Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day 31

The cold weather continues to screw up my life (training-wise anyway). We were scheduled to ship horses to Turfway today and Sunday to work but have postponed once again due to poor track conditions which led to the track to cancel it's racing card once again. It has been so cold and there is so much ice on the track it just hasn't melted and running over chunks of ice as well as polytrack is not a good idea. This afternoon the temperatures were in the lower 40's which will melt some of the ice but since Turfway is running with an early post time tomorrow due to the Super Bowl the training hours are limited. So Monday and Tuesday it is.

Been scanning the entries around the country looking for a mid-level claiming prospect but haven't come up with much. It is amazing how prevelant condition claimers have become. It used to be that only the lower level tracks had conditioned claimers but they are a staple of cards nationwide. Not that it is good or bad just an observation.

Apparently Silent Name is going to stand in Canada which screws up breeding plans for one of my mares. Talk about last minute change. Always thought it strange that we haven't seen a Sunday Silence stallion make any noise in the US.

Watched the Holy Bull from Gulfstream and was encouraged by the results. If the top two finishers are considered top notch this year Colonel Klink and Comeback may be in good shape this Spring.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Day 30

Ever get the idea I am consumed by weather? It snowed again last night cancelling my trip to Turfway to work the fillies. The situation at the farm has gone from bad to worse as Mercer county has no water service meaning the 22 horses at BEC have no water. We melted snow yesterday to give them water but need a better solution to that problem. There is no training at CDT naturally and we will be doing more in-barn jogging. If they decide to run races inside barns in the near future we will have a powerhouse stable. Hopefully I can get some works in at Turfway tomorrow morning and hopefully Rampillion gets in the race I entered her in unlike Carl S. and Inki Blandford who remain on the sidelines. Thats a lot of hopefullys.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 29

The Winter continues... Turfway cancelled meaning Makutus won't be getting a chance to run today. On one hand I wasn't looking forward to spending much time at Turfway today but the race looked like it was very winnable. We are doing some in-barn training since the area surrounding the barn remains a sheet of ice. The farm also remains pretty much shut down without power and too cold to do much other than walk the horses. Very frustrating to say the least.

There is an industry-wide debate brewing as a result of Andy Beyer's recent article concerning dramatic form reversals and the role of the "supertrainer". One side is is firmly entrenched in the Beyer camp feeling that "supertrainers" are almost certainly doing illegal things to win at unusually high rates and getting amazing results from seemingly ordinary horses. The opposing view is that the game has changed and that these guys are playing the new version better than everyone else is. I have to say that I can see why people would be on board with Beyer not only because of his points which are solid but because the lack of historical precedent for these feats. I can also see where the dissenting view is that there isn't a whole lot of evidence that isn't circumstantial to point the finger at these guys. The truth is that both sides have valid points and virtually no one has a real grasp on the situation including those who are supposedly in charge of policing the sport.

I believe that most if not all of the guys with ridiculous win percentages and a history of form reversals are not on the level. The sport is littered with examples of trainers (and jockeys) gaining an advantage by illegal means and there is no reason to believe that this is any different now. If you were able to use lasix in the early 70's without detection don't you think that as a trainer you would have a huge advantage? Well that happened didn't it? What is the lasix of today? It doesn't have to be some exotic, nefarious drug made by some evil doctor. It might be a medication that has been around for a while that is delivered via feed supplement and fed orally. It may be an experimental drug that has not even been released yet. It may be an undetectable steroid. It may be any number of things. But I guarantee that there is something. 

Naturally these substances will never be found unless the authorities get extremely lucky and banning of all drugs like foreign jurisdictions will have no effect on these. As a matter of fact some of the best performance enhancers come from overseas. A very successful trainer of recent years on the NY, FL, KY circuit has been boosted from a pretty ordinary guy to a supertrainer at the top of the sport via Australian "hop" that was delivered orally (without the need for a vet). A huge owner/trainer claiming operation that had tremendous nationwide success was using Celebrex on its runners the morning of the race without detection. This was at the same time said drug was being advertised widely on television, hardly a designer drug. One of the trainers under suspicion spends lots of time in body building gyms which are hotbeds of performance enhancing drugs. Another came out firing at unusually high percentages yet worked for an outfit for years that had never hit more than 15%. Another recent phenom regularly uses shockwave therapy (which in itself is not illegal) but doesn't bother paying attention to the guidelines which say that you cant race within 7 or 10 days of treatment.

The idea that these guys "read the condition book better" than the other trainers or are somehow superior poker players is ludicrous. First off the condition books of today's racing secretaries are fairly simple and widely available. The claim and drop method that is used by some high percentage trainers is much more effective due to the fact that the other trainers will rarely claim off these guys because the horses they touch often turn from gold to wood when they leave their barn. The use of this defense is mitigated by the fact that it is actually an implication as well. How do they explain the sudden form reversals both coming into the supertrainers barns and even more importantly leaving them? 

Our society is one with a win at all costs regardless of the collatoral damage that occurs attitude. That perfectly explains the "supertrainer' and those which support them , including and probably especially the owners who feed them horses. I know many of these guys personally, know those which have worked for them and watched their methods. There just isn't that much difference between what they do and what many other competent trainers do. In every walk of life there are people who are exceptional at their profession, those who are merely good and those who aren't very good. "Supertrainers" ARE too good to be true, just like hitting 73 home runs at the age of 37 was.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 28

Worst weather day of the year. Ice covers everything and trees and branches fell on the house all night leaving a very tired horse trainer for Wednesday. We lost power at the farm and things are pretty much at a stand still at the barn. Did a little pedigree work and finalized up breeding plans while stranded at the house. Also had time to run some reports for bloodstock clients on some consulting work and catch up on sleep.

Will Spring please come early this year?

Day 27

A miserable, rainy/sleet/snow day. Had meetings with business partners concerning the farm but little else was accomplished.

Day 26

Another cold day without on track training. Sent two more to year olds to FL for training. Weather really looks ominous for the rest of the week. Ran a filly at the FG that had a good trip but no kick in the stretch. We gave her a chance to be a good horse but now she goes to the claiming ranks.

Day 25

Left Louisville at 6:30 am to bring Amethyst Rose to race and Rampillion to work. The proverbial good news and bad news situation. The good news? Rampillion worked great getting four furlongs in 47.60 under Diego Rodriguez. We were intending on getting a strong work in her because of the missed training time the previous week but she exceeded expectations. The bad news? Amethyst caught a really tough field for Turfway in the Winter and got trounced.

Day 24

Got home at 1 am after spending a good portion of the afternoon and night at Turfway Park where we had a first time starter running in the 12th and final race. The horse, named Comeback, ran really well at a distance shorter than his best and finished 2nd by a neck. When your horses run well it is always a good feeling. When horses that you bought for a song at the yearling sales run really well it is even better for you are justified in your initial decision about purchasing him as well as being happy about the placing.

I checked my email quickly when I warmed up after getting home (it was COLD!!) and found out my mare Mujado had a Thunder Gulch filly right around the same time that Comeback was running. She is in PA at Fox Tale stud and the early reports are we have a big, healthy baby. Not a bad day afterall.

Day 23

The track was STILL frozen at the base despite 2 days of very mild weather. We did not want to work over that track though we did gallop everyone and give them a nice warm bath for the first time in a while.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 22

The weather is really nice today for a change. CDT's track surface is still not yet ready for works though tomorrow should be perfect. Still trying to determine who the mares will be bred to this Spring. For the 1st time in a long time (ever?) the stallion farms are offering great terms and discount prices to even popular studs. This has created a slight dilemma in that I can get great terms on some stallions whose foals sell well at the sales yet I am not a huge fan of. The issue is that I may wind up keeping and racing horses I probably would have passed on at a sale. Do I go the commercial route and try to get potentially higher priced baby or the more conservative way and breed something I wouldn't mind racing? In the past I simply didn't have the funds or ability to get to some of the higher priced stallions and my decisions were fairly limited. I will probably stay the course I have been taking but the options are nice to have.

Day 21

Though some days being a horsetrainer is a seemingly 'no-win' job, it is still better than working in the white collar world of endless contracts and paperwork.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 20

Shipped four horses to Turfway this morning to work over the polytrack. It was cold when we left Louisville at 6am and even colder at the track. The horses all went well which made for a productive trip. Planning another trip there for the weekend unless the weather warms enough to make the track at CDT work worthy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 19

Made plans to ship four horses to Turfway tomorrow morning to work them over the track. I don't think that it is a huge deal to work over the polytrack before running on it but the track at CDT isn't ready for works and it can't hurt to let them get on a van and run before doing it for real. Can't wait for Spring.

Day 18

Not only is it cold in Louisville, it is snowing! I have some horses at BEC that are ready to come in that are still there simply because training them on the aquatred is better than the alternatives at the track right now. Watched football this afternoon while going through the upcoming Fasig Tipton Winter sales book.

Day 17

Sent Appoint to Oaklawn so that she can get steady training and some racing experience under her belt. Sending Colonel Klink to FG on Sunday for the same. Jogged everything, still very cold.

Day 16

No training again as it is VERY cold. Spent the day getting outbid at high prices for average horses. At least the lunch specials are good at Keeneland because that looks like all I am going to get.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 15

When you get up and see the temperature is 6 you know Winter is in full effect. Obviously we didn't train today though some brave souls (fools is more like it) were training at Keeneland and Turfway. If the temperature is below 20 there isn't much value in training. you just cant accomplish very much positive in extreme cold and I would rather protect the horse and give them a day off then force the issue. Especially when the meet running is Turfway where the purses are so low anyway.

The sale wasn't much fun either though I did get a decent price on the yearling I sold. (Hip 1320- Grand Reward PA bred for $14000 to Penn Ridge Farm) The quality of this sale is really poor compared to previous years and most of the horses I was interested in were either scratched or sold above their values. But I suppose there is always tomorrow...that is the thing that keeps you in this game, the idea that the next big thing is right around the corner, even if for some it never does show up.

Day 14

Probably the last day of training for us this week with the cold front approaching. Made the decision to send a few of the newly turned three year olds to warmer climes where they can get a more stable training schedule in. Colonel Klink is leaving on Sunday for the Fair Grounds where Richie Scherrer will get him ready and Appoint will go to Oaklawn where Kenny Wirth will have her. We are entering the filly (Appoint) for a race on Sunday so she may get right into action down there. The sale was a bust once again today. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 13

Pretty quiet day. Went to sale but did not get close to buying anything.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 12

The weather held off and we were able to train regularly today though the forecast for tomorrow is really poor. I went to the Keeneland sale this afternoon but was unable to buy anything. One client is looking for some ready made racehorse action but this years sale doesn't have quite as good a selection as in prior years. Hopefully we have more luck tomorrow.

Day 11

We wound up working quite a few horses today despite the muddy track. I am not a big fan of training hard over off tracks, it just seems like more things crop up on off tracks. It is especially tough considering a lot of horses aren't shod with toe grabs because of the change in rules recently. fortunately all seemed to go well and come back fine.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 10

Lots of rain and mud. Not much going on.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 9

It is still very cold which means limited training once again today so I decided to rant a bit on some current topics concerning horseracing in general. Obviously being a horseman I may have a different take on some things which I suppose is the objective of this blog in the first place. However I was not born into the game and spent my younger years as a fan, graduated from the University of Arizona's Racetrack Industry Program, spent several years working in track management as an assistant racing secretary and worked my way up the training ladder from hotwalker. Therefore I suppose I may have a more well-rounded view of the racing world than most horsemen.

We will start on an old topic made new again, jockey fees! This is a link from the latest issue of the Louisville Courier-Journal about a proposed "work" stoppage. Are these guys kidding? First of all, half of the jockeys in the room at Turfway aren't members of the Jockeys Guild and are under no obligation to do anything. Secondly the vast majority of riders at Turfway leave after the meet ends to ride elsewhere so why would they want to draw a line in the sand here? Thirdly Guild management has picked the worst possible time to fight over money as Turfway has been giving away less money in purses lately than anytime in recent memory, not to mention the entire world economy is in flux. Handle is shrinking, owners and trainers are leaving the sport for economic reasons yet jockeys deserve a raise? I happen to agree that an increase in mount fee is probably warranted. $60 which would be a 25% raise is a number that has been thrown around as a solution. Yet we have heard that the jockeys would only accept that number as a "temporary" increase until further negotiations are conducted. So a 25% increase isn't enough? Try selling that one to the masses guys. It always humors me when the guild mentions any negotiations whereby the horseman get more purse money as a justification to raise mount fees as though ONLY horseman benefit with a raise. I suppose the fact that the jockeys winning share also increases with a raise in purses also seems to be beyond them.

Another topic that has gotten a lot of play recently is track surfaces in both Kentucky and California. While there is no doubt that the industry should be working to make track surfaces, dirt, synthetic and grass, as safe as humanly possible these public disputes will make things worse, not better. Counting breakdowns and using them as the sole determination if a tracks is okay or not is foolhardy. Breakdowns are usually caused by a number of factors combining with a horrible result. Track surface is only one factor and in many cases has to nothing to do with a horse breaking down. I find it interesting that we have banned steroids and toe grabs with much fanfare yet the breakdown rates are either the same or have increased which has led to the finger pointing at the surfaces. I have been of the opinion that toe grabs are hardly a cause of breakdowns and in some cases are beneficial especially on sloppy tracks. The study that the industry types have pinned their hopes on as the "smoking gun" of evidence that toe grabs are evil was severely flawed and within the study itself the Doctors at Cal-Davis even stated that they were making no recommendations with the study and that much more research was needed. The group of horses included in that study was made up of 90% of horses that wore toe grabs and 10% that did not. They also did not take into consideration any other factors such as surface (ironic) or racing class. At the time of the study almost every horse in training in California was wearing toe grabs which makes it really hard to get an accurate sample size for both sides. Perhaps the vast majority of horses without toe grabs in the study were slow horses that consistently went off at long odds and didn't race very long before they were taken out of training? Is that a far fetched assumption? As for steroids, the vast majority of horses were treated in accordance with the suggested usage levels and as such weren't a significant factor in breakdowns. The people in charge of the sport want you to believe that they are making all these positive steps in the area of safety. Yet they fail to realize that unfortunately horses will always breakdown in some number as they are flesh and blood and the more you allow the focus to be on track surfaces and have racing commissions "demanding" answers that don't exist, the sport will fail in its PR fight.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 8

Really cold and the track surface was frozen enough to cancel training. We improvised a bit by doing some light jogging in the shedrow. Kind of a lost day. Got a good report on my promising three year old training in Ocala which was nice to hear. The agent for Diego Rodriguez brought by McDonalds for the barn employees this afternoon and brought Cherie a special treat (a nice bottle of rum for her Coke). It is a tradition of sorts that the winning agent will bring donuts for the barn the morning after a win, McDonalds is a step up from the usual fare. The little things in life...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 7

Winning is always great for the human connections. Sometimes however you feel a little better about a win when a particular horse has overcome some difficulties or troubles. That was how I felt today when Richwood Silver crossed the wire at snowy Turfway Park this afternoon. She was a horse that I picked up off the "scrap heap" at the Keeneland November sale last year for $17000. She had three awful running lines but I liked her pedigree and shape and thought that a few changes may do her some good. Richwood broke her maiden in her first start for us (and the first winner under the banner of Bluegrass Equine Center also) and looked like a promising prospect. A sale to West Coast interests for a nice profit fell through and I wound up selling 50% of her to friend and client Bob Gary. We entered her in an allowance race at Oaklawn Park and she looked like a winner every step of the way until the jockey suddenly pulled her up. I thought for a brief second that she had broke down. That was until I saw the rest of the field pulling up too. The tractor that pulls the gate had malfunctioned and the starting gate was sitting in the same place that it was when the field broke. Needless to say it obviously had a psychological effect on Richwood as she simply never ran well afterwards. She didn't even show the speed that she had always flashed in the past. We gave her a short break and brought her back this fall with little change in performance. Finally we dropped her in class and today she showed that old speed and fight and took the 8th race wire to wire for an easy win. Though I think we overanalyze horses thoughts and feelings I couldn't help but think that maybe she felt good about winning again also.

It was also great fun to win a race for Bob who is a great owner trying to build a racing stable the right way. The start up of our program has been a little slow but hopefully this can be a sign of our patience paying off in the long run.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day 6

Rain and cold. Not much fun training.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Day 5

Well Graphite Halo didn't handle the off track today but that wasn't much of a surprise. But as long as she comes out ok we will live to fight again (preferrably on a turf battlefield). Cherie DeVaux, my Kentucky assistant, and I decided to gallop quite a few of the horses strong today with a Winter storm warning looming over the state of Kentucky. Everyone went pretty well and appear to have bounced back from works or races in good shape. Saw a trainer friend who has been training a former filly of mine with a pretty nice pedigree that was in poor form and he said that she was going to get bred which was nice to hear. Though you can't save every horse that is falling down the class ladder it was nice to hear someone was caring for her.

I have got to get my bills done and sent out so I can start off the New Year getting paid. My organizational skills concerning paperwork are lacking but we are improving much to the relief of my accountant.

A little concerned that Turfway's race card for Wednesday may be cancelled with the freezing rain/snow in the forecast. Weather dominates my life. And that is not an enjoyable situation in January in central Kentucky!

Still have to name a few recently turned two year olds, register some out of state mares, apply for registration papers for three of the yearlings, figure out who the mares will be bred to this spring, get pictures of the new horses.....

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 4

For January 4, the temperature was pretty moderate this afternoon, in the upper 50's which made for a nice change from the recent frigid days. Looks like it wont last though as the midweek looks wet and cold which means adjusted training schedules again. Got word from Richie Scherrer that my horse which I sent to him to run tomorrow at the Fair Grounds (5th race-Graphite Halo) arrived in good shape but would probably be running on the dirt with more rain looming for New Orleans. We decided to go ahead and run which was fine with all the partners and though I am not that excited by her chances on a dirt track, running in an off the turf event gets you a special preference date for the next start on the grass.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Day 3

Rampillion who ran well when finishing second last night at Turfway Park seemed to be in good shape this morning. We only had 4 horses to go to the track this morning so it was an easy morning/afternoon (we train from 11 am to 2 pm at Churchill Downs training center in the Winter). I have been working with an exercise physiolgist in trying to determine more efficent ways of training horses utilizing modern technology such as heart rate monitors and other equipment. This morning we came to an agreement and starting tomorrow he will officially begin collecting data for my horses. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

I brought a few horses that we recently picked up from another trainer out to the farm (Bluegrass Equine Center)  and brought a two that were getting some R & R back to the track. Having a place to send horses out for even a short break is such an advantage we are finding. People underestimate the mental aspect of the effects of training at the track on horses. A brief freshening of just 10 days can be so important.

Not much going on tomorrow since it rained this afternoon and the track wont be in great shape. Weather plays an important factor in the life of a trainer. Rain, while it can occasionally be a friend when you have a mudder in a turf race, is usually a real downer if you are training on a regular dirt track. Synthetic tracks may not be the answer but they are a hell of a lot better to train on in wet weather.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Day 2

One of the biggest hassles in a trainers life is licensing. Many states have differing dates when licenses are valid which is a real pain in the ass especially when making sure that owners are properly accounted for. For instance in KY a one year license is valid from January 1st to December 31st of the same year. However in FL and LA the licenses run from July to June. The real kicker is NY which starts on the day after your birthday and goes to your next years birthday. Though it seems like a simple enough process the timing of needing a new license on January 1st right in the middle of the holiday season when many owners are on vacation and not thinking of mundane things like getting licensed is tricky. The worst issue by far is the sham cast upon us by the states that require fingerprints every 5 years. Try getting an overseas owner properly fingerprinted! And the every 5 years because the FBI clears its database excuse is ridiclous. It is a moneygrab plain and simple. I believed that the industry actually had come up with a good idea when they came up with a single registry body where an owner (not us trainers because of that tricky workmans comp. deal) could be licensed in multiple states at the same time. However more owners have issues with the National Racing Compact than they do with getting licensed in individual states. Not that this is a big surprise or anything. Anyway KY now takes credit cards for its licenses which is nice but naturally they have raised the cost of the licenses and added a $7 surcharge for using the card.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day 1, January 1st

Happy Birthday horses! We have a runner tomorrow night at Turfway Park (Rampillion in the 11th), our first of the year. The turning of the calendar also means that a trainers "all important" stats are back to zero. Since the primary measure of a trainers worth in many peoples eyes is their win percentage most trainers obsess over this statistic, often to the detriment of the people that they work for. But that is a topic for another day. Today is about new beginnings, looking to the future and hoping that those babies that you have been waiting on will develop as you were hoping.