Not so great expectations

by Trey Nosrac

Part of the $10 million I spent on gambling, part on booze and part on women. The rest I spent foolishly ~ George Raft ~

Among my flaws (my ex-wife and current girlfriend will supply complete lists upon request) is a lack of fiscal responsibility. I fancy myself a bit of an Oscar Wilde guy where anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. Fifty bucks of tips in the front pocket of my Hawaiian shirt from satisfied Lyft passengers is my version of a bull market.

I may not be Warren Buffet, but unlike many who get into the game of harness horse yearlings, I understand the meaning of two words — disposable and income. And I also know a racehorse is a poor investment. In my somewhat warped universe, harness horse ownership is a drug of choice for one reason – I enjoy it.

I have purchased approximately a dozen yearling harness race horses. The word “race” proved to be superfluous in the previous sentence. Few made money. Still, in my strange world, every one was a rousing success. They each gave me what I signed up for, a season or two of entertainment.

Horse owners always seem to say they, “Are in the game to have fun.” But behind their words, every owner believes that they will hit the harness race jackpot. Then, shockingly, they are disappointed when slapped by reality. This subliminal expectation exercise is a burden horse racing face that other channels for disposal income do not need to confront.

I remember getting Cool Hand Lucas Anderson to go halves on a yearling (he once stumbled into a luau fire pit and the hot coals melted his middle two fingers together like a reverse Vulcan salute). I spoke to him slowly and clearly like I was talking to a five-year-old and said, “Cool Hand, while we might make some money buying this baby horse… it is very, very unlikely.” “Do… not… do… it… to… make… money.”

He replied, “No problem, I get it, this is a flyer, a long shot, pie in the sky, just for fun.”

He did not get it. The horse did not race. Cool Hand spent months moaning that I chiseled him and tried to get some of his money back from my retired mother! Then he concluded our partnership by stealing my golf clubs and pawning them out of town.

The warnings about buying a racehorse do not seem to matter. People think they are exceptions. They do not find the ride reward enough. Do any of my Lyft riders expect me to pay them upon arrival? If you take a cruise to Fiji, do you expect to come home with more money than when you embarked?

If every day of the Fiji trip you woke up burdened by thoughts about how expensive the trip is – you may as well stay home. The only people on a trip to Fiji that have a chance to make money are the crew and perhaps a few Somali pirates. Everyone else just pays the fare and takes a ride.

Owning a yearling is my Fiji cruise. I get what cruisers get – memories, dreams, like-minded friends, doughnuts and coffee in the morning, and adventures. The ride, wherever it goes, should be the mindset in harness horse ownership. But it is not.

The concept that you have a remote chance to make money as a harness race horse owner should be viewed as a perk, not a priority. Here are two tips from my bizarre world, a world where I laugh at losing money on horse ownership while my creditors weep at unpaid bills.

Gone, baby gone. Earmark disposable income, as truly disposable. This takes practice and it helps to make a one-time, lump-sum payment. Don’t play mind games that somehow this money is an investment. Fix into your mind that those assets are gone the instant the ink dries on the check. The money was for your Fiji cruise. If you accomplish this mental feat – any purse money from your horse will be as wondrous as an eagle landing on your lap and depositing a golden egg.

Set your bar low. Set it low, real low, so low that you can walk over it like it was a strand of yarn on the carpet. I often put my bars underground. For my yearlings, I have few goals. I get to name my horse something really cool, I want my yearling to do better than Crazy Frank’s yearlings (which is not hard because he has never paid more than two grand for his Harrisburg selections, thus remaining zero for nine), and I want my yearling to go a training mile in 2:45. These are doable; they are realistic expectations. This has made me what I am today, rarely disappointed, driving for Lyft, studying horse sale catalogues on my iPad and living in Uncle Leo’s basement.

Now you may think me foolish, but I have a lot fun owning harness racehorses and watching them train; more fun than the .09% of the owners who make money. It’s all perspective and it’s only money.

Besides, I have a few more dollars to spend in the yearling game. After Cool Hand dropped out of our partnership taking my golf clubs as a parting gift, I saved money by no longer having to pay golf greens fees.