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Craig Dollase is our main trainer on the West Coast and conditions stable star Awesome Gem. We sat down with the lifelong horseman to find out the scoop on his favorite runners, his training philosophy, the best place to find a good steak in Southern California - and, of course, his 2012 campaign plans for the Gem.

Craig heads to the Barretts 2-Year-Old in Training Sale with Terry and the rest of the WPT buying team next week. He’ll train any purchases we make out there.

 

Q. Let’s start with a few “get-to-know-you” questions. What’s your favorite food?
A. I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I enjoy Italian food, but I’d say a good steak is best. The Derby is a popular restaurant here, and we also have a really good Ruth’s Chris - that’s one of my favorites in California.


Q. Favorite movie?
A. I really enjoyed the Rocky movies, from one all the way to the latest one. I’m a big fan of the underdog, that’s me.

Q. Favorite non-racing sporting event?

A. I’m a big football junkie, that’s for sure. I’m rooting for the Giants, that’s my team. My favorite team is the Raiders. There are a lot of Raiders haters out there but I’ve always been fan.   

Q. Pet peeve?

A. Probably people talking behind my back. If you’ve got a problem with me, come talk to me. I’m easy to approach and I’m an open book. It’s a small community we’re in, so in this business, that face-to-face approach is key.

Q. Who introduced you to racing?

A. My parents - my father Wally was a trainer and I got the horse bug early on; it’s been a passion of mine ever since. On occasion I’ll call Pops up to ask for advice and he’s always willing to give it to me. My Dad was only one I ever worked for and has always been my mentor and a big inspiration in my career.

Q. Tell us about your training philosophy

A. I’m very hands-on at the barn, definitely a barn rat - I’m at the barn a lot. I’m real patient with all of my horses, I treat them all as individuals. I learned that from my father early on; you have to be patient and treat each horse as an individual, not assembly-line style.

Q. What’s the  main thing you’re known for in the racing industry?
A. I pride myself on developing long-lasting horses. I’m not hard on a horse, I let them tell me when they’re ready and I try not to run them if they’re not 110 percent fit - when you ignore the signs, that’s how injuries happen. I pride myself on the fact that some of these older horses I’ve campaigned over the years are still running at seven or eight-years-old. Numerous runners in my barn are older and are still running competitively, and that’s a tribute to me and my staff being real patient and being pretty in tune with each runner.


Q. Who is your favorite all-time horse?
A. Am I allowed to have two? The first one would have to be Reraise, who got me my Breeders’ Cup Sprint win when I was a 27-year-old back in ‘98. I’d be remiss not to mention him because he got me on the map and up to the next level at that stage in the game. And my favorite current runner is Awesome Gem.

Q. Tell us a little about the ride you’ve been on with Awesome Gem
A. He’s a horseman’s dream. To have a horse like this in the barn to play at that level and be as competitive as he is a tribute to the horse, my staff, and the owners, too - everyone being patient and letting me give the horse the time he needs. It’s definitely a team effort with Awesome Gem, that’s for sure. We’ve been fortunate to get him to that elite level and he’s wonderful to be around - he’s like our barn mascot. When he leaves for rest on the farm, it’s a real big void with him being gone. When he’s back, it’s uplifting, a fun time. Being around him keeps your spirits up because he’s right there, one of those blue-collar horses that’s always willing and able and shows up every time. I wish I had a barn full of horses like Awesome Gem.   

Q. What’s your fondest memory as WPT’s main trainer on the West Coast?
A. Winning the Hollywood Gold Cup with Awesome Gem as a 7-year-old was awesome, especially since that race was kind of a nemesis to me. I won it one year but got disqualified, then I was beaten a nose following year, so it was almost like I was owed a Gold Cup (laughs). I’d been right there with horses and when he finally came through and got it done, that was extra-special.

 

 

Q. Some people are surprised Gem’s still going strong. Are you?

A. Well, he’s the ripe young age of nine, and a lot of times these are uncharted waters with these kinds of horses. But he’s not just another older horse, he’s a very special individual, and if any horse at that age is up to the task, it’s Awesome Gem. We hope to get a race into him in late March and we’d love to take a swing at the Charles Town Classic. We’ll hand-pick our spots this year and won’t race him as much, but this is a horse who thrives on running.

Back to that individual thing - I know how he’s doing and what his demeanor is. He’s doing well and he’s very healthy. A lot of people out there say, “Why are you running a 9-year-old, doesn’t he deserve to be retired after all he’s done?” But this isn’t a normal 9-year-old or a tired 9-year-old or an unsound 9-year-old - this is a special horse and he’ll tell me if he’s not himself or if he’s not doing well and we’ll listen and do right by him. If there’s any indication that he’s not willing and able to run I’ll be the first person to take him out of training. He means so much to so many people - not just myself, but my family and our crew, as well as to the people at West Point Thoroughbreds and to his following. It’s great to see the well-wishers out there looking out for the best interests of racehorses - but everyone can rest assured that I’ve got ‘Gem’s back.

 

 
 

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Anonymous
Mar 26 2012 - 11:55am
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8 am on February 29, 2012

Craig Dollase is our main trainer on the West Coast and conditions stable star Awesome Gem. We sat down with the lifelong horseman to find out the scoop on his favorite runners, his training philosophy, the best place to find a good steak in Southern California - and, of course, his 2012 campaign plans for the Gem.

Craig heads to the Barretts 2-Year-Old in Training Sale with Terry and the rest of the WPT buying team next week. He’ll train any purchases we make out there.

EFinley
EFinley's picture
3618
Blog
Get To Know Craig Dollase: Training Philosophy, Awesome Gem, Favorite California Restaurants

Let’s tackle the jockey agent/trainer relationship, one of the most complex interactions in the sport of kings. There are a lot of politics involved, but we all know jockeys and the guys who manage their riding assignments are vital to our success. I try my best to stay out of the jockey selection process as a racing manager; for the most part, we let our trainers take care of booking riders for our horses. If you have any questions about why or how a particular rider ends up on a particular horse of ours, shoot me an email.

 

Terry

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tfinley
Feb 27 2012 - 10:06am
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5 pm on February 23, 2012

Let’s tackle the jockey agent/trainer relationship, one of the most complex interactions in the sport of kings. There are a lot of politics involved, but we all know jockeys and the guys who manage their riding assignments are vital to our success. I try my best to stay out of the jockey selection process as a racing manager; for the most part, we let our trainers take care of booking riders for our horses. If you have any questions about why or how a particular rider ends up on a particular horse of ours, shoot me an email.

 

Terry

tfinley
tfinley's picture
43
Blog
Video Blog: The Role of Jockey Agents

Stop by a racetrack. Stroll past a barn. Peer down the shed row past the horses nibbling on hay. Look into the office. See that lady on the phone, talking with one of the owners about an upcoming race for the next budding star? That gentleman marking up charts that will determine each horse’s workout activity for the following morning? The person leaving the office, entering a stall, and feeling a filly’s legs to see if the vet needs to be called? That’s the trainer. In horse racing, you need one.

Click here to see WPT’s team of trainers.

If you want to know the job description for a trainer, here’s the skinny:

1. Work with the horses daily, getting them fit and mentally ready to race - and identify injuries and sickness that would prevent them from racing.

2. Work with owners to pick out races for those horses to run in (there’s a smorgasbord of choices at every race track, at every age, each sex, and each level of talent).

3. Pick the jockeys to ride your horses.  

4. Make sure your team of helpers (grooms, exercise riders, assistant trainers) is taking care of and improving the stable’s horses.

5. Communicate with the owners of the horses on how items 1-4 are going.

That’s pretty much what a trainer does. Generally speaking, and it’s not much of a secret in the game, trainers are involved in racing to spend their time around horses, the first or second love of their lives behind their spouse and kids. Time spent with owners can be a necessary evil for many trainers - because, after all, the owners pay the bills.

The great Charlie Whittingham, a hall of fame trainer, beloved in the game, and a two time winner of the Kentucky Derby, once said words to these effect: “Owners are like mushrooms--you keep em in the dark and you shovel a little @&*# their direction from time to time.” Basically, ol’ Charlie was saying in his typical no-nonsense style that owners need to step out of the way and let trainers do their jobs. “Leave it to the experts” is not a bad philosophy as long as you choose your expert (trainer) with care. Then everybody will be generally happy.

That’s what we try to do at West Point Thoroughbreds, fitting the needs of our clients across the country with the characteristics that make for the best horse trainers. We also try to match the trainers with the horses. Here are the top five questions we ask ourselves when picking a trainer for our racing partnerships:


Dale Romans - 136th Running of the Preakness Stakes1. Does this trainer win?
And we don’t mean every once in a blue moon, we want trainers who have demonstrated over time that they can win their share of big races at the top tracks in the country. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re winning at a 20% clip or better (you do that for several decades and you’re talking Hall of Fame numbers). We like trainers that experiment with race choices and aren’t afraid to risk their lofty winning percentage to take creative directions with our horses rather than the safe path every time.  You look at our trainer roster, for example, and you’ll find many of our trainers don’t win at the 20% level (they also don’t win at the 5% level either). But they are Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Kentucky Oaks and Breeders Cup-winning trainers. That’s plenty good for us.

2. Is this trainer a solid racing citizen?
It’s all well and good when you win your share of all races and often stand in the winners circle for the biggest races. But are you constantly facing charges from various racing authorities for breaking the rules? If you’re in trouble for frequent medication positives with your horses or any other bends and stretches of the racing laws, no thanks. Does this mean that our trainers have never been fined or disciplined for rules violations? No. When you run a lot of horses as many of our trainers do, you make honest mistakes from time to time. But if there’s a pattern of trouble, indicating a willingness or desire to take an unfair edge, we’ll pass.

3. Does this trainer enjoy working with racing partnerships?

Do they “get it” when it comes to opening their arms and their barns to the people who write the checks and keep racing going? This is a critical question for any racing syndicate or partnership company. If you have a trainer that wants to go hide in the office or mutter a few unintelligible grunts when owners come around and want to see their four-legged stars, you can’t have that trainer working for you. The experience of owning a racehorse with a racing partnership depends a great deal on how fun it is to visit the barn and spend time with your horse and trainer. You don’t need to have Jay Leno taking care of your stable, but you need an individual who is happy to share the horses and his knowledge with the owners. Not all trainers are comfortable with doing this. God Bless them, but we can’t hire them.

4. Does a trainer have a specific reputation or location that would help your horse win?
Now we’re getting into the nuts and bolts of how we select specific trainers for specific horses. At West Point Thoroughbreds, we have about 10 trainers that we use across the country - so how do we choose?

a) Supposing we’ve bought a horse that was bred in California or New York and qualifies for restricted races that limit the competition to CA or NY-breds, etc. No-brainer - we’ll send that horse to a trainer who races a bunch in California or in New York or wherever.


b) How about if we’ve bought a horse that really looks from its family tree (called its “pedigree”) that it will excel on a specific racing surface (turf, dirt and synthetic are the choices in North America). We have trainers in our roster that have had wonderful success on dirt, but not so much on turf. We have trainers that race nearly year round at tracks that are synthetic surfaces. Again, no-brainer, you send a horse that fits those surface choices to a trainer who does well on them and bases his stable at a track that provides them. Graham Motion (pictured at left) is extremely successful with turf horses. Not to say he doesn't have graded stakes winners on dirt or synthetic (remember Animal Kingdom?), but we're more apt to send horses with tremendous turf influence in their pedigrees to Mr. Motion.

c) What if you have a horse whose pedigree looks like a sprinter rather than a longer distance runner?  We have trainers that excel with sprinters but not as much with longer distance horses. We’ve looked at the data and we do see a pattern that helps us choose for specific horses.  

d) Has the trainer worked with a relative of your horse before? West Point Thoroughbreds has picked trainers in a number of cases because they’ve trained siblings and cousins of our horse and  have shown an ability to work with that particular DNA code. Oftentimes you know the quirks and special traits of horses that descend from certain fathers (called “sires” or “stallions”) and mothers (called “mares”).  If you know what to expect both mentally and physically from a specific family tree, you start with an advantage.  

5. Is your trainer speedy or pokey to get your horse to the races?
Again, a single owner, or in our case a racing partnership, needs to know if the person calling the shots with your horse is the giddyup or whoa type of individual. Younger horses, specifically 2-year-olds, can begin their racing careers in the spring of their 2-year-old year. And when you watch races in April, May, June a lot of the same trainers’ names pop up. They’ve got no problems with firing a young horse out of the starting gate when it seems ready to roll. Then there are trainers whose names that rarely appear on the program with younger horses early in the year. They believe in taking more time, developing the athlete in a much more deliberate way. Which way is the right one?  Sorry, no correct answer here, they can both be successful. But you’re a dumb-dumb if you send a young horse whose family tree and physical maturation indicate they’re ready to roll to a “slow and steady” trainer - and vice versa.

Picking a trainer is a lot like picking a spouse. When it comes to the racing portion of your life, they are the most important person in the world aside from you. Choose poorly and you might be heading towards a quickie divorce or dysfunctional relationship. Choose well and it’s a lifetime of teamwork and domestic bliss.

In case you missed the link up top, Click here to see our team of trainers.





 
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JLifson
Feb 23 2012 - 12:51pm
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8 am on February 14, 2012

Stop by a racetrack. Stroll past a barn. Peer down the shed row past the horses nibbling on hay. Look into the office. See that lady on the phone, talking with one of the owners about an upcoming race for the next budding star? That gentleman marking up charts that will determine each horse’s workout activity for the following morning? The person leaving the office, entering a stall, and feeling a filly’s legs to see if the vet needs to be called? That’s the trainer. In horse racing, you need one.

JLifson
JLifson's picture
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How Does WPT Racing Partnership Choose Trainers?
In this blog, I discuss the WPT pricing model, explaining the markup process and breaking down acquisition costs (including expenses like vetwork and heart scans). Did you know each WPT partnership includes prepaid training expenses through the end of the runner’s 2-year-old year? Did you know we register with the SEC in every state our investors reside in? If you have any questions, contact us and we can walk you through the model in detail.
 

 

 

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DLenert
Jan 15 2013 - 1:16pm
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2 pm on February 09, 2012
In this blog, I discuss the WPT pricing model, explaining the markup process and breaking down acquisition costs (including expenses like vetwork and heart scans). Did you know each WPT partnership includes prepaid training expenses through the end of the runner’s 2-year-old year? Did you know we register with the SEC in every state our investors reside in? If you have any questions, contact us and we can walk you through the model in detail.
tfinley
tfinley's picture
43
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Terry on the WPT Pricing Model
Fred Odell became a Partner with West Point Thoroughbreds last summer. A financial advisor from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, he remarked, “sometimes that can be a stressful job, but when I’m around the horses I’m completely relaxed.”

Here, WPT learns more about the man and how thoroughbred racing brought his family together.

Q. Why the interest in racing?
A. I grew up on a farmette in Pennsylvania, liked animals, and thought the excitement of ownership would be fun. I first went to the track growing up in Pennsylvania - friends of mine used to take an old back road to Pocono Downs to watch the harness racing - and then after I joined the Coast Guard in 1989 I’d go to Pimlico on my off days. It was always just fun for me to see them run.

Q. Tell us about what brought you to WPT.
A. I always wanted to get involved in racing. A buddy of mine wanted to go in on some claiming horses at Penn National, but I said, “If I’m going to do this, I want to get the advice of the best professionals I can find.” I was looking at some websites and found West Point, so I gave them a call. They didn’t try to sell me a horse, they just said, “Why don’t you come up to Saratoga and let us show you around?” That was the start.

Q. Did you have any experience with horses?

A. Not really, but when my wife was a kid she used to do hunters over fences. She hadn’t been riding in a while, but our daughter Shelby, who is 10, wanted to start riding. Now our daughter jumps in shows and she’s doing very well - in her first five shows she was either grand champion or reserve champion - and it’s nice because they go to the barn at least twice a week to ride together. It was just the perfect storm of their interest in horses escalating and mine in racing coming together, and we kind of met in the middle. We went to Saratoga and met the Finleys and Tom Bellhouse, and these guys were amazing - really nice people. It was great because there wasn’t any pressure; they just said, “If there’s anything we can ever do for you, let us know.”

Q. Talk about your ownership experience with King Congie
.
A. He was the first horse I ever got involved in, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it. Up at Saratoga they bought him out and told the story of Congie DeVito, and I’m kind of an emotional guy, so I thought it would be kind of neat to have a horse with that kind of story behind him. I never met Congie but I have a lot of respect for him because of what I’ve heard from the WPT team.

I didn’t see the horse run live his first two starts. Then he was going to run at Aqueduct and I told a friend of mine, “King Congie’s running tomorrow at Aqueduct, I’ve never been, let’s go.” Of course, it’s your own horse, you have to bet on it, and he won at 43-1. The whole way home we were yelling and screaming about it, and the next time he ran in New York it snowballed into this big group of people gathered at the house to watch him run. By the time he ran in the Tropical Park Derby we had 50 people at our house, kids and everyone gathered around the TV, screaming “Go, go!” and he won the Tropical Park Derby.

When he ran in the Preakness it became this experience, we had five our six families who went to Pimlico, and later in the summer we had a bunch of families come to Saratoga. The purses, the winnings and those things don’t even really matter - it’s an instant way to have good old-fashioned family fun.

Q. So the Partner lifestyle really brought your family together?
A. For sure. Last summer we rented a big house, like eight bedrooms in Saratoga, and took a bunch of friends with us. To me, Saratoga is the ultimate - you go there in the morning to watch the horses breeze, you can walk to the racetrack, it’s almost like a fair atmosphere and reminds me of what racing probably was back in the 1920s. As much as there’s progress in the world, it’s nice to see things remain old-fashioned to the point that you can enjoy it; it’s neat to see things stay pure.  

Anyway, Jeff Lifson said, “Bring the kids to the backside!” and he took us all around to see the horses I’d gotten involved in, let the kids pet and feed them, and answered all our questions. They got their picture taken with Rajiv Maragh, they got to see Shackleford, the Preakness winner, breeze. You could see in the kids’ eyes how much they loved it. They all got into it and were like, “We want to come here every morning!”

The parents realized how unique it was, too, like “Not everybody can do this.” Being a Partner with West Point makes you feel like you’re inside the ropes at the Masters, or sitting behind home plate. It’s like going to a major league game and the coach saying, “Here, come on down to the dugout with us for a while.” It’s not going to happen to the average person.

When you have five kids with an age range of eight to 17, standing with Rajiv on the backside, and you explain to them that in reality it’s like them going to a basketball game practice and getting their picture taken with LeBron James, that just doesn’t happen in other sports. Normally, a 17-year-old is kind of like, “Awwwww, really, I have to go to the races?!” After that morning he was literally telling all of his buddies how cool it was - and he can’t wait to go back.
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Anonymous
Feb 8 2012 - 8:03pm
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10 am on February 07, 2012
Fred Odell became a Partner with West Point Thoroughbreds last summer. A financial advisor from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, he remarked, “sometimes that can be a stressful job, but when I’m around the horses I’m completely relaxed.”

Here, WPT learns more about the man and how thoroughbred racing brought his family together.
EFinley
EFinley's picture
3618
Blog
Partner Fred Odell: Racing Brought My Family Together
Shannon Castagnola joined the West Point team in 2008 as a Midwest Associate and Director of Client Relations. A lifelong horselover and Kentucky native, she brings natural enthusiasm for the sport and a strong background in equine sales gained through more than a decade with Taylor Made Farm to her job. Here she details her background, takes us through a typical “day in the office,” and talks about the West Point runners she loves.  

 

 

West Point Thoroughbreds: What got you interested in horse racing?

Shanon Castagnola: You know those little girls that fall madly in love with horses from a very young age? I was that kind of kid. My family didn’t have a lot of background in horses and zero background in Thoroughbreds, but I had one of those loves that comes to you naturally. As a child, I’d beg my parents to stop any time we passed a horse, ‘Please, please stop,’ so I could try to get it to come over to the fence so I could pet it. We found ourselves on the roadside next to pastures pretty often.

WPT: So basically you’re one of those “horse crazy” girls who is living her dream.

SC: Exactly. We moved to Lexington from Eastern Kentucky when I was about 8 ½, and when we got there it was a whole different ball game, so many more opportunities to learn about horses. From that point I took riding lessons basically until I went to college, and then when I went to college since I was very busy and wasn’t riding any more, I found a summer job that allowed me to teach lessons at a day camp in Nicholasville. I was the horseback instructor there for three summers while going to University of Kentucky.

WPT: Did your college studies reflect your love for horses?

SC: Not really. I have a bachelor of science in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Political Science.

WPT: So how did you transition to working in the Thoroughbred world?

SC: When we moved to Lexington, our house was two doors down from Ben and Jan Taylor. At the time, Joe Taylor was the manager at Gainesway farm and Ben and his brothers were building Taylor Made. As a kid, I had a great opportunity to enjoy the farm and be in that atmosphere. When I graduated from college in 1999, I interviewed with a television broadcast station and was kind of waiting to see if I was going to get called for an interview when the Taylors said ‘Why don’t you come work for us at the September sale showing yearlings?’

WPT: A very hands-on introduction to sales.      

SC: For sure. It was my first time being immersed in that world, showing yearlings for Mark’s team that September of 1999. It was supposed to be this thing you do once in your life, good cash money, a new experience, but having worked the sale, I loved it. I fell madly in love with these beautiful animals and the really interesting people at the sales, the vibe and energy and excitement of it all. I really wanted to be part of that on a regular basis.

WPT: And you made it happen?

SC: When I left the sale there was actually a guy who had come through the barns a couple of times who offered me a job. I asked the Taylors, ‘is this guy okay for me to go work with?’ They said, ‘He’d be fine, but why don’t you come work for us instead?’ I came in on the ground floor doing research for them in November of 1999, not for the sales but more for client services. Then I moved over to the private side, working on the contracts for stallion shares, breeding seasons, collecting sales fees, transferring registration papers, things like that.

WPT: How long did you work there?

SC: Until 2008. I was looking for a change; I’d been there for a while and there really wasn’t a new position for me to go into. I was also pregnant with my second daughter and looking for a job that would be more flexible, something that wasn’t a 9-5 office type. I started thinking about what in the world I was going to do next. I knew I needed a new challenge but I had no idea what I was going to do.

WPT: What brought you to West Point?

SC: Well, obviously, Terry is pretty well-known in the industry; I’d seen him at almost every September and November sale that I’d worked for Taylor Made. My husband Steve and I were up at Churchill Downs watching horses train and the West Point saddle towel went by on a horse, and that started the conversation, I wonder if West Point needs anybody. The next day, Steve ran into Jeff Lifson during the spring meet at Keeneland and said, ‘Are you looking for anybody?’ and Jeff said, ‘As a matter of fact, we are!’ It all really fell into place.

WPT: So Steve is in racing, too?

SC: Yes, he and I own parts of a couple different horses, so in that way we’re active in the industry. He also works for Vinery and is responsible for new business at Vinery as well as serving as the director of bloodstock services.

WPT: So now you’re getting to experience the racing side of things.

SC: Yes, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity because I have this great background in the breeding and sales side of things, but I didn’t have the background in racing. It became like a 360 degree education.

WPT: Take us through a “day in the life.”

SC: It varies from day-to-day. I wouldn’t say I come in every single morning and have a complete idea of what I’m going to be doing. Things pop up here and there. First I go through and check all the emails that came in overnight and start working through the most urgent requests. Let’s say we have a horse running at Belmont on Friday, and a client says ‘I’m headed out to my horse’s race, can you assist me with getting seats?” At same time I could have somebody on the West Coast say “Shannon, my horse is running on Saturday, can you help me get a dining table there?”

WPT: So once they get to the track, if they’ve talked to you, everyone should be set to just have a good time and enjoy their horse’s race.

SC: Exactly. Confirming everything is my biggest responsibility so they don’t worry, they’re not concerned about if they’re going to have a spot, and it’s all very natural to go to the races and enjoy the experience. On the day of the race, West Point reps will jump in to make sure things go smoothly on-site, but I’m the one who has everything ready for them.

WPT: Tell us about some other client services you might provide.

SC: Well, if your horse runs in a stakes race, I might help you get a replica of the trophy that was presented. I’ll call a rep and say, ‘Hey, I saw this really great photo, it would be nice to send to your client,’ and work on getting it framed and sent to the partners who have ownership in that horse.
 
I assist with stuff that goes up on Facebook, putting up photos or information, and any sort of special event that we have, coast-to-cast, I’m responsible for.

WPT: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

SC: It’s probably the same thing all partnerships face, the fact that tracks at this point aren’t really in the mind frame of wanting to help partnerships. For example, any track in the country, if you’re running in a race, might give you four seats for the day - maybe six. Saratoga won’t guarantee you any seats as an owner unless you have a horse in a stakes race, but our goal as a company is to make sure our owners are enjoying their experience - and part of that is to make sure they get to the races and have a place to sit.
 
I do have to say that the tracks are generally very good with working to try to get seats, and they do work with me to get it done, it’s just that the amount is pretty limited at the start. I really do panic some days, as to how in the world we’ll get it done with three horses running one day and 80 people coming out for the afternoon. But on the flip side, that’s one of the great parts about my job - there are so many people who are excited and passionate who want to see their horses run, and that’s a good thing for the track, too - hey, I helped bring in 80 people who in all likelihood probably wouldn’t have even gone to the races today if it weren’t for West Point Thoroughbreds.

WPT: Favorite part of your job?

SC: The list of what I enjoy about it is very long. One of my favorite things is getting to meet people face-to-face that I’ve helped over the phone. Since I work from Lexington, I don’t get to meet people in person all the time, but when I do, we’ve already developed relationships and here we are, kind of already friends. It’s really fun to learn more about our partners and share in their joy when something goes well.

Having the opportunity to just be in industry with a top-class organization is really special and important, as is getting to work so many people who are experts in their field. Another thing is just the fact that my day isn’t structured in a way that I do same thing over and over again. I never know exactly what’s going to happen when I walk in the door and start my day - I may have an idea of how my day is going to go, but one phone call starts me on a different path - and that keeps things fun and exciting.

WPT: Do you still go riding?

SC: I haven’t been in a while, basically since my younger daughter was born about 2 ½ years ago. I would love to get back into it, but in the meantime my oldest daughter, who is 6 ½, has started riding lessons - and that is pure joy, as far as I’m concerned. For her to be riding and starting to learn, and to be able to share that experience with her, is very much a family thing for us. My husband went out and got her first pair of riding boots, beautiful brown leather Ariats, and it’s so exciting that she might go down the same path that I did - I know how fun and wonderful that is.

Shannon can be reached at [email protected].
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Anonymous
Feb 13 2012 - 9:03pm
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2 pm on February 06, 2012
Shannon Castagnola joined the West Point team in 2008 as a Midwest Associate and Director of Client Relations. A lifelong horselover and Kentucky native, she brings natural enthusiasm for the sport and a strong background in equine sales gained through more than a decade with Taylor Made Farm to her job. Here she details her background, takes us through a typical “day in the office,” and talks about the West Point runners she loves.  
EFinley
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Get To Know WPT's Shannon Castagnola
Terry dives into the relationship between owner and trainer, one built on trust and confidence. WPT teams with trainers with proven records of success that have strong communication skills. Our trainers realize they’re working with a partnership, a group of people that have pooled their money together with the hope of achieving racing success.
 

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tom duttine (not verified)
Jun 6 2012 - 11:28pm
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4 pm on February 03, 2012
Terry dives into the relationship between owner and trainer, one built on trust and confidence. WPT teams with trainers with proven records of success that have strong communication skills. Our trainers realize they’re working with a partnership, a group of people that have pooled their money together with the hope of achieving racing success.
 
tfinley
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Terry's Video Blog: Relationship Between Owner and Trainer
Imagine the roar of the crowd as your horse turns down the lane... the jockey jostles into position... the runner pushes through to finish a head in front... then you and your family are standing side-by-side in the winner’s circle!

If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the thrill of horse racing then you’re already familiar with the adrenaline rush it gives you. Well, imagine the thrill of knowing that you own the winning horse with your friends, family, or associates.

Horse racing is a sport that brings a family together.  

A day at the races has something for everyone. You can see the latest fashions in hats and accessories, go star-spotting, spend time socializing, place a few wagers, and just enjoy the majestic horses. Activities at the track can include activities for the kids, Ladies’ Days, Music Nights, Family Days, and Corporate Hospitality.

Ever dream of your family owning a piece of a sports franc
hise?  Racehorse ownership is no longer reserved just for the elite, and there are many options available, such as racing parterships, to help spread the costs, while still enjoying the full involvement of owning a Thoroughbred racehorse.

There’s the fun of buying your horse, watching your horse train and, of course, the thrill and anticipation of being in the paddock before a race, listening in as your trainer discusses race tactics with your jockey.

 
Win or lose, the experience is electrifying and, by owning a racehorse, you’re right in the thick of it - together!
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AZumpano
Feb 4 2012 - 8:31am
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10 am on February 02, 2012
Imagine the roar of the crowd as your horse turns down the lane... the jockey jostles into position... the runner pushes through to finish a head in front... then you and your family are standing side-by-side in the winner’s circle!

If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the thrill of horse racing then you’re already familiar with the adrenaline rush it gives you. Well, imagine the thrill of knowing that you own the winning horse with your friends, family, or associates.
DFinley
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Horse Racing: It's a Family Affair
January 28th:
 
Last full day here. Went to Kenilworth Race Course. It’s all turf racing and the horses run really hard.

There’s no Lasix or Bute allowed on raceday. None, nada. The people are very proud of that fact. We could do the same in America if we had the willpower to get it done. Some say running without Lasix is animal abuse. Huh? Take a look at the rest of the world.

The average racehorse in South Africa makes about 25 starts in his career- more than twice as many in the States.
 
Overall this has been a great trip. We purchased two dynamite horses and it was great to learn about racing in another part of the world. Headed back to New York via Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon. Be sure to take a look at yesterday’s photo blog. Really neat stuff.

Thanks for following my blog. I’m blogging more and more and really enjoy it. Looking forward to heading home and preparing for the two-year-old sales.

Terry
 
January 27th:
Solid day - bought a dynamite colt by Var. Went partners on the colt with Peter Doyle, a leading bloodstock agent from Ireland who has clients all over the world. We did not want to bid against each other so we joined forces. You can take a look at his pedigree page below.

Went up to Table Mountain today for a tour. Truly one of the most awe-inspiring views in the world. Cable car goes almost straight up to get you to the top of the mountain.

 
On one side you can see the Southern most point of Africa and on the other you see Robben Island

 

This is where Nelson Mandella was held for 18 of his 27 years in captivity.
 
 

Working on videos, photos, shipping details, pre-training plans (in South Africa they call “breaking” horses “pre-training” them - I like the South African term better!)

On Saturday, Cape Town holds the equivalent of South Africa's Kentucky Derby at Kenilworth Race Course. They say the crowd will be over 50,000.

 

 

January 27th:

Bought a really nice colt today by American bred stallion Var out of a daughter by Danzig. Really excited about both purchases. See their pedigrees below. Photos and videos to come. Took a cable car to the top of a mountain today. Was unreal. More to come.

 

 

January 26th:

Finished up at the sales today - a long, long day. Started at 4:00 p.m. and didn’t end until after the 11 o'clock hour.

The auction has a much more leisurely pace here - horses spend quite a bit more time in the ring in South Africa compared to the states.


I love looking at new bloodlines. We've gotten too restrictive in the states in many ways with bloodlines. Inbreeding is fine - to a certain extent.

We bought a dynamite colt, lot 120, by a stallion called Jay Peg out of a Charismatic mare. The sire won four Grade 1 races in three different countries, including the 2008 Singapore International Cup (gr.IT) and the Dubai Duty Free (gr. IT), where he set a track record that still stands today. Here’s a good piece from pedigree expert Alan Porter about how his inbreeding shares similarities with 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown.

Here’s his promotional video:

Jay Peg


And here’s footage of him winning in Dubai:


 

As you might know, there are an abundance of wineries here in South Africa. About 45 seconds after I signed the ticket on this colt, the breeder walked over and gave me a nice bottle of "Jay Peg" wine. I don't think there is a single consignor who is not offering wine at their stable locations.  

We bid on two others, one of which was a nice Tapit filly who went for a bit too much money, but I’m happy with our purchase. The new horse is solid - he’s stout and looks fast and intelligent. We really liked this dude. You can find his catalogue page here.

Keep in mind these horses were bred in the Southern Hemisphere so the yearlings turn two on July 1, 2012. We'll have photos shortly.

Terry

 
January 25th:
Had a quiet day today. Saw several really nice horses and we looked over our short list and have our vetting work lined up. The sale starts tomorrow. Really looking forward to it.
 
Click here to take a look at the catalogue. You can watch it live on this site. Be sure to take a look at the catalogue too. I continue to be amazed by the passion shown by South African people toward racing. Very cool.
 
I ended up buying a cheap phone with prepaid minutes because my HTC from Sprint doesn’t work. Amazing how much we rely on technology these days. I’m still having a hard time adjusting to the time difference. Will try to get some more sleep tonight. Up early to head to the racetrack to watch morning training before the sale.
 
Below is a photo of the sales ring. Quite a bit different than the US, eh?
 
 
 
Until tomorrow,
Terry

January 24th:
Had a good day at the sale; looked at about 150 yearlings at the Cape Town Convention Center. Horses here are very well behaved, and several stallions have more than 20 horses entered into this sale. Most of the yearlings have good bone and feet. I’m very impressed with the quality.

Cape Town Convention Center:

 
Had a chance to catch up today with Golfer Gary Player. He is a big figure in South African racing and is set to sell a small group of yearlings at the sale. I had the honor of playing a round with him just before the 2010 Breeder's Cup in Kentucky. Truly an amazing guy, the world's most-traveled athlete. 



Player has a keen interest in American politics. We discussed the Presidential campaign underway in the U.S. He's met with every American President since 1956. I've been in his company five or six times since I met him in 2009. Every time, he drives home to me the fact that he loves the United States.  

Had dinner tonight on the water on the cape of Cape Town, sponsored by the sales company. Kip Elser and I  sat at a table with horsemen from Argentina, France, England, and Hong Kong. Very interesting to get their take on American racing. Every single one of them is in favor of having raceday medication abolished in America.


More to come!
Terry
 
 
January 23rd:
I researched jet lag last week in preparation for this trip to South Africa. Kept a few hints in mind - set your clock to local time several days before flying, buy a good set of earplugs to use, drink a ton of water - and benefited from a full row to myself since the plane was half empty.

Fifteen hours to Johannesburg and three to Cape Town - just arrived to an awesome view flying into Cape Town Airport, and I actually feel very good. They say most of jet lag is mental.
A few agents from Europe have already arrived, and the people are very nice. The sales company set up in the hotel lobby, welcoming visitors. They have 349 yearlings cataloged. Click here to view the catalogue.  

Kip Elser is coming in tonight from Atlanta. Hitting the beach in a bit, temp is about 85 degrees.

Be sure to check back tomorrow as I’ll be blogging throughout the week.

Terry
 
Below is an aerial view of Cape Town. Cool stuff.
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Anonymous
Jan 27 2012 - 4:41pm
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3 pm on January 29, 2012
January 28th:
 
Last full day here. Went to Kenilworth Race Course. It’s all turf racing and the horses run really hard.

There’s no Lasix or Bute allowed on raceday. None, nada. The people are very proud of that fact. We could do the same in America if we had the willpower to get it done. Some say running without Lasix is animal abuse. Huh? Take a look at the rest of the world.

The average racehorse in South Africa makes about 25 starts in his career- more than twice as many in the States.
tfinley
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43
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Terry's Friday and Saturday South Africa Blogs, Cool Photos

Since horses cannot verbally talk to us, a Thoroughbred racing manager relies on signals, cues and messages horses send to people who are around them every day. In this video, I discuss how the WPT team uses information collected about a horse, their personalities, and physical characteristics to manage racehorses.

 

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DLenert
Apr 6 2012 - 11:00am
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10 am on January 26, 2012

Since horses cannot verbally talk to us, a Thoroughbred racing manager relies on signals, cues and messages horses send to people who are around them every day. In this video, I discuss how the WPT team uses information collected about a horse, their personalities, and physical characteristics to manage racehorses.

tfinley
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