9 January 2008

Time For Owners Of Thoroughbreds In Ontario To Think About Who Their 2008 Trainer Will Be

The dust has cleared as thoroughbred horse owners in Ontario have just received their last bills for 2007. How did you do? Have you figured out that no matter how your horse or horses did, the lower the expenses, the more you would have made? Well that last question was pretty easy. Did you like your trainer's decisions overall in 2007? The trainer makes lots and lots of decisions, probably too many decisions. Did you help him or her out? Did your trainer pay you for your opinion? Of course not. The big question is, do you think you would have done better with someone else training for you? Are you aware of what the competition charges? I'm about to let you know.


I'm going to make some assumptions here. Your horse trains for 8 months in the year and races 12 times, for 4 months is your horse is resting at a farm. Also, your horse is Woodbine caliber and runs 11 times at Woodbine and once at Fort Erie.

Training a race horse at Fort Erie could be a lot cheaper for an owner than training the horse at Woodbine. I'm going to go through the pluses and minuses.

Cost of training:

At Woodbine, trainers charge between $60 - $110 per day. 60 bucks and 110 are very rare. The bulk of trainers charge $70-75 a day.

At Fort Erie, trainers charge between $40 - $60 per day. The bulk of trainers charge $50 a day. At Fort Erie, some trainers will offer "the deal." The typical deal is where the owner buys the horse, and the trainer is responsible for all or most of the bills in return for half the purses, and half the equity in the horse once the owner gets his or her purchase price back. For a trainer, this deal is a killer for them unless the horse makes at least $30,000 for the year. Trainers who take deals on cheap horses are usually desperate, and you have to wonder about their foresight. The only way a deal makes sense for a trainer today is if the horse is competitive at a claiming price of $16,000 or greater.

The actual cost to a hands off trainer who does nothing in the way of grooming or walking a horse can be broken down like this:

Groom $23 Hot Walker $8 Food and Bedding $15 Exercise Boy (4-5 times a week@$15 per day) $10 Total Cost=$56 per day

For Erie
Groom $18 Hot Walker $5 Food and Bedding $14 Exercise Boy (4-5 times a week@$12 per day) $8 Total Cost=$45 per day

Remember, these are estimates. Trainers also bring capital investments to the table, some bring a lot more than others. That being said, they could save money by using a hot walker machine, for example, but it cost the trainer to buy the machine. Some have "magical" blankets too. The trainer can also save on feed by buying it off the track in bulk, but they could also add supplements which may or may not appear on your bill as well as over the counter meds.
Trainers also incur Workers Comp charges.

I have always contended that the 10% is what the trainer is entitled to. If he or she wants to make money in the morning, then they should rub a horse or two.

Shoeing Charges

8 months of training and 12 races will mean about 8 pairs of shoes. At Fort Erie, the usual cost is $100 a change. At Woodbine it is around $120-$125.

Shipping Charges

If stabled at Woodbine, shipping once to Fort Erie from Woodbine would cost $200 for the year.
If stabled at Fort Erie, shipping eleven times to Woodbine from Fort Erie would cost $2200 for the year.
Shipping to and from your layoff farm total around $200 a year no matter if you have a Woodbine or Fort Erie trainer.

Layoff Period

Most farms charge between $15-$25 per day. So lets say the typical owner pays around $600 X 4 months per year.

Stake Monies
Many trainers will charge an additional 1% for at least a win on a training bill so that at least the groom will get a stake. Typically, many trainers pay $50-$150 for a second as well to the groom (the owner is usually charged). So a typical owner of a Woodbine horse with a 12 starts a year (lets say 2 wins and a second), will pay an additional $700 in stakes.
Stake money differs dramatically from barn to barn.

Vet Bills
Expect to pay around $200-$300 per start per horse on average regardless of the track.

Miscellaneous Bills
Some trainers will add on tack charges or over the counter meds onto your bill. Most don't charge for this.

Some trainers will say that Fort Erie is a much more calming track, especially for a high strung horse. Lots of grass to graze on, and no airplanes coming and going every 2 minutes. But if you are at Woodbine, you have the option to train on the Poly, sort of a home field advantage.

Lets add it all up:

Training (@$70 per day): $70 X 240 = $16800
Shoes : $125 X 8 = $ 1000
Layoff Charges : $20 X 125 = $ 2500
Shipping = $ 400
Stake Money = $ 700
Vet Bills = $ 3000

Total = $24400
This means your horse needs to make around $30500 a year just to break even. And at $75 a day, the owner needs to make $32,000 a year to break even.

Fort Erie:
Training (@50 per day): $50 X 240 = $12000
Shoes : $100 X 8 = $ 800
Layoff Charges : $20 X 125 = $ 2500
Shipping = $ 2400
Stake Money = $ 700
Vet Bills = $ 3000

Total = $21400
This means your horse needs to make $26750 a year to break even.

If you own a horse that only runs at Fort Erie, the horse may have a few more layoff days because the season is a little shorter, and of course, less shipping charges, so the total that needs to be earned to break even may be $3,000-$4,000 lower than the amount of $26,700.

Many Fort Erie trainers are just as talented as Woodbine trainers, but they may just like the small track/small town feel. Either way, the owner needs to have a trainer they can trust, and one who doesn't intimidate them. If the owner wants to have a big say, they should have it. It is their horse, and they are the one who is most at risk.
Remember, you are the owner, you are doing the trainer a favour by choosing to do business with him or her. Don't forget it.


Anonymous said...

Great work Cangamble!

Vet "accessories" can be very high at times. Blood work is $50 a shot, to see if your horse is in good shape. Down time, antibiotics, gastroguard, jugging etc.

I would love to know what someone who has horses with a high percentage trainer pays. I have heard there are some whopper bills out there for some of those guys. It'd be neat to see a high low spread if someone out there wants to take a crack at it.

My guess? Low of $2400 and high of $5000.

Anonymous said...

PTP, harness racing is very drug oriented. Those spending the bucks on vet bills are doing a lot better than those who don't, and I've heard of vet bill getting up to a couple of thousand for a month by the higher percentage outfits.
To be fair, they race twice as much as thoroughbreds on average, sometimes more (plus they can go 52 weeks a year), so I would expect their vet bills to be doubled at least, and since they are in training longer, those bills will be higher as well, though I don't think their day pay is as high as the thoroughbreds.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cangamble,

No, my post was about thoroughbreds. I know what standardbred bills are (sometimes) not very pretty!, but I have heard anecdotally that a big stable runs bloods once a week in t-breds. $50 per blood is an extra $200/month. Also, jugging is something that costs money and is not cheap, but some barns (again anecdotally) do it with some regularity.

I am wondering, if someone who has a horse in a big barn, would let us know (no names needed of course) what ancillary vet bills are, and how they are broken out. Some barns use knock offs for ulcer treatment and other things, some use the real thing. The real thing can be really, really expensive. I would bet, for example, the Pletchers of the world are not using generic drugs.

Anyway, just my thoughts. I would like to see if someone wants to take a crack at telling us about the high end of the billing scale in Ontario.

Anonymous said...

there are some incidental expenses which you have missed. One dollar per day per stall for manure removal at woodbine.Miscellaneous repairs to blankets, coolers, bridles, saddles, halters, martingales etc. Day-to-day supplies ... soap sponges,laundry detergent,tack cleaner, leg linaments and poultice, zev, etc, etc. There is also the initial purchase of all your equipment ... saddles, bridles, bits, shanks, saddle pads and cloths, martingales, coolers and blankets, standing bandages, polos, approved electric fans {over $200 apiece} stall mats {$50 each} As you can see it is very easy to spend $500 a month at the tack shop and this list is by no means complete!

Anonymous said...

Anon, I know that additional tack charges can be around $3-5 a day per horse, probably closer to $3 over the season though.
Fans and blankets, etc. are part of the trainers inventory and I have no problem if a trainer wants to charge an extra buck or two a day on his day pay to eventually cover the costs.
A fair charge for Fort Erie would be around $50-$55 a day, and at Woodbine, $65 a day.

Anonymous said...

well, i have a thoroughbred at woodbine with a top 5 trainer. Maybe from the sounds of it im doing ok. I have been with him for a while now, and have never paid over 3k for entire months bill,all in. I havent seen any hidden fees or bs. Its kinda funny though, ive had a few trainers over the last 10 yrs and it seems the smaller trainers are the more knit picky ones in regards to extra things than the bigger outfits. Hope this helped the some of the harness guys out.