"What a YEAR!" or is it more like, "WHAT a year!"? Which word we'd choose to emphasize depended on the day, and in our second full year of racing, we certainly experienced all of the ups and downs you're warned about before getting into thoroughbred ownership. We understand why we got initial feedback from friends of ours like Alan Brodsky, long-time NY owner, who responded with "why would you do that?" when we told him we were going to start an ownership group almost three years ago. He's been at this for many years, so we know it was a mix of truth and humor. Despite the roller-coaster in 2022, all of our numbers went up - we had one more win than we did in 2021, our average earnings per start increased, as did our ITM (in the money) percentage. We added more Partners, we added more horses to the barn - it was a good overall growth year for LBBS. You can see some of our LBBS 2022 highlights here. It was also a BIG learning experience for us as a company. We've made some mistakes along the way, and learned plenty of lessons along the way, like making sure we're better prepared for down cycles (which inevitably occur) and just overall learning how to be better clients.
We went into 2022 with three goals, and it's important to make sure we re-evaluate those before setting new ones for 2023. Admittedly, we look back at our goals for the year, and realize they could be perceived as a bit "fluffy", but this past year was more about continuing to get our feet underneath us, trying to build an ownership experience that was maybe filling a void in the space. To recap, our goals for last year were..
Become an active participant in racing - in retrospect, we should have put more quantitative numbers on this, but overall, we moderately achieved this. We were at the track in the mornings, and on race days. We sat in on several horsemen's calls at various circuits, which was interesting considering it was the year of HISA. We went to a couple of sales, met more horsemen. We're getting there, still lots of work to do.
Have 50% of our Partners visit the backside - while we don't have a headcount, we did ok with this goal. We didn't have half of our Partners on the backside, but we certainly had a lot. You can get a good feel for they type of experience we want to create when you look at our Photo Review of 2022 by clicking here. We feel very strongly about getting as many of our Partners to meet their horses as possible. The entire ownership experience changes when they see what happens behind the scenes.
Stay true to who we are - a full year passed without the urge to "spend more" or build ownership opportunities that took us out of the middle tier of racing. We have no desire to become a West Point Thoroughbreds or a MyRacehorse. LBBS is for the everyday racing fan, at reasonable investment levels - reasonable enough to own and still have bankroll for P4 and P5 tickets on the weekend. Not to mention, horse racing is built on the type of mid-level races we like to compete in. Not every horse purchased for hundreds of thousands of dollars can be Stakes caliber horses - racing needs groups like ours.
So, let's start talking about 2023. This year, we're putting more quantitative goals in place. We have big plans to enhance our ownership experience - we want to have more events, enhance our digital experience, but most importantly want to have an experience that is as engaging to our owners as they each want it to be. The fact of the matter is we have Partners that just want to own a couple of shares, get email updates, and maybe go to a race or two during the year. And then we have Partners that want to get to the backside, meet our other Partners at LBBS events, participate in raffles and contests and have a higher level of engagement with us. We need to deliver on all fronts. But the qualitative aspects of our product will be much easier to achieve if we can work towards these more quantitative goals. So, without further ado, here is where we're focused heading into 2023...
Goal #1 - Average Earnings Per Start of $5,375
We finished 2022 with an Average Earnings Per Start (AEPS) of almost $4,300 - a 15% increase from 2021, our first year in racing ($3,785/start). In our minds, this is the metric that best represents some of our key decisions. It encompasses the quality of our purchases and/or claims, it captures the choices we make for race placement and would be directly related to our group's ROI. Considering the fact that our investments range between $15-35K, we're pleased with our final 2022 figures. It actually falls in range with other mid-level Ownership groups that are more established than LBBS. Seasoned ownership groups like Wasabi Ventures, Hibiscus Stables, and Bush Racing Stables have AEPS in the same $4,250-$5,500/start range. A goal like this forces us to be more deliberate, more patient and put in some extra legwork when we're making claims or Yearling purchases. Most importantly, it's a number we can point to as we manage each of our horses and communicate with our Partners. We closed a couple of our Partnerships with solid ROI figures this year, so to increase our overall Earnings Per Start by 25% would lead to an even stronger 2023.
Goal #2 - Total of EIGHT Wins in 2023
We had four wins in 2021, five wins in 2022 and heading into 2023, we're setting a goal for eight. Yep, it's a significant increase, but it speaks to THREE factors. First, we're getting better with race placement. Our trainers guide us with race decisions, but we're thankful that each of them are open to discussing them with us. If any trainers are reading this, they're likely rolling their eyes, and interpreting it as LBBS getting in the way, but that's certainly not the case. As an example, last week we worked with our trainer, Mark Hennig, to talk through race options for one of our runners in the next couple of weeks. The conversation was based on two possible race options a couple of days apart, both on the same surface at similar distances, but different conditions. We went to our trusty ThoroManager numbers and decided that one option was a slightly easier spot than the other. Now we know how this will go - the spot we chose will be the harder one, BUT more importantly it's an open discussion. Our trainers have taught us so much, and nothing has been of greater importance than good race placement, like knowing when to be more aggressive. Second, we were hit with a fair amount of injuries this year. We know they'll come up with each year of existence, but we got a bit unlucky in late winter/early spring and then again in the fall with both of our 2yo's needing to be sidelined and three of our Claiming Partnerships having to hit the "pause" button for minor issues. Lastly, to reach this number we'll need steady (but measured) growth, which is certainly in our plans.
Goal #3 - Enter in a State-Bred Stakes Race (or a Graded Stakes if we must)
"Stay true to who we are" - nothing says that more than aiming towards a goal of entering in a State-bred Stakes race. We were fortunate enough to get to a NYB Stakes race in our first year, with our big guy, Excursionniste. It was incredibly exciting for all of us, and we want to get back to that. We're hopeful that one of our four current NYB's can help attain the goal, but we're also expanding in the Mid-Atlantic with a couple of Maryland-breds that could help get us there too. We've said all along that while achieving a long-term goal of getting to one of the classic Stakes races would be an incredible feat, we want to focus more on the lower level Stakes races - we're the Iowa Derby, not the Kentucky Derby. We want to get to those NYB Showcase Days and/or Maryland Millions day. It's a good goal for us - if we can't get there with our Yearling purchases, then we can think about it as we look for new claiming opportunities, especially in Maryland and New York. Can we find our Cordmaker? Maybe be involved in one of those class NYB rivalries like King Kreesa/Lubash/Kharafa? Time will tell, but we're certainly going to ry.
We're really excited about the year ahead. There are days where it feels like an insurmountable uphill climb, but they're outweighed by the highest of highs. A win at Keeneland, a solid meet at Saratoga or Oaklawn, positive feedback from our Partners - it's what motivates us to keep pushing, keep making adjustments and keep getting better. So, let's get to work! We hope some of you read this and want to join us in 2023. Please reach out with feedback, thoughts, questions - we love talking horse racing.