‘It’s Been A Real Struggle’: Many Small Stables Fight To Keep Afloat In Industry

by | 07.10.2017 | 11:19am

Todd Pletcher. Bob Baffert. Steve Asmussen.

All have large training stables in the U.S., and their names are familiar to both casual and passionate racing fans.

Unlike those three men, most people have likely never heard of Anthony and Jennifer Saavedra, a married couple that have a small stable of 10 horses at Santa Anita.

In a recent column for Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, Daniel Ross profiles the Saavedras as they struggle to remain in business as the divide between small and large stables grows ever larger. The Saavedras, like many trainers with a small number of horses, are very much ‘hands-on', from hotwalking to exercising horses in order to try and keep costs down.

Anthony Saavedra told Thoroughbred Racing Commentary that he believes the industry is becoming more and more difficult for smaller operations to even keep afloat.

“It always has been tough,” he said. “But here, of late, it's been a real struggle.”

Read more in Thoroughbred Racing Commentary

  • Jay Stone

    Very pertinent article. This is one of the bigger problems facing racing. You can’t take away the success that the super trainers have achieved but by letting this happen the game has let two problems arise. The smaller operations are becoming non existent or unable to compete and new trainers are finding it hard to attract owners. When you go to a sale and see the majority of the young horses going to the same trainers you realize the problem. Success breeds success and in a free enterprise system this is how it should work. This problem is also a major headache for management as it’s a quandary to fill races if 60 percent of your horses are controlled by 10 trainers. When u look at percentages and purses earned it’s obvious who has the most and best horses but sometimes perception and reality aren’t the same and I’m sure there are many good young trainers out there that if given the chance would reach some of those levels.

    • TwoBays

      Thank you, Ray, for stepping up and sharing the article. There are “several good trainers” out there – I would venture to say a lot of them are better horsemen than the big three.

      • Mr J

        I very much doubt that

        • Ron S

          Two bays is spot on. There are a lot of first rate horsemen out there.

    • SteveTG

      Theoretically, it’s “free enterprise” but what you’re describing is not free enterprise. If, as in your example, 60% of racing stock is controlled by 10 trainers, they can hold a track hostage & that is not free enterprise. The culprits are not the top trainers for exploiting their advantage but the powers that be are the culprits – management, as you say – and they deserve the headaches for allowing quasi-monopolies to control their business while very competent small outfits get snuffed out one by one. If the sport wasn’t one step away from being a wild west show in terms of regulations, this kind of self-defeating sweet set up for the very few would be prohibited. I completely agree with your last sentence.

    • Minneola

      It’s called competition. Without more trainers, the less competition there is and those few remaining big trainers can dictate too much. The U.S. government, over a hundred years ago, developed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to make certain that competition remained healthy for certain businesses. But, the concept remains very pertinent for just about all business fields. By the way, for those who think that Art Sherman is the basis for this federal act: NO! He’s not anywhere close to that age!

  • Bryan Langlois

    A problem that really has no easy solution, or even a solution. Only solution would be to say a trainer can only train so many horses at one time, almost like some major league sports allowing so many players on a roster at one time. That will not happen.

    • johnnyknj

      Limit stalls to 40, like tracks used to even for Woody Stephens, Allen Jerkens, etc.

      • Bryan Langlois

        That rule would have to apply to training centers like Palm Meadows in Florida as well then, because these trainers could just keep the extra horses there and ship in to run.

        • johnnyknj

          Yes, it would, although training centers generally charge a per stall fee, which helps limit outfits from having too many.

      • Mr J

        Nice,then we can see more 5 and 6 horse races. Smh

        • johnnyknj

          Not saying I think it is a great idea, but this thread is about the problems small outfits face.

      • Mama Ann

        When a trainer comes to the gates of any track in the US they should have hand over a list of the horses in their barn. In a months time if any of those horses haven’t been worked then the trainer should be notified they have 2 more weeks. If they don’t work by then then management tells them to remove the horse from the grounds. This stops the trainer from holding on to horses that are hurt and collecting the day money(and you can be certain this happens all the time) and also makes certain that the track is not used as a training center. This would free up many stalls.

        • johnnyknj

          They do turn over a list of horses on their stall application.

          • Mama Ann

            Yes we do but there is no real follow up to see if each horse is working or just taking up space.

        • Drama the Llama

          Like John Shirreffs… he’s got 2 of Zenyatta’s kids in his barn. Cozmic One hasn’t run in 2 years, just keeps working & working. Ziconic has run, what, 3 times in 2017, just works. Shirreffs only has 35 starts in 2017. How many stalls is he using up?

    • One_Jackal

      .What put a lot of small trainers out of business is killing the rule that a trainer had to saddle a horse in the paddock every three racing days.

    • Meg Hiers

      I am pretty sure there is a horse limit for trainers in Hong Kong and Japan, and it seems to be work just fine for them.

      • Mr J

        They dont have dozens of tracks running at the same ti. Think

  • Peter Scarnati

    I don’t understand Ritvo’s tying a track’s stall allotment to a trainer to “free enterprise.” I just don’t see the connection in the least.
    In today’s racing industry, there are dozens of racetracks where trainers can stable. With the explosion of casino-fueled purses over the past 20 years or so, the stabling options — even for a “super trainer” — are far, far more viable (i.e, profitable) than they were in the 1990’s. A limit of stalls at one place gives a trainer two available choices — reduce his string at one place and increase it at another, or abandon the smaller allocation completely and disburse the horses to other locations where he either already has horses or stable some at an entirely new location for his string. It’s not like he doesn’t have free choices in this area.
    Racetracks are solely entrusted with providing a betable product for its patrons — it’s really the sole reason (if they don’t have slot machines) for their existence. In providing the best possible product for oits customers tracks must have an upper limit on the number of stalls any one trainer can occupy at the meet. This is one way in which bigger fields can be achieved.
    Perhaps at some of these places, this may be easier said than done. However, making crucial business decisions aren’t always the least controversial or easiest decisions a business must make.

    • MA

      There are fewer stabling options with each passing year in California. It’s already in crisis mode. Land is too valuable as commercial and retail. Also, smaller operations can’t find or can’t afford to hire an entire second staff for another location.

      • TwoBays

        I know of two, personally, who quit in the last calendar year.

      • Peter Scarnati

        I was not referring to smaller operations in my post. A limit on stalls would not pertain to them.

    • Greg

      I believe the free enterprise comment relates to owners being free to choose whichever trainer they want and then this leading to an an unfortunate but unavoidable concentration of horses in top barns…

  • David Worley

    Can someone tell me if trainers pay a per stall allotment to the track for their use?

    • johnnyknj

      Not at most tracks, but at most training centers.

      • David Worley

        Thanks

  • Smitty

    I have a question if anyone knows answer I would appreciate. What does the Breeders Cup do with all the profits they make . Do they put any of the money back into the industry to help enhance the game. Thanks

  • Concerned Observer

    “Powers that be” don’t see any value in little trainers because 10 trainers are 10 headaches, and a big guy is just one headache (makes my job easier).. “Powers that be” don’t give stalls to little guys (that fill 50% of the horses) because they don’t have starpower!. “Powers that be” don’t give a hoot about the future of racing, so long as their job is secure for the rest of the meet. “Powers that be” get no direction from track owners except …make money. “Powers that be” used to be entry clerks, and they still think that way.

    That is why racing needs a commissioner….to explain a long term strategy to the “Powers that be”, before it is too late. Maybe it already is.

    Being a small trainer is a real hassle, and unfortunately, tracks add a lot to the hassle.

    • 5times5

      Bullseye

    • Another commenter

      I suspect it already is too late.

  • David Worley

    Okay, just to throw out a possible economic solution how about this:

    A track like Santa Anita reduces the purse structure by say 10% and places this money in a ‘stall subsidy fund.’ Let’s say this total is somewhere in the $3M range. You then take the stall allocations and starting with the low end (like around 20) you inversely distribute that fund to trainers but only to offset a portion of their day rate. Put a little differently, you basically say to the smallest trainers we will subsidize your day rate (thus reducing it for owners) with sliding preference to the smallest trainers but ONLY if this coincides with a reduction in your rate. The would, presumably, increase the competitiveness of the smaller barns by making their day product cheaper than the big ones (hopefully enabling them to grow and not need the subsidy and) thus making them more viable. Essentially, it is a form of targeted redistribution which advantages smaller outfits.

    Thoughts on an idea like this? How might it be better targeted?

    • Peter Scarnati

      Two problems I see David, other than personally being against any sort of “redistribution” in general terms, especially giving money away without it being earned.
      1) Getting the HBPA to go along with any reduction in the purse fund, is always like pulling teeth. I suspect it would be same in this case, even though it would be putting the money in their pockets in a different form.
      2) I could be wrong, but I believe smaller training outfits already charge a lower day rate than the larger more successful ones.

      • David Worley

        I see your point on #1. On #2 the furtherance of lesser day rates should (eventually) have an effect. Regarding redistribution, America has better figure this out or we are economically doomed and this small trainer issue is a nice example of the problems of a winner-take-all economy which can be succinctly described as ‘not sustainable.’

        • Peter Scarnati

          “Winner take all economy?”
          I’ve been what most level-headed folks would consider to be a working stiff my entire life — hardly what I or anyone else would deem as any sort of big “winner” — and I have made a comfortable living for myself and my family. Just as tens of millions of my contemporaries have. And, as I near retirement age, it looks like I will be able to do so fairly comfortably without depending upon social security.
          The economy has been “sustainable” for me and millions of others. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be for anyone else who is willing to work hard and set some basic priorities.

          • David Worley

            By WTA economy above I was referring to the way we enable the richest trainers to garner more business by virtue of competitive advantage due to scale and notoriety. This is true in the larger economy too, it’s how Wal-Mart became the town store in every community in America, and how Amazon is now doing the same thing digitally. Instead, we as a society could say we are going to incentive the small guy, provide advantages that offset those of scale, and keep economic growth local. But in order to do this we would need a sane political discourse which we don’t have.

    • Mama Ann

      Someone suggested to maybe add more purse money to the 6,7,8,9 placed horses. This would take the sting outta racing a horse in a small barn and it would increase your fields. Do you think this would help?

      • David Worley

        I like that idea, and it’s simpler to implement than what I was thinking. The drawback may be getting horses in races that aren’t ready (or willing) to run and either having an increase in breakdowns or a race in which a portion of the field isn’t really trying or isn’t capable. But otherwise this seems like it’s worth a try.

    • Mr J

      Ah,socialism at its finest,comrade. Bernie would be proud of you

  • Bryan Langlois

    “We talk about this a lot, but we don’t act as much as we should because it’s harder to act and to change the culture,” he said.

    I think it still comes down to these tracks putting their foot down and when the super trainers may whine about having to play by the rules just like everyone else, call their bluff. They are not all going to up and leave because they didn’t get their way, and if they do, there are plenty of other trainers out there who will be happy to take the stall space.

    • Greg

      Calling their bluff sounds great but does it work? For example, let’s say Del Mar tells a top trainer that he only gets 32 stalls but top trainer needs more. Top trainer says “no problem, I’ll just send my champion to run at Saratoga (or Delaware, etc…) instead of running (maybe twice) at Del Mar”. We all know who backs down at that point ;)

      • Mama Ann

        That’s exactly what they said too. But if they go off as favorites the track doesn’t make money from the betting crowd anyway so let them go somewhere else.

        • Peter Scarnati

          Please explain your statement that a horse going off as a favorite means a track will not make money.

          • Mama Ann

            Not the favorite but a lot of times it’s even money or where a horse is bet clear off the board. Do they make money or have to make up the difference?

          • Peter Scarnati

            Are you referring to minus pools? Otherwise, I can’t figure out where you are going with this.

          • Mama Ann

            I guess so. I’m not a gambler but I see the minus pools on the CHRB site.

          • Peter Scarnati

            If you are not a gambler, you likely would not understand what a minus pool is.
            Regardless of that, you should understand that in pari-mutuel wagering the odds of a horse makes no difference in the “amount of money a track makes.” The percentage of the “profit” is exactly the same on a even money favorite and a 99-1 shot, for example. The only difference is, the track would actually “make” more money on the even money favorite, simply because more money was wagered on him than the 99-1 shot.
            In the real world, tracks would actually prefer more favorites to win races. That means more players are winning, which likely would mean those winners will put their profits back through the machines, which in turn would increase at track’s profit.
            In pari-mutuel wagering, players are betting against other players, not against the house.

          • wmk3400

            Peter, pretty much agree with your explanation to Mama Ann with one exception. When a minus pool occurs tracks make less due to minimum payoffs mandated by the state they are located in with the potential to lose money when bridgejumpers collect on enormous bets.

            Other than that I agree that a day of favorites is what track operators want. To everything, churn, churn, churn, there is a season, churn, churn, churn……

          • Peter Scarnati

            Yep. Churn is certainly the key. I agree completely with you on minus pools, though I avoided attempting to explain that to the previous poster. In reality though, minus pools are a very rare occurence — especially when bridgejumpers are involved.

      • TwoBays

        It is obvious that the big guns go where the big money is anyway.

        • Another commenter

          Well by playing the way the do they might be hastening the demise of tracks so that eventually they will have nowhere to go.

          • Mr J

            There are way too many tracks running at the same time. Mid Atlantic and Midwest are cannabalizing each othrer

          • Minneola

            Mr J: Agree with you. This is another reason for a centralized governing board. Would the former NBA commissioner, David Stern, have allowed this? No. While there were plenty of cities clamoring for their own professional team, Stern kept a “stern” hold on which cities got those teams. He looked at making certain that, among other factors, that one city didn’t draw fans from another nearby location. And, it is not only the location of these tracks but, also, their racing schedules that should not cannibalize from each other.

          • Concerned Observer

            Do you have any idea how far it is from Baltimore to Des Moines?

          • Mr J

            What does that have to do with anything,meathead

          • gus stewart

            He called u a meathead,, r u really mike stivik on old show all in the family archie bunkers son in law,, this blog is getting more humorous everyday lol

  • Richard C

    In another time, small independent operations were competitive mainstays in NASCAR and INDYCAR……but they have been squeezed out due to rule changes favoring “super” teams and runaway costs. It appears that this perplexing horsepower saga is now racing around another oval.

  • Bryan Langlois

    The other advantages larger stables likely have is power of price negotiation with suppliers. If they are buying things in bulk they can get a better price than the small guy who buys only a few at a time.
    The article did make a very nice comparison to todays corporation world where everyone is eventually getting bought up by larger companies. They are are going just far enough to not be legally considered a monopoly, but for all basic purposes act exactly as one.

  • Drama the Llama

    I faced this at the track I trained at. We’re running low on owners, and they all want their horses with the big outfits who put up the big numbers. What they don’t realize is if they have cheap horses, those horses get lost in the big outfits. If you’d give them to me to train, someone who only wants 5 or 6, then I’d spend the time figuring out whatever issues they might have whether physical or mental and would probably get them to win more often. NTM I’d charge less but still give great care. I am no longer training.

    • wmk3400

      I’m only a horseplayer but if I ever simultaneously hit the lottery, lose my mind and buy a racehorse I’d certainly want to use a small and hopefully trustworthy trainer for the reasons you have stated.

      Suppose I own a really nice, healthy and competitive claimer or allowance horse. Why would I choose a big name trainer, pay top per diem fees and be number 750 out of 900 strewn over 6 states? Who is really training my horse? I’d be nothing more than a wart on that trainers behind.

      I’d rather give a somebody like you that horse and the same goes for the jockey. I’ve watched horses owned by friends that were ready to run well and entered at a proper level ridden indifferently by a top rider who picks his teeth with the 10% winning commission of a 25K claiming race. That isn’t mentioning such a rider doesn’t want to beat a bigger outfit who might already have given him mounts or will in the future.

      By the way….you have my sympathies for having to change professions. I can relate to that. At least you’re flexible.

    • Guest

      Sadly this happens to many small but good trainers they are out of the business due to lack of owners lack of horses. When all the owners want to give their horses to big stables this makes it tough for the trainer to stay in business. It’s a shame I know I am a small trainer I’m the guest in the above comment. And I’m competing at a very tough eastern track. It’s not easy believe me

  • Really?

    This also makes it extremely tough for small trainers to get good jockeys even when they have the best horse in the race. They will almost 100% of the time spin the small trainer when given the opportunity to ride for someone with 50 horses.

    • Mama Ann

      And the agents are the absolute worst when it comes to this. Their greed knows no bounds.

  • Nell Ray

    Stables in America should be like the stable yards here in Europe. If a trainer so called super trainer and he has over 100 horses on the grounds but you still can’t fill Racing cards that’s a problem they’re doing nothing but taking up stall space. If they had their own yards to train from without the luxury of free rent then the mission would be to run horses and not have them sit about collecting dust. To the small stables. I say its called the sport of kings. It takes a kings ransom to be able to compete at the highest level and to stay at the highest level.

  • Guest

    I am a trainer have been for a long time I have a small stable. And I am a woman trainer. Small but successful in the last 10 years. What I see is most of the owners these days wanting their horse in a big stable. They want to have the big name trainer they want to say ya this stop trainer is training my horse! They want to be with the big boys! Be associated with them. Well in most cases they will certainly pay more day money and there horse will also just be just a number in the stable. It’s like a factory in the big stables train cool out back in the stalls. That’s how it goes. It’s such a shame that owners don’t give smaller trainers any chance to train their horses. There are plenty of good trainers that know how to train racehorses that never get the chance because alot of these owners have to rub elbows with the big name trainers. That’s the true reality these days, seen it time and again.

    • Guest

      Correction in above posting it’s supposed to read top trainer.

    • Shasta Sam

      You make excellent points and I totally agree. Given the escalating price of talented bloodstock, it is somewhat understandable that owners (especially those new to the game) want a high profile trainer. What they fail to understand is that their horse will likely get superior hands-on care in a smaller, lower profile barn. However, the flip-side of this issue is that plenty of expensive horses and clueless owners wind up with trainers who hit at a sub 5% win rate. With the trainer statistics so readily available, there is no excuse for that. If you give a horse to a trainer who wins at 2 or 3%, you probably deserve what you get.

    • Equiforce

      Absolutely

    • Robert Smith

      Well put. And when their horse breakdown or gets a positive they give them more money.

      • Another commenter

        And they have plenty more horses to focus on after that horse can’t be raced. There’s no percentage in taking really good care of horses with the goal of keeping them sound and racing. People never seem to talk about this, but horse breakdowns really do cause tracks to lose fans. We live in an era where horses are looked at as valued pets not disposable livestock. I loved racing at a distance all of my life. The first time I went to the track I was thrilled. It was so incredible! But a couple of breakdowns and fear of breakdowns and I was through. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way.

    • Mama Ann

      I agree and well said.

    • I am an owner. Small but would like to work my way up. Owners in big barns are numbers too. i would welcome the the thought of getting in a small barn where I can achieve my goals of why I have horses, which does not involve ego or rubbing shoulders. Growing with a trainer who wants to grow, and is focused, committed and has a positive attitude.

      My point in writing here is my observation with what I see is weak business skills. Trainers are entrepreneurs. The business they chose is horses. I feel many trainers are missing the boat and relying on results to get them known and hope for biz to follow.

      I would love to talk to any trainer and share ideas and resources on business building that I have learned from business coaches that I have worked with. i see a lot of lost opportunities that are missed by trainers working in their biz and not on it.

      • Vickie

        Hey Maureen give us a try my husband trains and I help take care of the stable. We would love to have a new owner that appreciate hard work.

        • Maureen

          Hi Vickie- please send me your contact info via FB message. Maureen Richardson Northern California

      • Guest

        Maureen you made some good points I am the trainer that is the guest in the above statement. I really feel that my operation is a honest well run small barn where we look after horses good too. I would welcome owners like you anyday that appreciate women trainers. It’s a tough game competing against 40-50 horse stables.

        • Gold Dancer

          Hello Guest. Thank you for reaching out. Let’s continue dialogue. If you are on FB please message me. I don’t want to post my phone or email on public forum such as this. I can be found via search engines too.

        • Maureen

          Hello Guest. Thank you for reaching out. Let’s continue dialogue. If you are on FB please message me. I don’t want to post my phone or email on public forum such as this. I can be found via search engines too. Maureen Richardson Northern California

        • Guest

          Ok that would be great thank you

  • Shasta Sam

    Here is the really hard reality: Many of these smaller barns at the major tracks simply don’t have the bloodstock to effectively compete against the high profile barns. They really belong at the smaller venues where, honestly, the competition is easier (and the purses are lower). I have no doubts that the Saavedras and their barn would be much more effective in NorCal and on the Fair Circuit. Everyone wants to play in the “Bigs” but, unless you have the bloodstock or a stable full of well heeled owners willing to play the claiming game, you don’t belong there.

    • Sampan

      This is a performance sport and you are right, they need decent stock.
      Also, they must run the horses where they belong to earn a check.

      • Shasta Sam

        If they run their horses where they belong, in SoCal, given the number of players willing to aggressively claim horses, their 10 horse barn will quickly be down to one or two very slow horses.

        • Sampan

          That’s the name of the game.
          I have a quick story for you.
          An owner with 5 horses was very unhappy with performance of his horses, all claimers.
          He said his trainer didn’t want to drop them down because he would lose them.
          I told him to drop his horses down until they can get a check or finish
          within 5 lengths of the winner.
          They did that and they won a race, had 2 seconds, a 3rd and a 4th.
          I also told him to tell the trainer if any get claimed you will replace them.
          Guess what? Not a single horse was claimed of him and they were very happy again.

    • Nell Ray

      Well expressed. my sentiments exactly.

      • Jill Baffert

        Are you done now? I hope so.

        • ray’s ghost

          Oh that’s it Jill, shut the man up. Whatever you do, don’t let him express his opinion about Mr. Plastic.

    • Mama Ann

      The problem with NorCal is they have their own set of big trainers up there. They will put three horses in a race to make it go and end up having a better chance to hit the boards. It not any better there. The Saavedras are horseman and don’t rely on the vets to come check every horse in their barn cause they have learned through their hands on approach born out of necessity when their horse doesn’t feel right out on the track. I watch the big barns line their horses up in the roads so the vets can give them their analysis of what is wrong and what to give them.

      • Shasta Sam

        Excluding “the Dorf”, there are a number of successful trainers in NorCal (Wright, Lucarelli, Delia, Martin, Mathis, etc.) but they are far from “big” trainers in the same sense as SoCal. Between GGF, TuP and Emd, trainers like the Saavedras would fit just fine.

        • Mama Ann

          On a different playing field it is the same. The jockeys there want to only ride for one of them. Morey, The Shermans Dorf Wright and more have lots of horses. And having been to those smaller tracks you have to win to make it there. Having a purse of 6000 or less makes it hard to pay the bills. At TUP Diodoro and his owners will claim horses here in SoCal and drop them to 8000 claim and bet the hell out of them. They win and the purse money doesn’t even compare to the jackpot of money they win at the window. The owners are oil rich Canadians that don’t mind putting down tens of thousands for a chance to make money even if they are favorites. And where he has a 100 horses or more upper management makes sure they overlook his bad tests and there is proof of that. This is another place that the test barn people let the top trainers know what they are testing for.

  • Danielle

    The only way to make the playing field more level is to make the trainer saddle his horse instead of have 5 different assistants at 5 different tracks.

    • Nell Ray

      That may effect international participation in American racing. Dont use a missile when a fly swatter will do just fine.

  • barn-talk

    Small outfit being ignored is the biggest reason for decline of horses at the tracks. Tracks need to stop talking about the decline and start setting a percentage of stalls for small operations and add to it every year.

    • Nell Ray

      The Stalls part I agree with. The problem with many small barns in America is that their pipe dreaming.looking to hit it big with some small-time claimer and win a group one. In all fairness there should be no such thing as a small-time operation in New York or Southern California both areas historically have been dependant upon the highest level of racing in America so if you have a stable of 10 claimers looking for a non winners of two Lifetime race to fill it’s not going to happen too often. Just like in all forms of sport there are some clubs teams and franchises who shouldn’t exist. he’ll here in Europe if you’re not good enough your team is relegated it’s forced out of the league. Those measurements should also apply in horse racing.

      • Meg Hiers

        While on a strict capitalism level, yes this is how it works, but as we have seen recently what happens when so many stakes quality horses are concentrated in a few barns: the trainer spreads them out to as many stakes as possible so the stakes races are poor affairs and certainly not good betting affairs OR you get races where several of the horses are trained by the same person, and even though they may have different owners, it certainly does open the door to backroom deals about whose turn it is to win on a given day…which doesn’t lead to much confidence when you are betting the race either.

        • MA

          ^ This

        • Nell Ray

          This is a business is it not? That’s how it goes take a trip down any grocery store cereal aisle and General Mills owns just about everything. That’s how it goes there’s no room for the small guy in anything.

          • ofmyownaccord

            Well in the old days they used to have stall caps and it didn’t matter if you were Frankel or Whittingham, you got 35 stalls and that was it.

            Forced rich owners to spread out their stock and it kept field size high. It also allowed some smaller outfits to get some quality horses and build their reputation. Can’t build a reputation with $500 stud fee, backyard Cal-bred.

            Also forced trainers to rotate their stock between the track and the farms. If a horse started to taper, send it to the farm and ship a rested horse back in its place.

      • Mama Ann

        And look and see who is filling the races during these meets because the big boys won’t cause it might ruin their percentages.

        • Nell Ray

          I wouldnt say that. as Ive said below American trainers are SPOILED. free rent for horses free rent for staff free water free electricity everything is free. Here in Europe its about PERFORMANCE. TRAINERS RENT THEIR YARDS OR OWN THEM THEY HAVE BILLS TO PAY SO THEY MUST RUN HORSES.

          • ofmyownaccord

            I agree, subsidized stall rent needs to end now. Why run a horse when you can sit on it for 6 months and collect free money from the owner. Because the first time that horse doesn’t run well, the hourglass gets flipped and the sand starts falling.

          • Larry Ensor

            In all fairness to trainers. There is little to no profit in “day money”. Trying to live off of 10% isn’t always easy either. But as a farm owner I have little to no sympathy when track trainers complain, gripe about their expenses and over head. Even less for Jockeys

      • Another commenter

        Well, they may have the highest level of racing at the California tracks but most of the races on the card are not written for the highest level of horses with the fanciest trainers. Claiming races are the foundation for the big stakes races. These are the races that small time operations are necessary to fill them with their less than G3 horses. When you start cancelling races on the undercard because no one will enter them, then you end up as Santa Anita has having to terminate the meet early because you have no horses for bettors to bet on.

        • Nell Ray

          But that’s the problem America pushes horse like Arrogate as the best in the World meanwhile he hasnt run in 6 months. American racing more than any other country is dependent upon sellers (you guys call it claimers ) I ve never understood that. I wouldnt say CA as a whole has the highest level of racing. just that NYC AND LA area tracks were set up to have high level racing in America.

          • RayPaulick

            Actually, America isn’t pushing that. The World’s Best Racehorse rankings come from the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, which is chaired by Louis Romanet of France. Arrogate hasn’t run in 3 1/2 months — not six months. Feel free to take your alternative facts elsewhere.

            http://www.horseracingintfed.com/default.asp?section=Resources&area=0&story=983

          • Nell Ray

            Ok. 3 1/2 months. If any sports star player played every 4 to 6 moths how viable is that sport? If you put up an article every 3 months would you be taken seriously as a journalist?

          • RayPaulick

            Moot point. I’m not taken seriously now.

          • Nell Ray

            Eye of the beholder I suppose.

          • Jay Stone

            Good answer

          • Larry Ensor

            Lol, I take you seriously Ray. But not many have taken me seriously so that’s moot.

      • Peter Scarnati

        The advent of “better” tracks writing lifetime conditioned or beaten claiming races is yet another reason why field size has declined in recent years. Doing so has only spread out entries at a time when fewer horses are available — a devastating situation as regarding field size.
        It used to be (and rightfully so) that those types of races were only written at lower level tracks.

  • Katfree

    So true. My husband and I have a small stable, we do everything. But times being as they are we are trying to decide if we can continue. They seem to forget that we need the little barns as well as the big ones to make horseracing successful.

  • Mr J

    Alot of small outfits are help by the slits fueled racinos at small tracks. They cant expect to run for graded stakes without a big investment.It takes $ to make $

    • Bruce Walker

      I would like someone to tell me which owners are making money in the racing game?. If there is someone out there that has an answer please throw some names at me I’ve been around horse racing for 60 years I can’t throw any names in the hat, the more dollars you throw into this game the more dollars you loose. There may be the very odd little owner that gets lucky with one horse. And can show a profit at the end of the year. Big players no such luck.

  • Jennifer Mylrea

    I grew up at the race track. My father was a jockey. I got walked and groomed growing up. I am grown and have a thoroughbred that I adopted from the last trainer I worked for. From my perspective. People are over breeding. Going for quantity not quality. If we implement a high breed fee for thoroughbreds. That would get saved and part of that fee can be put away for these animals future. My generation is concerned about these animals future. I can’t stand to see the industry suffer. My fondest childhood memories are at the race. But I also can’t stand hearing stories of champion racing ending up at auctions. Things need to change.

    • Andy Bell

      Did you even read the article? Or have you just been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share your stupid idea about breeding fees? Jesus.

    • ridingtowin

      The industry is not over-breeding. There were roughly 65,000 foals registered each year with the Jockey Club back in the 80s, while last year there was (if I remember correctly), roughly 20,000 foals registered. There has been a steady decline the past couple decades.

  • gus stewart

    lots of good points on different reasons why small trainers are struggling .I’m in agreement with these reasons, first a commissioner and not tied in to some big trainer or owner. you have to promote the sport as entertainment and fun to attract smaller groups of owners. The reason most owners either quit the biz, or transfer their horse to a dah,, super trainer/ vet is because the biz does not stop these scenarios. the meds from private vets!!! You could ask 50 owners why they stopped the horse biz, or transferred their horses. 90 percent would say if I cant beat them and don’t like them I will quit. or I will just do what they are doing. then of course your looking at your day rate going up 30 t0 40 a day and if you have a claimer, your probably still gonna lose, stumbling around with 2000 people on track maybe, kicking tickets over on track, looking for a winning ticket. Just isn’t really a fun type of biz to get involved with ya think. but changes can be made if someone from the top just says,” that’s it most of you are gone”!!!!!

  • 33horses

    One of the worst parts of being with the top trainers is there’s no attention to detail and almost every horse is fed the same.
    We need these smaller trainers, they’re the backbone of the industry

  • Rob B

    For every half million dollar horse that made a profit in these big stables there were 4 who didn’t. The problem is we never hear about the horses who cost 300k and get tossed to the side because they know there’s another 300k baby waiting in the wings.

  • Minneola

    One of the first things that popped into my mind is the narrow choice so many of us have: AT&T or Comcast. When the field has narrowed down so much, what happens? Less quality, less attention to customers, less innovation. I can understand the thinking of some owners in that the big trainers have a lot of experience on various tracks, races, etc. But, should an owner expect as much individual attention to their own horse by these big trainers with big barns? I wonder what might have happened if a big name trainer — with a big barn and wealthy owners — had owned a colt that was Cal-bred for $10,500, with more modest pedigree, and a couple of regular guys that were not walking around with money falling out of their pockets?

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