Partnership Milestone, Reflections and Lessons Learned

by Barry Roos

When Balanced Attack won the feature at Laurel yesterday, it marked the 50th win for our partnership G-Biscuit Stable LLC. For the year we have won 18 races in 52 starts (35%) and have been in the money 69%. An hour later we grabbed our 51st win for the year at Hawthorne and that win got our lifetime win percentage to an amazing 25% after 5 years. We have certainly had our ups and downs after 5 years, but the lessons I learned as a trainer concerning running a partnership have come to fruition, and those lessons I would like to share.

When I was training in New England, I would receive horses to train from the late great Hall of Fame conditioner PG Johnson. He would send me the horses who couldn’t compete on the New York circuit and my job was to win and hopefully get the horses claimed or sold. In the mid 80’s PG sent me a 3 year old for a top NY partnership. They had paid 30,000 for him and he was having trouble winning in NY. I won 3 in row, and he was claimed in his third start. PG was thrilled, mission accomplished. Strangely, the man running the partnership was not too happy. I couldn’t figure it out at the time. I got another horse in, for the same group. PG said try her at the bottom. I ran her maiden 5,000 and you couldn’t find her with a search warrant. I found a buyer the next day who wanted her for a riding horse and a show horse broodmare. PG was very happy, we found her a good home as she obviously couldn’t run. I called the man running the partnership and he said don’t sell her. I was shocked, PG was beside himself, and the horse was on her way to pre-slots West Virginia to run for $1,500 maidens. Why would investors in NY want a horse like this? I soon found out. PG called me in December and told me he had uncovered the scam after speaking to one of the partners. This partnership was charging hefty monthly bills over and above trainer fees, and to top it off they have quarterly management fees amounting to thousands of dollars. So they kept the horses as long as they could breath. Needless to say PG and I parted ways with the group.

I filed that story away and said if and when I formed a partnership, I would know what to do, and definitely what not to do.  If you check out even the most successful partnerships, although they have success they don’t make much (or any) money as they have too much overhead and the partners pay for that. Still if you have a lot of disposable income, they do come up with some nice horses and are above board. For me though, I want to make money, or at least have a chance to make money.

5 years ago I was approached to consult with some people looking to start a small partnership. Leveraging what I had learned, we formed G-Biscuit. I would pick the horses to claim and purchase, and select the trainers. One partner did the books, and I handled the website and communications when horses were entered. We charge no consulting fees and the partnership pays only the trainer fees and vet bills. As we have done so well, the fees have come out of winnings.

CLOSING THOUGHTS: I couldn’t imagine 5 years ago, we would have done so well. For me this has been a successful proof of concept, and quite rewarding. Racing is a very tough business, but I do think partnerships are the way to go and can succeed. If you aren’t an expert, find yourself a consultant you can trust who profits when you do. Reasonable fees are understandable but don’t put your partnership in a position where you can’t profit even when you are winning. Have them find trainers you can trust and make sure they are willing to explain things along the way. Put together a group of friends that you enjoy, because rule number one is that you have to have fun with this. The day it stops being fun, move on. There are too many ups and downs, and if you don’t enjoy the sport, you are better off with a new hobby.

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