We're a little bit more than a year into our Little Blue Bird Stables journey and fortunate enough to have 175+ Partners and 11 horses in our stable - we're certainly proud of what we've accomplished in a pretty short amount of time. We've gotten great feedback from our Partners, which is vital for our continued growth, but we've also received some positive feedback from folks watching from the outside. It feels good to hear the occasional "love what you've put together" or "I've been following along, and it's really fun to watch." I guess we've done a few things well, but we also know how tough this game is - it's a lot tougher than I ever imagined, that's for sure. This past summer, at a dinner in Saratoga with some of our favorite people, I was asked what our long-term goal was, and truthfully it was the first time I had ever been asked that. The first year was primarily spent on achieving a LONG series of short-term goals - find a yearling, get licensed, open a business account, pull in a few new Partners, order checks, then find a trainer for Oaklawn Park and add a couple of runners, find more Partners, acquire the necessary licenses, order MORE checks.. and it just kept going and going. Needless to say I didn't have a very good answer for him at the table that night. I had a very good idea of what we DIDN'T want to become. We don't want to be the biggest, we don't want to work with any of the "Super" trainers, we're not looking for $200K yearlings, and we're not looking to win the Kentucky Derby - we're more the New York Derby types (Finger Lakes stakes race for 3yo). We have love and passion for the game - we love being new/first-time owners, and do so with modest investments so that we still have enough bankroll to fire at the windows on the weekend.
Fast forward six months and we're certainly better prepared to answer that question - what do we want LBB Stables to be? What are our goals? Over the next couple of weeks we'll put a little bit more detail behind each one of these goals, but this one's for you, Brandon Badgett - here's a slightly better answer to your question...
Goal #1 - Become an ACTIVE participant in racing.
Our Partnerships are filled with like-minded, lifelong racing fans/bettors/handicappers that are tired of the status quo and want to see horse racing start to mend itself. Most of our Partners have been active in this game as bettors and handicappers, but there's little we've been able to do to help stop the industry from stepping all over itself - it has become incredibly frustrating, and it's casting a giant gray cloud of DOUBT over the entire sport. We can rattle off a list of 10-12 incidents in the last month alone that have had a negative impact on the game. So, let's be ACTIVE participants in the game.
What does this mean? To be honest, we're still mapping out some of the plans and will share them soon, but I do know that "yelling" and complaining on social media platforms does absolutely nothing - in fact, it likely takes credibility AWAY from a conversation. So, let's make an effort to meet other horsemen and racing executives at the track on days we're racing or while we're on the backside, let's ask questions, let's sit in on webinars and meetings, let's have meaningful conversations, and do so with professionalism and respect (oh, and in-person, face-to-face - not over a DM).
To give a small example, I recently sat in on the Community Meeting discussing the Laurel track surface that was hosted by the MTHA and Maryland Jockey Club. It was a webinar hosted on ZOOM that included several key members of both parties, the track maintenance team and fellow horsemen. Obviously the topic of the meeting was the recent issues with the track, but it was a great introduction to some of the key players at a circuit we're still fairly new to, yet hope to expand in. We'll focus in the regions and on circuits we have LBB presence - NYRA, Kentucky, Oaklawn, Maryland, etc. I know we'll get some eye-rolls with a goal like this one, but until we discover that this approach doesn't work, we'll keep pushing forward.
Goal #2 - Get at least 50% of our Partners to the backside.
EVERYTHING changes when you see your horses work in the morning and/or get some time on the backside with them. I don't think that's an exaggeration - the entire racing experience changes when you form some type of bond with the horse and the team that takes care of him/her. It adds a different dimension to the game, a new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into keeping our horses happy and healthy and ready to run. It helps to get everyone on the same page as we map out paths for each of our horses. More than anything, it builds trust - with our trainers, with the process, and with LBB Stables as a whole.
Last year we were able to host a Saturday morning at Saratoga where we had one of our horses breeze for our Partners. We had about a dozen people there and several of them were able to come back to the barn afterwards. We're also very fortunate to be working with trainers that understand the value of these visits and accommodate when they can. We'd love to keep doing more of this - as we get new Partners we want to make sure they know they have the opportunity to coordinate a visit. It will become a very important part of our ownership experience moving forward. PS - Save the Date - August 12th-13th will be an LBB Stables "takeover" at Saratoga.
Goal #3 - Stay true to who we are.
We are passionate fans who love this game and want to experience ownership. We make modest investments to create reasonable ownership opportunities- we're $20K Claimers. We work with well-respected, "smaller" trainers - the good guys/gals of racing. We're deliberate and patient. We want to limit our "swing and misses." There will undoubtedly be moments where we are tempted to deviate from our plan, to try something different, maybe take a big chance but if we stick to our guiding principles and continue to learn, we can be more successful. We've seen plenty of syndicates and partnership groups start out modestly, only to evolve into a more premium ownership platform. We will not be MyRacehorse and certainly won't go toe-to-to with the West Point Thoroughbreds of racing. We like being somewhere in the middle, and that's where we'll stay. We have some great examples and case studies that we're really proud of and will be sharing soon.
Still lots to learn, plenty of improvements to make, and a lot more fun to be had. Let's get to it!