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Running Down a Dream
Bob Carson takes new owners from sales ring to turnout
written by Bob Carson

Chapter 2 - Early Considerations
'It Ain't the Gold'
By John Stewart, 1984

The Kingston Trio
John Stewart (left)
Photo Source: Wikipedia

December, 12, 2010

Hi Gang,    

All of you cc’d on this e-mail have at some point asked about the possibly of joining Jim and me on one of our horse ownership adventures.  I’m very reluctant to encourage you, at least not until you understand what you are getting into. 

Everyone (including Jim and me) believe every baby horse we purchase will be terrific. We delude ourselves--everyone does, to some degree. Yes, it is possible to pull a champion out of one of the sales, but the odds are not good.  I’m guessing that just a couple of every dozen yearlings break even.  Quite frankly, moneywise, you would be better off saving the various costs of purchasing, staking, training and racing a young horse and just bet it all to win on a 3-1 shot at the racetrack.

Before we continue, let me give you a little homework and suggest that you visit the USTA (United States Trotting Association) website and click on “What is harness racing?”  This gives a nice overview of the sport.  One of the reasons I suggest you make the trip vicariously this year is that the expenses can be daunting. I will outline them next week. 


December 20, 2010

Last month, we bought a pacing filly from a sale in New Jersey.  Her name is Fantail Hanover. She is what is called a yearling – this means she is a baby; she will not turn 2 years of age until January (for racing purposes, all horses age one year on January 1 regardless of their technical birth day).  Fantail Hanover has never been on a racetrack, has never been behind a sulky; she is a completely unknown quantity. She will race (we hope) in Pennsylvania next summer.

Fantail Hanover at the New Jersey sale
November 2010 (age one)

Since you are curious, here are some very rough ballpark figures that Jim and I will be facing for the year with Fantail (they are lower than normal because her purchase price was low).  In fact, Fantail Hanover is the least expensive yearling we have ever bought.

Cost to buy and ship: $7,000

Cost to stake: $3,000

Cost to train: $15,000

Total: approx. $25,000

Obviously, Fantail Hanover needs to earn about $25,000 to break even. This doesn’t happen often. 

To give you some reference, here are the total earnings for our last three yearling harness horses in their 2-year-old seasons.

Whisk Hanover: $16,000

Beyond a Glance: $0

Walk Softly: $12,000 

As you can see, even though two of these were good racehorses, we lost money because none of them covered their costs of about $25,000 (they were more expensive to originally purchase than Fantail, so the costs were slightly higher).

At this point, I do not recommend you invest money. If you want to go along for the ride this year, consider it a vicarious experiment.  What would be fun is right now, pick one of the baby horses, pretend you are going to purchase 50% ownership. Okay. Now one year from today we can look back and see exactly what your phantom 50% would have cost you and how much (if any) your 50% ownership would have earned you. You may be very happy or very sad that it was not your investment. In future years, should you wish to play our game you will know what is involved (and hopefully how much fun it can be).

I will keep you informed on a regular basis and maybe arrange a few trips. But if you are in the area, it’s fun to travel to watch the horses train (about an hour from my house) and race (most sites are between 2-3 hours from our house).  While it is possible to get a horse that makes millions, that's not the reason to get involved.  Jim and I do it because we have fun - winning or losing.

Thinking about jumping into horse ownership?

E-mail owners@ustrotting.com and we will get you more information to get started in the racing game. Click here to share this story with a friend.

Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

Bob Carson
Hoof Beats Magazine About the Author
Bob Carson's award-winning freelance writing has appeared in more than two dozen national publications. He is a steady contributor to Trot Magazine, The United States Trotting Association and Timeline Magazine. After more than 200 magazine articles and stories, his first novel, The Voyage of Mess (humor) was released in 2009. In 2005 he produced the documentary film, Touching Home (Minor League Baseball). In 2006 he received the Hervey Award for Journalistic Excellence and Best of Ohio Fiction awards. He has published Minor Trips (Minor League Baseball) since 1991. Bob Carson has owned harness horses for more than a decade, including a stint as a weekend trainer. He lives in Strongsville, Ohio, with his wife, Sue, and daughter, Katie.
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