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The Walder Blog: Feb. 17, 2011
I was asked recently the most I’ve spent to claim a horse. I’ve spent $60,000 a couple times. It’s funny, though, because the two I claimed for $60,000 didn’t turn out to be any good. One of them I claimed from Allen Jerkens. I’ll never do that again because he’s the Chief.
I was young and saw a horse that wasn’t on Lasix and thought to myself, ‘Yeah, I’ll show this guy. I’ll claim the horse, put him on Lasix, and she’ll be a superstar.’ I claimed the horse, put her on Lasix, and ended up selling her for 10 percent of what I claimed her for. So I learned my lesson claiming from him. Then I claimed another for $60,000 who actually bowed in a race. That was when me and Michael Gill were having a war. Everything I was running he was claiming and everything he was running I was claiming. It was all out war, but it was kind of fun, too.
The stakes are higher when you’re claiming for that kind of money, but the rewards can be higher. You’re thinking at that level the horse can jump up and be a stakes horse. Not that you can’t claim one for $25,000 and turn it around. You look at this meet, look at horses like Chamberlain Bridge and you look at Furthest Land, and you see horses running for tags that won Breeders’ Cup races. You don’t have to claim for $50,000 or $60,000, but at that price you’re trying to get one to go to the next level.”
I’ve had good fortune turning around cheaper horses. I claimed four horses out of the same race once in Chicago because you were allowed to do that at the time. One of them I claimed for $10,000 was a horse named Pyramyst. My owner asked me to take 40 percent of her, and that isn’t my style because I usually take 25 or 30 percent. I’m forever grateful to him. We ran her back for $18,000 and she finished second and whole race she had dead aim. I called her a cheater. I said, ‘She doesn’t want to win.’ I took her down to Florida and she wound up winning six in a row, ended up winning a $100,000 race at Delaware and finished second in a stakes race at Mountaineer. She’s made us about $300,000. If you look at her form she’s a model of consistency. She’s all heart. I claimed her off Maggie Moss, who turned out to be my client. She hasn’t run yet this meet. I joke that two good things came out of Chicago – my divorce and a good horse.
Another horse we have is Royal Majesty, who won here earlier in the meet. He’s a bit of a miracle horse. I remember when the owner sent me the form on him. I looked at it and shook my head. He’d been beaten for $4,000 at Finger Lakes. And I mean he got beat…by 20 lengths. I told the owner I didn’t want him. I begged him not to send me the horse. Then I worked him a couple times and I asked the owner, ‘Are you sure you sent me the right horse?’ He worked great! He’s won five of seven and made around $50,000. He was getting 30 Beyers now he’s getting 90s. He’s a New York bred, so we’re trying to protect him a little bit to take him up there and maybe win an allowance race.
I didn’t really do anything special with him. Some horses just adapt to your program, they adapt at being spoiled. They’re just happy. I wish I had a dollar for everyone who’s asked me what I did with the horse. But it’s really cool to have him because the owner, is a cool, great guy. It doesn’t matter if he’s running in a $5,000 claimer or an allowance race; he drives from New York to Delaware to watch his horse run. He’s always in a great mood and we have a great time.
I’m looking forward to this weekend because I’ll be speaking Saturday at a seminar at Gulfstream on thoroughbred ownership. It starts at 11 a.m., in the Sport of Kings room. I think these seminars are great for the sport because it’s good that people realize that anyone can own a horse. It doesn’t take a millionaire to own a horse. You can own at all kinds of different levels if you want to get involved. And it’s a lot fun owning a horse.
Talk to you soon.