It’s the sheer raw power: the stentorious, thundering of horse hooves as the field turns for home - the shrieking, full-throated crowd going into a tizzy waving and clapping their Racing Forms and programs. It’s the mesmerizing, speed of more than half a ton of finely chiseled, gleaming horse flesh. It’s hypnotic: a kaleidoscope of colourful silks worn by courageous athletic jockeys as they sweep around the turns sometimes inches apart at 75 kilometres an hour. It’s the clanging of the starting gate; the beauty of the animals and the spell-binding last surge to the finish line.
It’s horse racing - a sport like no other.
Put a couple of dollars on a horse and it ramps the excitement up another hundred decibels. Whether you bet on the horse that turns your eye in the paddock or on post parade or whether you sorted through the myriad of hieroglyphic numbers - painstakingly handicapping the race - it doesn’t matter. For those couple of minutes you and the horse are united. The horse wins; you win.
But let’s take it up another couple of notches. Imagine for a moment that you own the horse. Now the stakes are much higher. Now when your horse wins - or even finishes in the top five - you get a percentage of the purse. Trust me. If that doesn’t get you excited nothing will.
Owning a horse, however, is expensive. There’s the daily training fees and there are the veterinarian bills. But, thanks to thoroughbred owner Curtis Landry it doesn’t have to be cost much at all. For just $300 you can join the Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club and have an investment in three thoroughbred race horses for the entire 2017 season. There are no further cash calls. No trainer bills. No nothing.
“It’s a one time cost,” said Landry, who is also a director of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “For $300 you get a share of three thoroughbreds, you get your Alberta Horse Racing license, and you get to go to the backstretch and see how much time and effort it takes to get a horse ready to run. “You’ll meet the trainers and grooms who arrive at the track at five in the morning, start training at 6 a.m. and on weeknights when the horses are racing are often still at the track at 11 p.m.” And the next morning they are right back at it.
“You can bring your friends and relatives to the backstretch. You can feed your horses carrots. “Most of all you can have a whole lot of fun for a minimal investment. “I have season tickets to the Oilers and they cost me $380 for one seat for one game. “Here, for $300, you get a special type of excitement for the whole summer,” said Landry, who owns shares in over 30 horses - 19 of them two-year-olds.
“Almost every horse I own is in a partnership. It’s just so much more fun to share the excitement with someone else when you win. “It’s a lot like the Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club. You go to the track together and you celebrate together,” said Landry, 43, who used to be in the oil field business but is currently “sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to improve.”
Landry started the program at Northlands last year. He managed to get 112 people signed up and it was very successful with the three Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club horses each winning a race. But it still ended up costing him $8,500 out of his own pocket. Landry said it was a small price to pay.
“To help out horse racing I don’t mind it at all,” he said sitting in his box seat at Northlands. “It’s very worthwhile.
“The whole idea is to get more owners into the game and lighten the learning curve. Without owners we don’t have anything. “It was never meant to be a money-making venture. We need more owners and we need more fans. “Being an owner really enhances the enjoyability of the racing experience.”
This year Landry is looking forward to a big spike. “We’ve already got 80 people signed up. And opening day was just this past Saturday. We didn’t have 80 people signed up until the first week of June last year. “I want to sell it out this year which would be 250 people maximum.”
Landry got the idea from Vancouver’s Hastings Park which began their program in 2015. When one of B.C.’s first Thoroughbred Race Club’s horses won there were over a hundred people in the winner’s circle. “It’s the best promotion that’s ever been done for horse racing,” said trainer Rod Cone, who is training one of the three Club horses, Roi Des Tigres, while Craig Smith has the other two, Mr Meaner and Dangerous Pursuit.
“It’s fantastic. It will not only create new owners it will also create new fans because the people that join the club will bring their friends and families to the track when the horses are running,” said Cone. Roi Des Tigres is a two-year-old that was purchased by Landry at last fall’s Alberta Thoroughbred Yearling Sale for $9,500. Cone said Roi Des Tigres has good size, a great mind and has been training forwardly.
Mr. Meaner, is also a two-year-old. His price was $16,000 - also at the Alberta Yearling Sale. Sired by Spring At Last, who is also the sire of the freakishly fast Fall At Last whom Landry co-owns with Don Danard, Fall At Last broke his maiden by 12 3/4 lengths, won the Edmonton Juvenile by 12 1/2 lengths, just missed in the Birdwatcher and won already this year at Hastings Park.
“Mr. Meaner is going to be quick too. He’s bred to be fast,” said Smith. Dangerous Pursuit is the veteran of the Club. A five-year-old mare she won for $17,500 last year at Northlands and won an allowance race in 2015. “She can run and she’s a real sweetheart; everybody loves her,” said Smith, who just worked her five furlongs in a minute flat. “She worked like a machine.”
Smith called the Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club a “no brainer. Especially with the calibre of the three horses that Curtis has put into the Club this year.” One of the members of the Club is Shannon Honey, who was profiled on page A2 in Monday’s Edmonton Journal. “I’ve been going to the track since I was six months old. My dad, Norval, and my mom, Linda, would bring me to the track in a baby carrier and I’ve been going to the track ever since,” said Shannon, now 33.
“I’m a lifer.”
Shannon said horse racing is “a whole lot of fun. It’s nerve wracking but very exciting.” As for the Club Shannon said “Just talking about the horses we own makes me smile. “I’ve met so many new people I would never have met. “Being able to go to the backstretch and watch all the work they do is amazing. It takes a village to get a horse ready for the track.”
Shannon said her experience with the Club last year prompted her to buy into two other horses with Landry. “I never owned a horse before and now I own a part of five horses.”
Harness racing, through Century Downs racetrack in Balzac, also has a Race Club. For further information on this go to http://centurydownsracingclub.blogspot.ca/
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