In this section we will cover the basics of ownership as well as helping you gain an in-depth understanding of some of the key processes involved in owning and racing a Thoroughbred. Ownership in these athletes should not be mysterious as some try to make it. At Honor Roll Racing, we want our owners to participate fully and be the best educated in the industry.
Getting Your Owner’s License
The majority of owners will be required to be licensed in each of the states where the team’s horse races. There are exceptions in some states when owners do not own a substantial percentage of a horse. Young horses will be prepared for their first race in South Carolina, Kentucky, or Arizona with the majority of horses starting their racing careers in the Midwest. Previously campaigned horses purchased to race for the stable could start just about anywhere, depending on where they best fit. Owners only need to be licensed when and where there horses make a start. The recommendation for how to get licensed will depend on the plan for the horse that is owned and the number of horses an individual owns. At times, a recommendation to get licensed in a single state using only the local process will be made. Often, a recommendation to use a national licensing broker such as The National Racing Compact will be made. The National Racing Compact is the simplest way to get licensed in multiple states when you need to expand your licensure beyond the state of Kentucky. For a fee of a couple hundred dollars, The National Racing Compact will handle the transfer of information from state to state for licensing for a period of 3 years. When you need a license in a new state, a phone call and payment of that state’s fee is all that is required. Automatic license renewal is handled by the compact as well. Fingerprints are not required in Kentucky, but you will need to get fingerprinted so that they can be sent to states that do require them. Application for national licensure through the compact can be found at www.racinglicense.com.
Honor Roll Racing management will guide owners through the various state licensing processes if that route is recommended rather than the national route. Licensed owners will receive free parking and admission at most tracks in the state or states where they are licensed, whether or not their horse is racing. Owners will also be granted access to the paddock and stable areas to meet with trainers and jockeys.
Naming Your Horse
Whether you are naming your horse after someone you love, something that the horse’s appearance or behavior reminds you of, or using a combination of things, it is a truly enjoyable process. Honor Roll Racing hosts numerous "naming parties" each year where owners get the opportunity to meet each other and participate in naming their horse if it has not already been named. Now, you can’t name your horse just anything. The Jockey Club wants horses running around with names these athletes can be proud of, or at the very least, with names that can be shown on prime time television prior to 9:00 p.m. There are a variety of naming rules, probably the most important being you cannot choose a name that is active or retired. You can use the “Online Names Book” to check to see if names you are interested in have already been taken. The online names book can be found at https://www.registry.jockeyclub.com/registry.cfm?page=namesrch&rand=813&init=&CFID=19147549&CFTOKEN=30339584.
All of the key rules for naming, courtesy of the Jockey Club, are listed below. The following are prohibited.
- 1. Names consisting of more than 18 letters (spaces and punctuation marks count as letters);
- 2. Names consisting entirely of initials such as C.O.D., F.O.B., etc.;
- 3. Names ending in "filly," "colt," "stud," "mare," "stallion," or any similar horse-related term;
- 4. Names consisting entirely of numbers. Numbers above thirty may be used if they are spelled out;
- 5. Names ending with a numerical designation such as "2nd" or "3rd," whether or not such a designation is spelled out;
- 6. Names of living persons unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club;
- 7. Names of persons no longer living unless approval is granted by The Jockey Club based upon a satisfactory written explanation submitted to the Registrar;
- 8. Names of racetracks or graded stakes races;
- 9. Names clearly having commercial, artistic or creative significance;
- 10. Names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups;
- 11. Names that appear to be designed to harass, humiliate or disparage a specific individual, group of individuals or entity;
- 12. Names that are currently active either in racing or breeding (see Rule6(E));
- 13. Names of winners in the past 25 years of grade one stakes races;
- 14. Permanent names. The list of criteria to establish a permanent name is as follows:
- a. Horses in racing\'s Hall of Fame;
- b. Horses that have been voted Horse of the Year;
- c. Horses that have won an Eclipse Award;
- d. Horses that have won a Sovereign Award (Canadian Champions);
- e. Annual leading sire and broodmare sire by progeny earnings;
- f. Cumulative money winners of $2 million or more;
- g. Horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, The Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Breeders\' Cup Classic or the Breeders\' Cup Turf; and
- h. Horses included in the International List of Protected Names.
- 15. Names similar in spelling or pronunciation to the classes of names listed in Rule 6(F) 6 - 14 above.
Entering a Horse to Race
I know many of you are wondering how horses get into races. What and who determines if six horses or twelve horses will run in a race. Below are some examples of how the entering process works and how races are determined for a particular track on a given day. A “condition book” of races is planned several weeks to months in advance of a period of time during a race meet for every track. There are races planned for every live race day and there are initially two categories of races. “Book races” are those that are preferred to be run by the track if they get enough entrants. “Sub races” are those that are a part of the original book to supplement the book races if they don’t get enough entrants. The track has a particular number of races they plan to run each day (say 9 on Friday and 10 on Saturday for example) and they try to put enough attractive races in the book to “make” that many races. The racing secretary’s job is to write a book that will draw enough interest to run the number of competitive races the track wants to run. The more competitive races the track can card in a day, the more people wager, leading to more money for the track and for trainers, jockeys, and owners reflected in purses offered.
So let’s talk about the actual entering part of the equation and I’ll explain the third category of race that is offered and can be entered. Because the track has to put out a list of the races ahead of time so programs and forms can be printed, so the public can be made aware of who is running, and so horsemen can prepare horses for racing, entries are taken between two and five days (three is most common) before the actual day of the race. For example, we will enter both Billy Boy’s Buddy and Bernability this Thursday for races on Saturday so I’ll know by early Thursday afternoon if our horses got into races or not. Billy Boy’s Buddy’s race is Sub 1 in the book. The race is a $7,500 conditioned claimer on the grass going five and a half furlongs. This sort of race typically draws many entries at a meet like Ellis Park because the vast majority of horses in the area this time of year are claimers with eligibility to run against other horses that haven’t won a lot of races. So, even though this race is a substitute race, it will likely get more entries than a couple of book races and, at the discretion of the racing secretary, it will become an official carded race for Saturday. Now I am considering Bernability for two races on Saturday. One of the races is the third category of race, an “extra race”. The extra’s are not in the book, but are on the track’s up-to-date entry sheet called the overnight. Extra’s are used to further supplement book and sub races and are a tool the track uses to show flexibility for the horsemen that may have horses that need to race, but don’t fit very well in any of the upcoming existing book and sub races. In theory, the extras get used only if book and sub races don’t get enough entrants, but the reality is, they get used if they get enough horses (enough being how many the racing secretary is enough) and using them helps the racing secretary do his job effectively. Often, book races with six or seven get tossed in favor of an extra with ten on a Friday, for example, but with a guarantee from the racing secretary that the book race will be put back up as an extra for the next day and be used for certain if it gets the same number or more the next day. The process is far from black and white. One of our horses was entered for a book race on Thursday, July 2nd, the race had a marginal number of entrants, but it didn’t get used because, presumably, the racing secretary needed big fields for night racing and he knew the race would get more entrants for day racing (when the turf rail is down) on Saturday so it went back up as an extra that was carded two days later. Now back to Bernability’s races for Saturday. Bernability’s extra is a maiden $7,500 claimer going a mile on the grass for fillies and mares. That same condition was run this past Sunday with a field of twelve. What you didn’t see on the program on Sunday was twenty six horses entered that race so fourteen didn’t get in. The racing secretary had to bring that race back for the next racing day as an extra (this coming Saturday) to give the rest of the horses a chance to run as soon as possible. So, even though that race is an extra, it is likely to be carded for this coming Saturday. The other race I’m considering Bernability for is a book race. It is a maiden allowance sprint on the grass going five and a half furlongs. That race is likely to go because maiden book races on the grass are used nearly 100% of the time. For Bernability, it is highly likely she’ll be racing Saturday at Ellis because we will do an “or” entry with a preference. What that means is we’ll say, for example, I want to enter in the maiden $7,500 claimer, but if that doesn’t get enough entrants or we get excluded because it has too many, we want to go in the maiden allowance sprint on the grass.
I hope that explanation takes some of the mystery away. It is somewhat complicated to understand a condition book, rather simple to enter a horse, and at times, somewhat difficult to actually get them in races.
Earning Purses and Explanation of Purse Distribution
Purses can be lucrative in the game of racing. Purses for Maiden Special Weight races at tracks like Keeneland and Churchill are close to $50,000. Of course, for this sport to thrive, it can’t be winner take all. Purses are divided up by placings with the higher percentages of the purses going to the higher finishers in the race. A typical race purse is distributed as follows:
1st place – 60% ; 2nd place – 20% ; 3rd place – 10%; 4th place – 6%; 5th place – 4%.
Other variations exist. The most typical is 60, 20, 10, 5 and an amount large enough to cover pony and jockey fees to the rest of the finishers. Taking our first example, payouts to the first 6 finishers in a race with a $50,000 purse would look like the following:
1st place – $30,000; 2nd place – $10,000; 3rd place – $5,000; 4th place – $3,000; 5th place – $2,000.
Now let’s say your horse wins this $50,000 race. Just as you are part of a team that owns this horse and shares in the earnings, you have a team on race day that is entitled a standard level of compensation prior to the owners getting their share of the purse. The standard breakdown looks like this:
The first place finisher earns $30,000. The winning jockey receives 10% of the purse and the winning trainer receives between 10% and 12% of the purse (2% is given to stable help if 12% is given to the trainer). The rest goes to the members of the Company. The breakdown is $3,000 to the jockey, $3,600 to the trainer and stable, and $23,400 to the owners. Still a pretty nice paycheck. All 9% Interests receive 9% of the $23,400 or $2,106. It often takes several wins or solid efforts to get back in the black. It’s not easy to make a profit in this business. Some owners will make a monumental profit and that possibility makes the risk worthwhile for many of us. Some owners will struggle to cover expenses because they race horses who are consistently “also rans”. Individuals that partner with us do so because they believe our team’s experience, preparation, and attention to detail will significantly increase their chances of racing a winner and making a profit.
Other Topics of Interest
Optional Claiming Races
I had an interesting question from one of our owners. It is similar to a question I’ve had several times so I thought it would make a good topic. The question was in reference to the entry of Laud’ N Gold. The question was, “Did we also put her in for the claim option as well and would this allow us the opportunity to race for the whole purse?” To give you a bit of background here. Laud’ N Gold was entered in a Maiden Optional Claimer $30,000 at Turf Paradise. The “optional” part is that you can put your horse in this race and put them up for sale for $30,000 (referred to as in for the tag). You can also choose to run them as if this were a “maiden allowance” race, a race in which the horses are not for sale. We did not put Laud’ N Gold in for “the tag”. I’ll explain why in a moment. Putting a horse in for the tag means you put them in the race at the claiming price so they could be bought (claimed) from the race. Now back to the question that was posed. Optional claimers are tough races to understand. There are different kinds of optional claimers and they exist for a couple of different reasons. I’ll explain a bit here.
The kind of optional claimer that Laud’ N Gold was entered in has the option for a tag primarily to allow horses to run for the tag to become eligible for starter allowances written only for horses that have run in maiden races with a claiming price of $30,000 or less, for example. Regardless of whether or not you run for the tag in this sort of race, you are eligible to compete for the entire purse. The reason Laud’ N Gold is not in for the tag is because she has already run in maiden races with less than a $30,000 claiming tag and is already eligible for the starter allowances written for horses that run in maiden claimers. Most optional claimers are a bit different than this race at Turf Paradise and are written very specifically to get larger field sizes. I’ll explain a bit more below.
Let me finish answering the question that was asking if horses in for the tag ran for the same purse as those not in for the tag. There are many cases where, if you have to run for the tag in an optional claimer, you will not be eligible for state thoroughbred funds that are a part of the purse and will have to run for less than the advertised purse.
Examples are in Kentucky, California, and Illinois (states that add development fund incentives for state bred horses only in allowance races). If your horse was bred in the state where the race is being run and the horse is eligible to run in the race without a tag (meaning you are not "through" that allowance condition"), your horse runs for the entire purse. If you are "through" the allowance condition, you can enter the race, but are forced to run for the tag and are not eligible for the development fund incentive that goes to state bred horses running in allowance races. Being “through” through a condition means that you have won too many allowance or stakes races to be eligible for the particular allowance condition of the race being offered. In a typical “Allowance Optional Claimer $40,000” race for horses that have not won two races other than maiden, claimer, state bred, or restricted, with a purse of $35,000 that includes purse funds from a state development fund, the horses that have won two races other than maiden, claimer, state bred, or restricted will have to be put up for sale for $40,000 to run and will also run for some $8,000 or $9,000 less than those that are eligible for the allowance condition.
When optional claimers became popular, the reason was simply to increase field size and bettor interest (typically in the colder months of the year when traditional field sizes are smaller at northern tracks). If you can’t get enough allowance eligible horses to make a race, you often can still make it go by allowing horses that are through that condition to enter if they put themselves up for sale. There are many variations of optional claimers that allow horses to run for the allowance purse based on a threshold of money earned in some past timeframe or the amount of money earned when they won previous allowance races, etc., but going through all of those variations is beyond the scope of this letter. The answer to the question of whether you run for the entire purse in the prototypical optional claimers comes down to two main things. Is your horse eligible for the allowance condition, and if so, was your horse bred in the state where the race is being run if there are state development funds offered as part of the purse. If you can answer yes to both of those questions, your horse will be running for the entire purse. In the relatively rare case of the type offered at Turf Paradise, it really doesn’t matter. Everyone runs for the balance of the purse.
Scratching a sick horse
This line of text that evolves into a discussion of scratching a sick horse begins with a conversation regarding whether or not horses are more susceptible to getting sick in wintertime. In general, as with humans, horses are thought to be more susceptible to getting sick when there are dramatic changes in the weather. When weather changes dramatically, horses may have a hard time staying comfortable and resting easily, and may be forced to use energy reserves to warm themselves, for example, rather than for fighting any bacteria that may be trying to take hold. As with human children, very young horses are more prone to getting sick than older horses because of an immature immune system and a lack of antibodies due to minimal exposure regardless of the time of year. The second question and the one that I thought was most interesting was, “why do we often scratch horses that have a runny nose, but otherwise seem healthy”? The obvious answer to this question is the horse may be on the verge of getting really sick and we don’t want to stress the body. The less obvious one has to do with the physiology of the horse. Many races at track meets and even marathons have been won by human athletes with a stuffy head and a runny nose. For humans, it may not be comfortable, but we can adjust and breathe in and out through our mouths if airflow through our noses is restricted. As long as our lungs are relatively clear and we aren’t running a high fever, we can perform. Horses, on the other hand, don’t have a backup. Oxygen must come in through the nose. In addition, if mucus is present in the nasal passages, it will generally also be present in the bronchi and bronchioles, the tubes that the oxygen must pass through to get to the air sacs in the lungs. The air sacs in the lungs are where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide and delivered to the capillaries for transport to the body’s systems that need it. Anything that restricts the horse’s ability to take in oxygen will result in a corresponding negative impact to its ability to perform.
This leads me to a quick handicapping tip and note of caution when purchasing performance horses. Breathing problems come in many forms. Colds, sinus infections, and lung infections are common are problematic due to constriction of the pathways to the lungs, but they are often temporary (unless chronic) and not the only problems that constrict airways. Often more serious and permanent conditions that are more difficult to address and believed to be due to nerve damage cause structures of the respiratory system to behave abnormally under stress and can also block the flow of oxygen to a horse’s lungs. The most common of these is often referred to as “displacing”. A horse that is said to have “displaced” during a race had his air cut off to some degree by dorsal displacement of the soft palate. The soft palate is essentially the roof of the horse’s mouth. When it displaces, it raises up and blocks the path of some of the oxygen coming from the horse’s nasal passages to the esophagus, resulting in a lower volume of oxygen delivered to the lungs and to the body’s systems that need it to perform at full capacity. There are a variety of other functional issues that occur with varying degrees of seriousness, but none are as common as dorsal displacement of the soft palate.
The take away here is that you want to do your homework when buying a horse. We always work with a trusted vet to ensure we don’t get a horse for performance reasons with a chronic or severe permanent airway obstruction condition. An endoscopic exam and review of previous treatment records helps ensure our potential purchase has a healthy respiratory system. The handicapping tip is to look for a horse that has shown some ability during the early stages of his/her races and was backed by the public to some degree, has had a short layoff of some 30-90 days, shows some decent works coming into the race following the time off, and is taking some action on the tote board. Some horses have breathing issues that are fixed with minor surgery. The difference in a horse getting 100% of his oxygen rather than 60% often is the difference between finishing first and last.
Evaluating Conformation for Soundness
Today I\'m going to talk a bit about what I am looking at when I am evaluating a horse’s conformation for soundness. Let me begin by saying that, outside of pedigree, the most important thing anyone buying horse’s needs to understand well is conformation, and most importantly, key conformational faults. Many racehorses that are well bred look remarkably similar to the casual observer, but the minute differences are often what separates a horse that races and wins races for many years from a horse that never races. Let’s talk about the key areas that must be correctly assessed.
Front end conformation – Front end conformation refers to the alignment of the various structures making up the front legs when viewed from the front and the side.
When viewing a horse’s forelegs from the front, you must take into account the following:
· Are the legs set inside or outside the shoulders?
· Are the knees set inside or outside the shoulders?
· Are the knees offset (the cannon bone and forearm do not intersect directly with middle of the knee)?
· Do the toes point in our out?
· Are the ankles set inside or outside of the knees?
When viewing a horse’s forelegs from the side, you must take into account the following:
· Are the horses legs incorrectly placed in front of or behind the shoulders (out in front of the horse or too far under?)
· Is the horse’s knee over or behind the lower part of the leg?
· Does the horse have long sloping pasterns or steep upright pasterns (any angle other than 45 degrees)?
· Is the angle of the shoulder different than the angle of the pastern?
· Does the angle of the pastern match the angle of hoof (pastern to hoof axis)?
Hind end conformation – Hind end conformation refers to the alignment of the various structures making up the hind legs when viewed from the back and the side.
When viewing a horse’s hind legs from the back, you must take into account the following:
· Are the hocks set inside or outside the hip?
· Do the front and rear legs appear to be aligned well from front to back (same base)?
When viewing a horse’s hind legs from the side, you must take into account the following:
· Do the legs stand too far back or forward (you should be able to draw a straight line from the back of the hip to the tip of the hock to the back of the ankle)?
· Are the legs too straight (hock is ill defined – horse appears post legged)?
You can also glean a lot from the way a horse moves when walking and jogging. The key thing is to watch how the horse tracks, both from the side and the front and rear. If a horse tracks well (moves straight ahead and front and rear feet follow), the front and hind leg conformation is typically good, but not always. Things to look for when the horse is in motion that are not desirable include:
· Hoofs complete inward or outward arcs.
· Flight patterns do not match (rear and front leg arcs go in opposite directions or opposing front or hind leg arcs do not match).
· Back hoofs overreach (touch or appear that they are going to interfere with back of front leg).
· Horse short steps (back hoofs don’t come close to reaching the back of where the front foot landed).
· No arc in stride (shuffling gait).
· Horse hits the ground hard (doesn’t easily flow from one step to the next).
· Horse lands on toes.
There is a lot more to think about in terms of conformation in addition to the above when evaluating a horse for its ability to perform at a high level, but you’ll be a long way towards getting a sound horse if you can pass a horse (check no) on the above set of criteria. Of course, most horses are not perfect so you must understand the severity of each fault relative to the individual. There are acceptable levels of yes for some of the above, but acceptable depends on what fault and if the fault is by itself or accompanied by other faults. Sometimes a fault is unacceptable by itself, but can be accepted as part of several faults that may work together. Some faults are acceptable in a certain family that is known to tolerate them well, whereas they would be wholly unacceptable in another family. Some faults should never be accepted unless the horse has proven it can race and stay sound with them. Faults that highly predispose a horse to ankle chips (severely over or cocked at the ankle or severely toes in or out) and knee chips (significantly back at the knee – knee is behind the lower part of the leg) or bowed tendons (long sloping pasterns) or to interference with its own legs while running (severely toes in our out or legs set far inside or outside the shoulder or hip) are examples. In general, front end faults are responsible for a large percentage of soundness issues and rear end faults are responsible for a lot of performance related issues (lack of power/propulsion), but faults on both ends are responsible for horses getting hurt and horses lacking power, stamina, and speed.