ANDERSON — Owning a race horse may seem to some like a dream or a possibility for only the very rich.
But Harrah’s Hoosier Park has made it clear this is not the case, and those who want to explore the possibility have found the First Turn Stable a great way to get that experience without a huge monetary risk.
This is the fourth year for the program, and as of May 30, there were 49 members. Each has paid $250 to buy in. At the end of the racing season, any profits from any horses owned by First Turn Stable will be distributed among those participants. If the venture ends up on the debit side of the ledger, that money will be paid by Hoosier Park.
The group’s official kickoff came last Friday evening with a dinner, social interaction and a question-and-answer session with the trainer of the group, Jamie Macomber. This is her second year to be part of the First Turn Stable.
“I love doing this for the betterment of the sport,” said Macomber at Friday’s meeting. “It is hard to get the word out about the sport and what’s involved with getting into it at this level.”
After working in the industry her entire life, Macomber recently launched her own stable and has a Breeders Crown title from 2017 with Beckhams Z Tam to her credit along with tying to be Hoosier Park’s 2017 leading trainer. In addition to the 2017 Breeders Crown victory, horses from the Macomber stable recorded 110 wins and earned more than $1.2 million in purses throughout the 160-day meet at Hoosier Park in 2018.
Most of the season a year ago, First Turn owned a 4-year-old gelding named Vintage Grand, who visited the winner’s circle three times.
This year, the start has been a bit less static. The initial First Turn purchases were horses King Leonidas and Medieval Dragon. They were purchased for a combined sum of $18,000, money put forth in the beginning by Hoosier Park. The horses finished fifth and fourth respectively, earning over $800 in those outings. But both were then snatched up by other trainers in the claiming race procedure, which lets ownership change hands following a claiming race if the stated money for that race is put forward for the purchase.
So right now the group is in the market for a new horse.
“I like horses that come from off the pace,” said Macomber. “That is my training style and the style of my driver (her husband Ricky Macomber). That way I know they have it in them. Then it is my job to bring it out in them.”
She had her eye on a horse that was supposed to be in a $6,500 claiming race last week, but the transportation that was bringing the horse to the track suffered a flat tire. The horse arrived late and was scratched from the race. She will keep looking.
“I want to get a horse at about $6,500 and bump him up to the $8,000 range, and hopefully we can keep him for a while,” said Macomber, who trains 33 other horses in her barn at the track. “It was OK to lose those two horses. They aren’t great horses.”
Yorktown’s Matt Weyand enjoyed his experience from a year ago.
“It’s great having direct access to a trainer and other industry professionals,” he said. “First Turn provides a community to network with other like-minded individuals and trainers to provide the chance to learn more about racing in general. It’s also great getting pictures taken with a winning horse”
Another returning member from a year ago is Mary Ruth (Farthing) Rice, who is retired from her career as an educator and volleyball coach at Pendleton Heights.
“I have always loved horses,” she said at the Friday gathering. “I really enjoyed it last year. It wasn’t about the money as much as it was great to watch the horse run and to be in the winner’s circle after they win.”
“This is a great turnout,” said Rick Moore, vice president and general manager of racing, to the jam packed Top of the Park Room on Friday. “I want to thank (Hoosier Park’s) Amanda Gaskin. She has been a great communicator with all of you in this process. I have been in this sport all of my life. I hope you all learn a lot and have a lot of fun in the coming months. The rush you get by going into the winner’s circle with your rush is like nothing else in the world.”