Perfect Match in Indiana

After sharing the same trainer and wanting to separately claim the same horse, owners Brian Carsey and John McGill discovered they were better together. Now they are gunning for success on the Grand Circuit.

by James Platz

Racing partnerships take on all shapes and sizes, and the stories behind their formation are just as varied. In the case of Brian Carsey and John McGill, the two Indiana-based owners formed an alliance after attempting to claim the same horse. Since joining forces, the two men have developed a partnership that has yielded success in the Hoosier State, and now they are looking to replicate that success on the Grand Circuit.

The relationship began a few years back when McGill reached out to his trainer, Walter Haynes Jr., to tell him he wanted to claim a horse racing that night at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Haynes delivered the bad news that Carsey was already set to put in a claim.

“He told me, ‘I should just introduce you two,’” McGill recalled of the conversation with Haynes.

Carsey would soon get a phone call, and the partnership was set in motion. And from day one things have clicked between the two owners.

“It seemed like a perfect match. John and I both have the same vision for growth,” Carsey said. “It’s really been a good relationship.”

Neither man was new to racing. In the 1980s, Carsey’s father had horses, and that prompted him to try his hand at owning, training and driving. He quickly learned he was not cut out for that endeavor, and left racing to start his own business. When he returned in the late 2000s, he did so through the claiming ranks. McGill, on the other hand, began his racing experience through a yearling purchase and it snowballed from there. At one time, he built a broodmare band of 23 mares and owned stakes horses and claimers.

Beginning strictly in the claiming ranks, McGill and Carsey have worked to build a stable with quality horses that can compete at the top level in Indiana. One of their earliest acquisitions, trotter Martz Time, was claimed in September 2013, late in his four-year-old season. Before year’s end he had turned a profit for the partnership. In 2014, the son of Primetime Ranger earned over $120,000, and in each of the next two seasons the gelding banked over $90,000, winning an Indiana Sires Stakes final for older trotters in 2015.

“Brian is a super partner,” McGill said. “He’s got a great eye for horses. Brian and I agree on most everything. We
think the same.”

Carsey and McGill continued to add horses and send them to Haynes. And as those horses won, they added still more. Haynes had to add on to the barn at his farm to accommodate the partnership’s horses. The trainer noted that while some owners put the onus on the conditioner to find a horse to claim, this partnership does all of the leg work and are very hands-on in the approach to ownership.

“Ultimately, we are trying to maintain a stable of upper-end horses and stakes caliber horses,” Carsey said. “We want to provide good, quality horses for our trainers. We’re not as focused on the numbers. Right now we have 35, with around 20 racing.”

With the success in the claiming ranks, the partnership has gradually expanded into stakes horses. The two have dabbled in the program to a smaller degree, but they have also enjoyed success. In late 2014, they paid $26,000 for a Rockin Image colt at the Hoosier Classic sale and entrusted him to trainer Roger Cullipher, whose wife, Debbie, became a partner. As a freshman, Matrix Of Luck won seven of 12 starts, including the $220,000 Super Final, and banked $244,000.

Last fall, the partnership continued to diversify their portfolio. They purchased a few more Indiana-sired yearlings that will debut this summer at Hoosier Park, if all goes well. Those babies were sent to Cullipher to break and prepare. They were also aggressive in the fall and winter, purchasing two pacers they hope to campaign on the Grand Circuit this season. Their most visible purchase thus far has been the four-year-old Missile J. Plucked out of the Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale for $115,000, the son of American Ideal quickly won his first three races for the partnership. He has paced in a lifetime best 1:49.1 under the tutelage of trainer Scott DiDomenico and has earned $33,200 in five starts.

“He’s turned out to be a real nice horse so far,” Carsey said. “We put all the faith in Scotty. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t own him.”

DiDomenico was also sent Breeders Crown runner-up Manhattan Beach after Carsey bought the pacer at Harrisburg in November. The son of Somebeachsomewhere brought $130,000. The two men expected the winner of more than $480,000 to bring more in the sale ring. As the bidding went on, the chance of owning the full-brother to Little Brown Jug champ Limelight Beach became more of a reality.

“That was kind of an accident,” McGill said. “We identified seven that we would like to have, and Brian and Junior (Haynes) went out there. We figured he was just way out of our price range. We were kind of shocked.”

The two purchases are part of a strategy the men have developed where the focus is to continue to develop the quality of the racing stable. They want to have stakes horses and racehorses that can compete at Hoosier Park, but also maintain Grand Circuit-caliber stock. It doesn’t hurt that the Breeders Crown will be hosted at Hoosier Park this fall. Should things go well, the partnership could add a local interest to the races with their pair of pacers.

“Hopefully, if things go well, we’ll hit the Grand Circuit and try to have something here,” Carsey said of the Crown. “It definitely motivated us to look out there and see what we could find. Time will tell if these horses can compete.”

While they have these two racehorses to campaign in 2017, they continue to look to add to the stable.

“We’re still bullish,” McGill said. “We look at horses every day. We would really like to own a couple of Grand Circuit mares and colts. That would be our goal.”