Anthony MacDonald was already onto a good idea with his spin on fractional ownership (www.thestable.ca), but the evolution of that idea is where I think he’s really onto something.
Speaking at the USTA annual meeting on Monday (Feb. 27) in Las Vegas, MacDonald proposed that thestable.ca might do for talented trainers down on their luck what it’s already doing for those that were looking for an inexpensive way to get into horse ownership to have a little fun.
MacDonald told the story of trainer Harry Poulton — with Poulton’s blessing. Poulton, who conditioned Hall of Famers On The Road Again and Matt’s Scooter, is currently training just one horse, not because he can’t communicate effectively with horses, MacDonald said, but because Poulton isn’t quite as gifted at communicating with people. Poulton certainly isn’t alone among trainers in that regard.
MacDonald then posed the following: what if Poulton trained some horse for thestable.ca and freed up MacDonald to deal more with the clients and drumming up new investment? Sounds like a win-win.
After all, MacDonald, a Prince Edward Island native that has been blessed with a Maritimer’s gift for the gab, seems particularly cut out to be the affable, hard-working, front man. Remember, he ran for political office in Guelph, ON a few years ago. He’s a talker.
What if the idea of adding other trainers was expanded to others that have proven records of success, but currently have few horses to train due, partly, to a poor ability to attract and retain owners in the modern era? There’s more people out there like that than you might think. I’ll refrain from naming them lest I embarrass them, but I’m sure you can think of several former top trainers that are no longer having as much success but are still active and knowledgeable.
MacDonald said his operation might be able to give them the access to stock they need to return to prominence.
Imagine if thestable.ca employed trainers with particular talents and specialties and allocated the right horses to those people. How cool would it be to be a one per cent owner in a horse trained by a Hall of Famer or someone who won a Hambletonian or Meadowlands Pace?
That’s just the beginning of where this could go.
At USHWA’s Dan Patch Awards just the night before MacDonald addressed the USTA meeting, trainer Jimmy Takter thanked his talented team for helping him land both a third straight Trainer of the Year Award and a major share of the Horse of the Year award for Takter pupil Always B Miki. Apart from his caretakers, Takter singled out his wife, Christina, for being the rock that keeps the stable office running; Perry Soderberg for his expertise at picking out yearlings and Conny Svensson for his talents as a farrier. Takter not only has extreme talent at conditioning horses, he’s also deft at attracting and keeping owners that fund the entire project.
Thestable.ca had modest success in 2016 — perhaps its biggest achievement is that 75 of the original 77 investors re-upped for a 2017 — but MacDonald admitted he was mostly working with mediocre horses. He said people are sticking around because they had fun at a reasonable cost and contends that proves horse owners aren’t always fixated on return on investment.
“There is a major market for affordable ownership if you do it the right way,” he said.
I contend the secret to long-term engagement is keeping all the things that worked well at thestable.ca and having even more success on the track. Wouldn’t we all love to see a huge group of fractional owners in the winner’s circle at a major stakes race?
By adapting Takter’s model — working with the very best specialists in the industry and letting those people handle the areas they know best — thestable.ca could go from a new model of horse ownership that is a fun way to introduce people to the game, to a truly exceptional operation.
MacDonald already has himself as the man selling the dream and training the string; his partner and wife, Amy, as a key organizational force and his brother, Curtis, as a tech wizard handling the website and piloting the drone that takes 4K video of the horses training so investors from around the world can see their horses on the track.
This is not to denigrate Anthony’s training abilities or his eye for picking out a horse, but if he focused most of his energy on communication, contracted some top-notch trainers with particular skill sets that could use some work and added a person or two of Soderberg and Svensson’s stature to pick out the horses in the first place and help them excel on the track, the potential would be unlimited.
In other words, build an even better team and let those people play to their strengths all while giving a helping hand to talented people that need it.
Now that would be something to invest in.