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The Role of the Racing Manager in a Thoroughbred Partnership / Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whether you’re a current Partner or thinking about owning a Thoroughbred racehorse in a partnership, you’ve probably asked yourself a few questions like: How are decisions made regarding my horse? How are trainers chosen? What goes into race selection? These are questions my team and I are asked by our Partners and prospective clients.

Below are the five main responsibilities of a typical racing manager and team of professionals summed up in less than a thousand words.

Five Important Responsibilities of a Racing Manager

1. Trainer Selection

  • The racing manager places horses with trainers to give them the best chance at excelling once their racing careers begin. WPT employs accomplished horsemen with honesty and integrity to help us achieve our goals.
  • Every trainer has strengths and weaknesses. Some are more conservative than others. Others are great with turf horses. Some are most successful with sprinters. A racing manager’s years of institutional knowledge helps them analyze each horse as an individual and place them with the best possible conditioner.
  • Things a racing manager takes into consideration before assigning trainers include a horse’s pedigree, body type, precocity, which circuit and surface(s) they’re best suited for, etc.
  • For example, I purchased two Irish-bred yearlings this fall from the Goff’s Sale in Ireland. These are horses with incredible turf influence in their pedigrees, and both are headed to trainer H. Graham Motion – one of the leading trainers of grass horses in the world. He’s done particularly well with European turf contenders, which makes him a natural fit for these runners.
  • At West Point, our entire staff meets to make these very important assignments. With some horses it’s a no-brainer. With others it takes a good deal of analysis and discussion to come up with the right fit.

2.  Assessment of Talent

  • Sometimes it’s clear early on how talented a horse is. For others, their development into a top-class racehorse can take several months, or even years. A racing manager treats each horse as an individual and makes decisions to bring the horse along at its own pace.
  • Racing managers communicate with every trainer several times a week to assess the progress of each and every horse. They also travel to various venues throughout the year to watch our horses train and to ask questions like “Is this the best place for this horse to be?” and “Are we putting him in the best position to achieve success?”
  • A good racing manager is always looking to improve horses, giving them the best chance to find the winner’s circle. That could mean changing surfaces, venues, trainers, level of competition, etc. Sometimes it means changing nothing and giving a horse time to develop and mature.
  • A big part of assessing talent is knowing your horse. I’ll dive deeper into this subject when discussing the topic of “What the Individual Horse Tells Us” in the video blog series.

3. Putting Horses in Positions to Win

  • Trainers are the people with the horses day in and day out, but they don’t call all the shots on their own. A good racing manager believes in a team approach, and works with the racing management team to make the best decisions for each runner.
  • Responsible racing managers largely consider input from trainers, but they also rely on industry experts, data, and industry trends. They consider the pedigree, body type, attitude, and long term goal for each horse when making decisions.
  • Most horses, managed and spotted wisely, can progress to very successful careers. Sometimes horses have to run for a claiming tag; that’s part of the game. Sometimes you take shots in stakes races and that leads to even greater success and glory. A racing manager’s institutional knowledge helps with these decisions.
  • Developing horses can be a patience tester. Some of the best runners don’t even start competing until their 3- or 4-year-old years, but go on to achieve high levels of success on the racetrack.

4. Analyzing Trends

  • There’s a plethora of data available to assist in racehorse management – another one of the variety of factors that play into a racing manager’s race selection and management.
  • WPT utilizes Ragozin numbers to help us notice trends during a horse’s career. These numbers are also a very beneficial tool to use when considering competition and determining surface preferences. We consult with a Ragozin Sheets expert to supplement our race placement analysis and performance assessments.
  • Many racing managers also look at Beyer Figures when formulating race plans, to see how their runners stack up against the competition.  
  • Racing managers also look at pedigree trends when spotting (deciding where to place) horses. You’ll often see a young sire jump up and have a number of horses excel at two-turn distances. A good racing manager is trained to recognize these types of trends and apply them in decision making.
  • Jockey selection can be a hot topic of discussion. Even with good horses, you’re not always going to secure the same jock race in and race out. It’s a dynamic process, with agents and trainers heavily involved. Sometimes you find somebody (not always a household name) who clicks with a horse. Again, it’s all about knowing the horse. Some horses are bush button to ride. Others only succeed with certain pilots.

5. Maintaining Good Communication

  • A good racing manager is committed to representing owners and managing the horses as if they were his/her own.
  • Racing managers should not be afraid to ask tough questions when they talk to trainers and industry associates. Sometimes you don’t always hear what you’d like, but open, honest communication is imperative. In turn, racing managers should keep owners abreast of situations for better or for worse in a timely manner.
  • Without trust, you have nothing. A good racing manager trusts each and every trainer on the team to do the best job they possibly can to care for the runners and develop them into top-notch racehorses.

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