at the barn! Watch your horse train and enjoy the beauty you can only find during mornings at the track. Ground Transport is a fun horse to own, but until I saw the attitude and work ethic he brings in the morning, I never truly appreciated him as an athlete.