A season of interest

A season of interest

January 23, 2021

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by Trey Nosrac

As we drove among the snowy checkerboards of farmland bordering the road to visit my broodmare, my passenger asked a random question. “If you needed to specialize in one segment of harness horse racing, would you prefer racing a horse that you own, wagering on races, or raising a baby for sale?”

I thought carefully for 20 seconds, equaling my current record for thoughtful deliberation, and answered, “When I stumbled into the sport, my list was gambling first, racing second, and then a very distant third almost out of the picture, was breeding. Today, it’s a complete reversal.”

“Why?”

“The breeding segment of the sport grew on me. Getting a yearling into a sale ring is quite a challenge. Currently, with only one broodmare, my total costs are less. Plus, if the price is not right at a sale, I can always take the yearling home for racing.”

“That surprises me,” he said, “Breeding a baby horse is such a long process, years between breeding your mare and getting the yearling to the sales ring. That means day after day, nothing much happens, and you can be, well, a tad hyper.”

I smiled. “In the breeding game, nothing happening is good. There are three thrills along the way — my broodmare getting in foal, the baby arriving safe and sound, and then the most terrifying, exciting, excruciating, thrilling two minutes imaginable, seeing the yearling in the sales ring.”

“Patience and waiting are out of character for you.”

“I am a man of many mysteries. Besides, I discovered a secret sauce that makes the entire breeding process fun and gives me plenty of action every day of the racing season.”

“Secret Sauce? Action every day?”

“Maybe I should title this my… Uber Unique Scheduling for Maximizing Interest in the Standardbred Breeding Game.”

“Maybe you should just explain yourself in English.”

“Today, you will meet my yearling, a filly sired by Long Tom. She will go to market this fall. You will also meet my broodmare that is due this April. She is carrying a baby from a stallion named Enterprise. I believe Long Tom and Enterprise are both very, very promising stallions, but something else influenced my selection of sires for my broodmare.”

“Which is?”

“Long Tom’s first crop will begin racing this year. Enterprise’s first crop will begin racing next year.”

“So?”

“This makes each season more enjoyable for me. My advanced planning will offer me seasons with reasons to cheer for Long Tom 2-year-olds in 2021 and Enterprise 2-year-olds in 2022. For me, breeding to the second or third crop of a stallion hits a sweet spot that adds another dimension on the fun front.”

“Fun?”

“This summer, as the Long Tom 2-year-olds begin to race, every field will be of interest to me. These races become very significant. I am an official member of team Long Tom. Next year, I will be a member of the Enterprise team.”

He gave a dismissive flick of his wrist, “How much difference to the value of your baby horse is the first crop?”

“It’s important. When my yearling goes to market, how the first crop races is a HUGE factor for my yearling, should the 2YO Sires Stakes races have plenty of Long Tom’s rocking the racing scene, my yearling will be more valuable.”

“The value could go the other way.”

“True, but this year, the mystery of Long Tom will begin to get solved in front of my anxious eyes. There is only one first racing crop. A proven stallion such as Cantab Hall has no mystery. He is a great stallion, and everyone knows what he can produce. On the other hand, if you breed your mare to a brand-new stallion, you are IN the first crop. Nobody knows for sure what they will do. Owners of offspring of stallions bred in the second crop are the only people who will have the excitement of watching the first crops prove their power in real-time. And you know Trey loves free thrills.”

“And watching first racing crops is entertainment?”

“Indeed. Granted, I’m not normal but think of it like this. There are piles of football, basketball, or baseball games available. As a viewer, how much do you care that the Western Kentucky University Hill Toppersare playing the Akron College Zips in the Fruit Bowl, during the same time slot as six other games?”

He shrugged. “Not much unless you graduated from Akron, or your nephew plays for the Hilltoppers.”

I continued. “Or during the baseball season, there can be sixteen games broadcast every day.”

He completed my sentence for me, “And most viewers probably only care about their home team’s game.”

I honked the horn in agreement, “EXACTLY! Our brains strain to find reasons to take a side in a game or a race. When we have a reason to watch, and the reason can be quite flimsy, the contests become much more absorbing.”

He nodded. “I’m beginning to smell your secret sauce.”

“This year, thousands of horse races will be available that are meaningless to me. When I wager a few dollars on a race, my interest goes up a few ticks for a few moments. However, having a stake in the performance of Long Tom 2-year-olds, and placing a few dollars on them, will ratchet my interest button up to warp nine.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. I have been down this road. A harness sire’s first racing class brings a whole new dimension. Owners of a member of the second crop, or even third crop, will scour the entries for 2-year-old races for Long Toms entries and have a reason to watch the race. And while a brain transplant would be necessary to help my handicapping, by intensely following the fates of the Long Tom offspring all year long, when I place a few dollars on these races, it makes me a bit of a Long Tom specialist.”

“Maybe you should see a specialist.”

“My friend, I play this game for enjoyment. This little quirk, breeding in this niche time frame, is a chance to guarantee an extra dose of interest and to cheer for a team. Heck, it’s more than a chance. Cheering for Long Tom this summer is a sure thing.”

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