Anthony MacDonald's Blog
A clear path to success
Published: March 23, 2016 9:09 am ET
Last Comment: March 23, 2016 5:44 pm ET | 7 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments
In the last half decade I've been a husband, a father, a driver, a trainer, almost a politician and possibly a bit of an entrepreneur.
My wife Amy and I have built something that we have become exceeding proud of.
Many of you think you know what we have done, but you're only party right. Let me explain.
The idea has always been quite simple:
- Bridge the gap between our industry and the general public by making horse ownership as easy as possible.
- Make our sport inviting to investors, casual owners, and curious people with all different amounts of disposable income by allowing them to simply budget.
Low costs and flat rates combined with hard work, professionalism and a healthy dose of customer service and voilà, you have thestable.ca
We have a lot of issues in our industry. So I'll give you my take on what i believe is a sheer common sense fix to most.
1) we have a dwindling fan base.
What can we do?
Well lots, I suppose.
Let me tell you what all of us can do.
At The Stable we see a minimum of five people for every share holder that comes to the barn. If we have 30 owners per group, theoretically we could have 150 new and eager fans for every horse we have for sale.
(This is not the case at the moment but it's trending in that direction in the future)
If our industry aggressively marketed and advertised this concept you could easily achieve these numbers.
That's assuming we had multiple trainers who were willing to put themselves in position to build stables and websites like we just did.
If you had 10 stables with 10 trainers with 25 horses selling fractionally you could introduce over 30,000 people to our game.
But, we have a horse shortage. Correction, most everywhere has a horse shortage.
2) How do we fix or horse shortage.
If you have watched any race cards in Ontario lately you have seen some amazing patchwork taking place.
Our races offices are under tremendous strain.
This shouldn't be the case.
I've often wondered why we don't simply list every horse available to race in Ontario.
A real time look at what inventory we have.
Rip up our condition sheets and build a "tailor-made" condition sheet for each Ontario track. (Or region)
Make it fluid, so when you have shortages in one area send notes out to horsemen who can then in turn look for horses for that class or classes.
Owners need to feel their horses will get in competitive classes consistently and that simply isn't the case at the moment.
The result far too often is they finally get fed up and either sell their horse(s) or simply send their horse(s) to the States.
We have to assume that this investment is gone forever and we simply can't afford to have that happen.
We are literally complicit in our own demise.
3) Our purse structure. (The always present elephant in the room.)
Our smaller tracks simply don't have nearly enough purse money.
Our younger generation of horsemen are finding this game exceedingly difficult to advance in.
Our poor purses and rising costs make it impossible to build a business plan for even the most loyal owner.
I'm certain someone has simply asked the Liberals for more money? let's just assume they declined the request.
With all the wonderful love shown towards the architects of the now infamous "London proposal", I have often been reluctant to speak up about an obvious solution.
Politics had thickened my already tough catch driver skin, so I'm now going to say what you're too scared to.
When we have massive horse shortages, grossly underfilled cards which more times than not are filled with wildly under competitive fields;
Why not have the intestinal fortitude to simply stop and say, Woodbine and London will race one less card a week for the foreseeable future.
I suppose it's because we don't have anyone to speak up and say it.
It might be a good job for a unified horsemen's group?
Does anybody know where we could find one?
Doing this now could easily amount to an extra $150,000 a week (or more) in purses to be spread out.
If we knew we could fill competitive fields, and race for more money doing so, why aren't we?
I know in the past we couldn't give up dates because we would never get them back, but if "Ontario Horse Racing" was set up with a clear mandate from horsemen, and a clear mandate from the government, wouldn't this be the right way to go?
I'm always trying to see the silver lining.
Sometimes a painful optimist.
This is how I see horse racing over the next five years.
This is how I think we can attain it.
We fill full competitive fields now, with good purses, from our hypothetical newly amended race dates.
We open 10 fractional stables over the next two years, with the full marketing and advertising support of the OLG, race tracks, and breeders.
Why would they cooperate? Simple:
1) Fair market prices for breeders for horses.
2) new owners for trainers.
This would means more fans at the tracks, who buy more food, drink more beer, and yes they would likely gamble.
3) more fans at the tracks means more patrons for the OLG also.
This confidence raises demand for supply from breeders.
As we grow our new owner and fan base, we create more revenue.
More revenue created should translate into more purse money.
We would be by no means the first business to rise from the ashes of its former self.
These are attainable goals with attainable results.
You can say there is no information to support this, but you would be wrong.
Extrapolating these numbers from one stable at one time is fair data.
The scalability of the The Stable to fit this blueprint is absolutely possible.
Look at it this way...think of the failed jurisdictions over the past decade or untapped markets.
You could strategically advertise where there are horses but very little Standardbred horse racing.
Michigan, Maryland, Manitoba, England, Ireland, Belgium, Missouri, Washington DC, etc.
The Stable has owners in all those places right now.
We don't need a new wagering concept or subliminal messaging to get people to the track.
You need a good product for both for fans, and gamblers.
Allow people to buy horses fractionally as to budget and enjoy their experience.
Initiatives like this are important.
Realizing that doing things the way we have in the past got us directly where we are now.
A swift directional change shouldn't be this hard.
If we work together instead of against each other, we can do much more than just survive.
The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.