Summer is approaching rapidly. That means the start of the premier summer meets on both coasts. Belmont Stakes is next week. Although we won’t get to witness a bid for the Triple Crown next week, it looks like it’s shaping up to be a great race.
Both Graham Motion and Dale Romans are on the WPT trainer roster. Graham won the KY Derby with Animal Kingdom and Dale won the Preakness with Shackleford. Both horses are headed to the Belmont. These two men are outstanding horseman and I congratulate them for their recent successes.
I love this time of year because it’s a time when the two-year-olds are really stating to develop. I was up in Saratoga over Memorial Day weekend to see She’saflashymiss, Bellamy, and Half Nelson breeze over the Oklahoma track. I must say it is pretty weird being up there during the off season. It’s nothing more than a quiet little town in the foothills of Adirondacks. It’s a whole new ballgame come mid-July. I am so happy to see them thriving in Tom Albertrani’s program. We have had a good deal of success with Albertrani, and look forward to continuing this in the future.
The babies at Belmont, in Kentucky, and in California are all doing very well too. I think we have an excellent class this year; I think the best group we’ve ever had. The members are spread around the country and for the most part have all moved into the programs of their respective trainers.
On the topic of trainers, I want to make sure I thank all of our trainers, not just the ones enjoying recent success. I feel very strongly that we have assembled a top, top group of people to train and take care of our horses day in and day out. WPT takes pride in having integrity and looking out for our horse’s well being at all times. I am confident our trainers share the same outlook. It is our job to work with our trainers to manage our stable as effectively as possible. Of course things aren’t always going to go smoothly, and you never like to get those calls saying “This horse needs time off,” or “I think it’s time for a claiming race,” or “this isn’t much horse.” As much as I don’t like to hear those things, I keep in mind how many thousands of hours each of these trainers has spent learning about the horse, and I know that these people have the same goals in mind we do: to win races and provide the highest quality of care.
I just want to take a minute to share my outlook on the future of Thoroughbred horse racing. I know there are people out there who think racing is a dying sport that might not be around five years from now. I’d have to disagree. We are going through changes, and in five years, we are going to have a leaner, meaner, better industry. It’s up to us to keep promoting racing and all it has to offer. I think tracks are getting better at marketing and getting people to the tracks and planting the seed for them to become more involved. The markets are starting to stabilize and people who have been out of the game are starting to get back in. I had a discussion with Todd Pletcher the other day about watching our children grow up immersed in the world of racing. We need more of that. In the future, today’s young people are going to be leading this industry and I think we need to get them more involved.
There are some very good things going on in the horse racing world. I believe New York racing is really going to thrive moving forward. The best horses, trainers, jockeys, and owners are there, and the purses are only going to get stronger in the coming years.
I’ve gotten many texts and e-mails about Awesome Gem’s win in the Lone Star Park Handicap on Monday. I want to thank everyone, in particular the WPT team and Awesome Gem Partners for their support. It’s been a great ride with this horse, and I am truly blessed to have him carry the black and gold silks for our racing partnerships.
Have a great week.
Greetings from Churchill Downs. I’ve been here since Tuesday. My observations? A lot of Derby entrant owners having a good time, relishing and cherishing the experience they are having as competitors in the Kentucky Derby.
What’s great about this year? Every horse and its connections have a story. There are no vanilla horses or people associated with this Kentucky Derby. Come Saturday night, the winner and the winning connections will be the story that everyone is interested in, and that is the way it should be.
This week I was interviewed on CNBC’s “Strategy Session” talking about the lifestyle of investing in Thoroughbred racehorses. The segment also highlighted our eight-year-old gelding Awesome Gem and his return on investment to his partnership. Sure, he has provided a solid financial return as our all time money earner of over two million dollars, but think about the lifestyle and emotional enjoyment component that compounds the returns for his investors and the value of the unique experience Thoroughbred ownership provides. I guarantee you every single Derby entrant owner has already achieved a substantial ROI with his or her horse based on that unique experience factor alone. By the way, Awesome Gem competes in the $300,000 (G3) Alysheba Stakes today on the Oaks undercard so I will be there with his Partners to see if he can add another graded stakes win to his resume.
I also participated in an ownership webcast this week with The Blood-Horse.com and had the pleasure of chatting live with many new people who are interested in our game. The questions were good and the enthusiasm is high.
Yes, there are issues in the industry. However, I am here to tell you that the magic is not going away. The magic of the Kentucky Derby experience is still as strong as it ever was on the backside in the mornings and the frontside in the afternoons. We must continue to spread the word about how good and how captivating our business is for participants, for handicappers, and for fans.
Let the best horse win on Saturday.
Written by West Point Thoroughbreds Executive Vice President Tom Bellhouse.
Tommy shared this piece on Facebook on March 8th, and we'd like to share it with our Partners.
What's the toughest decision you may face as a thoroughbred racehorse owner? I would argue it is whether or not to place your horse in a claiming race. Most owners, including myself, try to look at their horses with a "glass half full" approach, believing that their talent level and performance are always on the improve, even despite occasional or frequent failures (or in "Bellhouse" the horse's case- 11 maiden tries.
As a rule, we should trust our trainer- the objective person we pay handsomely to condition and evaluate our horse. Although it is not an exact science, good trainers know when to take advantage of poor performances, by finding softer competition next time out, with less chance of claim. That being said, losing your horse to an unexpected claim can be devastating to even the most seasoned owner. I've been around a few times when the red tag got clipped to the bridle and the tears started flowing. Never a good feeling for anyone, although in some cases a true financial blessing.
One of my favorite quotes came from an extremely polite, soft spoken assistant trainer who said to me, as I fretted after my horse was claimed,"You should throw a parade that someone gave you $35k for this horse."
Horse entry/placement has really become one of the hot buttons of ownership.
It never ceases to amaze me that "we" (because although I know better- I still do it) owners think we know exactly what level and time frame our horses should run at, despite not being around the horse everyday, like our training staff. "How did he eat up?" has become a favorite question of mine to ask partners when they say we should run in a certain race on a certain day.
Anytime you're dealing with a living, breathing animal conditions change.
Unfortunately, thoroughbreds are not race cars who roll off a hauler in the same condition they went on the previous week.
While we all would like to own a Kentucky Derby contender, the reality is over 80% of the races run in the United States are of the claiming variety. One of our favorite moments of the summer of 2010, was when Montana Knight won a restricted claiming race to the roar of all his Partners and friends. To those in attendance near the big screen, they may have been confused as to whether it was Rachel Alexandra, or a regally bred son of Seattle Fitz.
As someone who has run in his fair share of them, there is no disgrace in running in a claiming race.
Greetings. I am out in Las Vegas for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. There is a good vibe in the air. The energy levels are high and the competition is intense as players aim to become 2010 Handicapper of the Year. We have two clients from our partnerships that made it all the way to this championship round plus Brian Wayne, the winner of the first ever West Point Handicapping Challenge online NHC qualifier held last Thanksgiving weekend, to encourage during the competition.
Jeff Bloom and I enjoyed meeting several of the competitors Thursday night at the player's reception. I think there are over 300 handicappers playing at this elite level. This is the 12th NHC and it just keeps growing in both players and purse. For the second consecutive year, the purse is over $1,000,000 and it is expected to be $2,000,000 next year. If you like to handicap, consider getting in on the action in the 2011.
The stable is wrapping up the month with a big weekend and most of the focus is in south Florida. Our filly, Belle of the Hall, is all set for the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park. She'll definitely relish the short distance after clearly expressing her preference for one verus two turns last year. Before the Sunshine Millions, our talented four-year-old Middle of the Nite returns from a layoff in a first level allowance race. He ran against some of the best three-year-olds last spring, including Eskendereya and Rule. We have an army of enthusiastic Partners coming to Gulfstream for the races. Everyone is pumped and looking forward to mid-70s sunshine and socializing.
Also Saturday on the west coast, first timer Runflatout is ready to roll. As a two-year-old, he got sick right before a highly anticipated debut so we had to stop on him. John Sadler says he's doing great and his Partners are eager to see him at Santa Anita.
Until next time,
It's the end of another year, and what an interesting year it was. Our stable's stats in 2010 were solid. The West Point horses earned over $ 2.5 million on the racetrack, making it our third best year in history.
We also have another year's worth of institutional knowledge in our brains, so we are very excited about 2011.
We continue to work hard to make our Partners' experience better. We're all set to launch a new website in the first quarter of the year. My team is also working analyzing some data to better arm us at the sales this year. We're looking at a several variables, and hope it helps us find the best possible horseflesh out there. We've already got a very solid group of yearlings assembled, and I look forward to adding to our class of 2011 with purchases from the two-year-old in training sales.
I'm hoping for some déjà vu in 2011. We started off 2010 with a win on New Year's Day, and we hope to start 2011 the same way. We've got two very talented Tom Albertrani trainees entered on Saturday, Dominant Jeannes at Aqueduct and King Conige in the Tropical Park Derby at Calder. It sure is nice to get the ball rolling on the first day of the year.
Many people have asked me who my vote would go to for Horse Of The Year. Well, no owner in the country has a vote for this honor (which is a travesty that I'll address in the coming months) My vote would be for Blame. This may not be popular, many on my team disagree with me, but let's look at the facts.
Zenyatta was truly extraordinary and there's no denying all she has done for this sport. As industry insiders we should all be grateful. It's tough that she went 19 for 20 and may never receive the Horse of the Year honor. However, I've always said the thing I love about our business is that there is a finish line. First one to that wire is the winner. No replays, no judgment calls, no politics, no back office deals, etc. As tough as it was for us to watch the Breeders' Cup Classic on that chilly November day at Churchill Downs, Blame beat her fair and square. All things being equal, he has my vote.
Here's hoping that 2011 is filled with many triumphs and great stories. I wish everyone the best of health and happiness in the new year. We'll see you in the winner's circle!
"IT REALLY HAPPENED TERRY, I AM NOT KIDDING!!"
Jeff Bloom has been a member of the West Point team for six years. He's built a strong and successful division on the West Coast.
Many people don’t know this, but was a jockey in the late eighties and early nineties. For years I've heard him up on a soapbox about the day he beat Hall of Famer Angel Cordero, Jr. in a stretch long duel.
Now, Angel Cordero, Jr. is a good friend of West Point, and also on most people's list of top three jockeys of all-time. He was known as a rider who willed horses over the finish line. You didn't want to hook up with Cordero at the top of the stretch, because chances are he’d be in the winner’s circle and you’d have to settle for second.
I never asked Cordero if Bloom's version was correct. On the contrary, I repeatedly asked Bloom for proof. "Show me the goods, JB!"
Well the other day I received a note with from Jeff with a scanned image attached. Look at the 3rd race on April 13, 1987 at Exhibition Park in Canada. There is the proof that Bloom beat Cordero on the wire with a 23-1 shot.
Last thing I heard from Bloom on this is "Cordero's not getting a rematch, either".
It's hard to believe that another season at Del Mar and Saratoga are in the books. Driving down the NJ Turnpike was somewhat bittersweet, but I can't hang my head for too long because this fall looks like it might be one of the most exciting in our company's history.
After success on both coasts this summer, the stable looks poised to make waves nationally this fall. I was looking at it yesterday, and we have a chance to run a horse in four different Breeders' Cup races this year. That would be second only to the record five that we ran in 2007. Not many public stables can boast that kind of success.
Looking at some of the developments in racing from the summer, I am interested to see how reinstalling dirt at Santa Anita goes over. At the end of the day I think that it will help California racing as trainers will now have different "seasons" at the different tracks and that might lure some people back into the state. A strong California is good for the game. That's why we have invested so heavily there.
The yearling sales are underway, and we'll be active again this year. We're heading back to Ireland in a few weeks. This year we'll be bringing a handful of clients with us. This kind of trip is what we like to do. We want our owners to experience more than race day. This is going behind the scenes and learning about the selection process. There's nothing like being there from the beginning.
I wanted to get back into the swing of things with a few thoughts. Be on the lookout for Awesome Gem, Mr. Fantasy, Phosphorescent and Tropic Storm on the Breeders' Cup trail. Check the site often to follow their progress.
Until next time,