Friday, January 9, 2009

A Day in the Life

It is about freezing and not an overly great Friday weather-wise. But for the harness trainer, who is getting several horses qualified and ready to race it is a busy day. This game is brutal, ups and downs, downs and ups. If you don't have some sort of structure in dealing with those swings, you are in a tough spot. Harness trainer Nick Boyd felt like writing something today, and he passed it along. It is posted here for you, just as a reminder that those horses pacing and trotting around that TV screen don't make it there by themselves.


Today was a good day. Not a great day, not a bad day, but a good day. What is a good day though? It was not warm and sunny, but rather overcast and chilly. There was a light snow, I had to work, and there were bills to pay. I did not win the lottery, or inherit any sum of money. I was not informed of good news, nor was there any bad news presented to me. Today was a good day, but, what is a good day?

In harness racing, like anything in life there are highs and lows. People live for the highs, most longing for a taste of them throughout the lengthy lows. The wavelengths are skewed most would say, rather then an smooth up and down wave. But what about the line of optimization, that even keel that is often overlooked? My father once told me, and since has reiterated it numerous times; Stay on an even keel, never get to high and don't let yourself get to low. I've thought about it at lengths, and the only thing that seems to confuse me is why so many people, including myself, fail to ever be satisfied with being on that even keel?

During the past year I had many new experiences in my training career. With these new experiences came the chance to enjoy many highs and many lows. Whether it was a hot streak, or cold streak, win streak, or loss streak, the highs and lows came in droves with the latter winning out the majority of the time. One day, I raced 6 horses at Kawartha, and ended up sneaking away with two 5th place finishes. I had a horse that I owned racing for $40,000 get run into and taken out of the race, at the head of the stretch when he looked like a very possible winner. I had horses come up with poor performances in rich stakes finals, and had other horses breakdown or come up sick at inopportune times.

On the other side of the coin, I had an 11 race streak of Top 2 finishes. I hit 40 wins on the year, won 2 stakes finals, and earned nearly $400,000 in purses. In January I ranked in the Top 5 of the Woodbine trainers colony, and Top 10 for all North American trainers. I was featured in a segment on The Score, and found I had gained a new level of respect among many industry participants, more notably in ones I admired and looked up to. The season was filled with its highs and lows.

Today set up to be one of those days, that could be very good or very bad. I had 5 horses to qualify, and 1 to school. I was expecting the worst. I've come to find that the more horses I have in, the worse the results turn out for me. Maybe its coincidence, maybe it was redetermined by bad posts, or tough classes. I won't find an excuse, only admit these days have never lived up to potential. On a morning that flew by, with little time to breathe, let alone think, I had taken no time to reflect until now. Four horses qualified at Mohawk, then one qualified and one schooled at Flamboro. Not one horse jumped off the page at me and gave the "WOW" appeal. At the same time, not one horse went out and disappointed me. All five qualified, and the schooler went well. I could find both positives and negatives in the way they all went, but nothing could persuade me to lean to a definitive side. I was happy, for once a large schedule had not turned into an absolute disaster. There was nothing to rave about, but I had five horses qualified and all the owners were happy.

As I entertained my hired help (father and uncle) for lunch, we discussed the success of the day. Again, there was no raving about how we were on top of the world, because we weren't. We focused more on the positives, and how we had completed the necessary tasks to a satisfying level. We knew there could be improvement, that each and every horse could be better, but I also knew they could have been worse. After we had finished up I said "Well that was a good day" to which my father reiterated a statement I have heard from him thousands of times "We just stayed on that even keel, didnt get to high and never got to low".

Most trainers strive for that high training average, those large purse earnings and hundreds of wins a year. In a stats driven world, people become consumed with numbers. The glory of winning, the numbers pushing them into the spotlight, and the forefront of attention. I won't fool myself, I'd love to be on that slide underneath the microscope just as much as the next person, or have that spotlight shone down on me. But I realized something about myself, and the highs and lows today. I finally felt good. There were no press clippings about me, no shiny statistics, or big cheques. There were no angry or disappointed owners, and I wasn't left scratching my head about what to do next. What I found out about myself today, was that I was satisfied with that even keel. I did not like how disheartened I felt for days after the disasterous showing at Kawartha that day. Nor did the rush of winning a Claiming Stakes final last long enough to fulfill me. I found that even keel today, and now know what my dad has preached about to me for years. I am much happier being on an even keel, than high one day and low the next six.

The famous Mets pitcher Tom Seaver once said "In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end". The more I think about this, the more I realize how much it coincides with my fathers theory, and the more I feel I should apply it to my own practice. Tom Seaver put together a career of respectable numbers and a pass into Hall of Fame staying on an even keel. Who's to say Nicholas Boyd couldnt do the same as well?


Anonymous said...

Great piece!

best regards,


Anonymous said...

Good job - a great mantra in owning standardbred and a great attitude for players too. Best of all it's good perspective in life.
Jimbo in Maryland

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