by Trey Nosrac
“Well, they hated it,” I said, driving through a steady rain towards a CVS Drug Store drive-thru to pick up a prescription for David.
“Who hated what?” he asked.
“The Zoom Squad.”
“Six of my pals who own broodmares. Normally on the first Tuesday after New Year’s Day, we get together at theTick Tock Tavernto kick around sires available for our mares, the state of racing affairs, rumors and my crazy ideas.”
He gave a thumbs-up. “A meeting of big shots.”
“Hardly. Tim Rogers is a commercial breeder, but most of us splash in the kiddie pool with a mare or two. This year, we had to zoom, so I dubbed us the Zoom Squad to spice things up. Honestly, without beer and chicken wings, the meeting was a letdown.”
“What did your Zoom Squad hate.”
“An idea of mine where breeders should create a system where if one of the yearlings they sell qualifies as a 2-year-old, the buyer gets some ROI.”
He rolled his eyes, “Return on Investment? Who are you, Warren Buffett?”
“Closer to Jimmy. But my thinking is that when a buyer spends a minimum of around $40,000 on buying, staking, and training a racehorse, they should get rewarded for actually getting the horse qualified.”
“And the other Zoomers disagreed?”
“Enthusiastically. Juan, the oldest member of the squad, called it my worst idea since setting up wine bars at AA meetings. T-Rex said the idea sounded like a Bolshevik plot, and our squadron leader, Big Matt, used so much profanity I’m surprised it got past the Zoom police.”
“So, you let the idea drop?”
“No, I always keep shaking the tree until a few nuts fall out or someone punches me. But for once, I changed a few minds.”
“That rarely happens,” he said.
“The thing is, I explained that I wasn’t talking about serious money for qualifying to race. What I was suggesting was more along the lines of a public relations gesture.”
“From whom, how much, and how?”
“Not much. But little things can mean a lot, maybe $100. Look, I know it would not make a dent fiscally. The money wouldn’t cover a horseshoe, but to some owners, especially new owners, psychologically, it could mean plenty. Getting CLOSE to a good horse and being validated may be enough to make a new owner try again.”
“Anyone along the young standardbred racehorse food chain. The award could be from the stallion ownership, the boarding farm, the sales company, or the breeding farm. They all could track their customers and consider a little qualifying gifting.”
He nodded and got a bit enthused, “With computers, it would be simple to track. Just enter a horse’s name and set up a program to track it. When the horse succeeds in a qualifying race, you receive a notification.”
“Making the qualifying time is a noble goal. That day is always a high point when I try to race a 2-year-old; it’s a big deal, a milestone. Some horses are on their way to earning purse money and glory. Plenty of horses manage the qualifying goal, and that’s about it. They are not talented enough to seriously compete for money.”
“And you feel qualifying needs to be noted, rewarded.”
“Heck yeah. Imagine that you own a horse. It doesn’t’ matter if you are a millionaire or me. On the day after qualifying, Amazon Prime drops off a fruit basket and an envelope on your front porch. You open the envelope and see a gift card and read the note.”
We noticed that Glad Tidings, the horse you purchased at the 2020 Hoosier sale, has recently qualified.Congratulations! We hope this is the beginning of a successful career. Glad Tidings spent the first 14 months of his life at Fifty Shades of Hay Boarding Farm. We will follow him every step of the way. Please accept these gifts for reaching this early racing milestone (and maybe give one of the apples to Glad Tidings).
—Rick Smith, Fifty Shades of Hay
He said, “So, this would be like a participation ribbon with a few dollars attached?”
“Exactly. The little award is unexpected. Whatever your financial situation, everyone likes to get a little TLC. Stuff like that makes a difference, and not just to the receiver. It feels good to give.”
“Did you say you changed a mind?”
“Yeah. Big Matt, you know, the big swearer from the Zoom Squad. Big Matt co-signs about a dozen mares every year. He might have been drinking, but he growled, ‘Hey you XXXXXXXXX clown, that’s not a XXXXXXXXX bad idea. I’m keeping track of my XXXXXXXXX yearlings that get sold. Every one of the XXXXXXXXX new owners is getting a XXXXXXXXX fruit basket.’”
David chuckled. “Quite the conversationalist.”
“Yeah, but Big Matt has a soft heart and is a shrewd businessman.”