What Are Connections In Horse Racing?

When betting horses at your favorite online racebook you will often encounter “connections” as a horse racing term. It is important for you to understand what the term means because a horse’s connections can often play a role in the process of handicapping. The simplest definition of the term is the team of individuals that is directly responsible for a horse’s racing career.

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Every Horse Has Connections

Horses are amazing animals. The thoroughbred can cover vast distances at amazing speed. Yet, for all their magnificence, a horse is still an animal. The primary concerns of its life are eating, drinking, and breeding. It needs connections to accomplish a successful racing career.

The best way to think about the connections of a horse is to envision this team of people as managers. Just as a professional athlete in another sport has an agent or manager, so does the race horse. Connections are responsible for everything from buying feed to paying for veterinary care. They are tasked with training and entering horses in the appropriate races. All facets of a horse’s life are managed by its connections.

Some connections do very well in the business of horse racing. Others, not so much. There is a matter of chemistry and being able to work together. All of the team members must be on the same page when it comes to a horse’s welfare. Let’s take a look at the primary members of a race horse team.

The Owner of a Race Horse

At the top of the list when it comes to connections is the owner or owners of the race horse. As you might know, owners are the source of the money required to keep a horse in training so that it can compete in races. Some owners have vast stables with many horses. Other owners may only have one or two. All of them sit at the top of the hierarchy of horse racing connections.

The owner purchases or breeds race horses for the purposes of competition. Some owners can spend over $1 million dollars on a horse. Others may only be able to afford a claiming horse for $2,500. Once a horse is purchased, the expenses do not stop. The horse must be fed, given medical care when necessary, and trained. All of these expenses are the responsibility of the owner.

Some owners also take an active role in the decisions regarding a horse’s racing career. They may suggest races to enter, and they will usually determine when it is appropriate for a horse to retire. It is all too common to see contention between owners and trainers when there is disagreement about the future of a horse and its career path.

The owner of a race horse:

  • Owns the horse in name and has ownership papers from The Jockey Club
  • Pays all expenses related to the horse’s care, including feed and vet bills
  • May or may not exercise input regarding a horse’s career path
  • Is responsible for the life of the animal after its racing career is over

The Trainer of a Race Horse

Next in the list of connections is the race horse trainer. This individual is responsible for all matters that pertain to the athletic condition of the race horse. A trainer’s primary task is to prepare a horse for the rigors of competition.

Most trainers maintain a set of stalls at the race track on their chosen circuit. Some of them have large enough operations that they can claim an entire barn at the track. A barn will generally consist of stalls, tack rooms, wash racks, and perhaps an office. This is where the race horse will live out the majority of its days.

The trainer oversees the daily activities of the horse. A trainer must decide when the horse trains in the morning, how far it will jog or gallop, and how often the horse will participate in a full work out. It is also important for the trainer to keep a daily awareness of any medical issues that may present problems for the horse down the road.

The feeding routine of a horse is determined by the race horse trainer. He or she will decide which feed to give, the amounts, and the supplements that should be added to the feed. The trainer is also responsible for paying the individuals that work on their crew. Grooms, hotwalkers, and other stable hands must be compensated for their work.

To pay the expenses related to training a race horse, the trainer will charge an appropriate day rate for training services. This rate can range from $60 per day per horse to well over $100. The better the trainer, the higher the day rate will be.

The trainer of a race horse:

  • Charges the owner a day rate for training expenses
  • Performs daily care and feeding of the horse
  • Develops a training schedule to prepare the horse for racing
  • Works with owners to decide which races are best for the horse to enter

Other Horse Racing Connections

The term “connections” almost always refers to the owner and trainer of a race horse. However, it can also be applied to other individuals that may take an active role in the management of a horse’s racing career:

  • Veterinarians are responsible for medical care of the horse
  • Bloodstock agents are responsible for researching breeding to determine which horses should be purchased at auction
  • Jockeys ride the horses in competition
  • Jockey agents enter horses in races and provide the services of a rider to an owner and trainer

As you can see, it takes a team of dedicated professionals to get a horse to the race track. These connections, and how they manage to work together, will ultimately determine how well the horse performs.

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