A Day at the Races
by Elizabeth Stein
With the Preakness in the books and the Belmont Stakes only three weeks away, everyone around the country is in the horse racing spirit. In honor of that spirit, we decided to take a trip to Arlington International Racecourse, to see how a racing stable operates, and it wasn’t disappointing. As a hunter/jumper equestrian whose only experience with horseracing is watching it on TV, I can assure you, the glitz and glamour is only part of what makes a racing stable run.
First, I have to give credit where’s its due, our day and all this insider information would not have happened without Alexis Kuhn, and everyone at Rodriguez Stables. Kuhn, 22, a Barrington Hills native, got into horse racing like most of us do, by watching it on TV. However, this former hunter/jumper rider was hooked and has worked her way up to being an assistant trainer, which is no easy feat in the racing business.
Kuhn, who owns two race horses of her own besides training, was able to give us an inside look into what it takes to run a successful racing stable and with three horses scheduled to race, was able to show us what it really took to produce a winning race horse.
|And they're off!|
First thing you have to know if you’re ever going to get into racing is everyone has to be licensed, down to the hot-walkers. To become a licensed assistant trainer, Kuhn had to pass a 60-page test, get two letters of recommendation and complete a barn test. On top of all that, you need to be licensed at each track you’re racing at because the drug rules are different (their rules are closer to the FEI rules).
If you want to be an owner of a racehorse, you’re in luck, it costs no money to board and no money to enter races, the betting handle provides the purse. You do still have to pay for certain things like vet bills and shoeing. If you have an owner’s license and a trainer, you can buy a horse in a claiming race (the cheapest is five thousand dollars). Trainers charge a day rate, which covers their fee, the overhead like feed and tack, they make their money on the horses winnings, 10% goes to the trainer and the jockey.
As with any aspect of the equestrian sport, it’s not just finding the right horse, it’s finding the right trainer and creating the right program. For Kuhn, finding the right training method depends on the horse.
“We’re more conservative, we run once a month or every three weeks. We’ll train every day or six days a week slow training, trot two miles, gallop really collected or slow. Depends on what they need or what their bodies are telling you. It’s building endurance. Since these horses are bred to go fast, training is really slow, its about educating the horse and not pushing them past what they can do since they’re still growing, ” Kuhn affirmed.
There is a strict routine for before and after the race as well. After a race, the horses are walked three to four days for them to recover and usually before they are set to run, walked so they’re fresh. Race day routine can be different for each horse however, Kuhn’s own horse gets a little nervous so she’ll train him the day before the race or even the day of a race so he doesn’t know he’s running.
Being one of the few women on the track has provided Kuhn with her own set of obstacles so her motto and the truth of anyone in any equestrian sport is simple- “The key is finding your motivation is to keep evolving and never take no for an answer.” And that method is paying off, the stable is winning at a 20% rate, which is huge in the racing the business.
The wonderful thing about equestrian sports is truly how diverse they are. Hunter/jumpers, horseracing, eventing, dressage, polo, reining, pleasure riding around the world, there are truly so many facets of the sport anyone with a love of horses can participate. This trip to Arlington provided one look into another part of our sport, with hopefully many more like it to come.