Without having the horse racing pedigree that many insiders have, Chris Szulc, racing manager of Horizon Racing, is making a name for himself on the Chicago thoroughbred racing circuit. His unique methodologies and competitiveness have him positioned for years of future success in the racing industry. His youthfulness and love for the sport represents all that is good in our industry!
All of us have a different path into horse racing. Some of us are children of generations of owners, trainers, or breeders. Some of us are products of being dragged to the track by our parents (like me...and now my daughter and son). For Chris, it all started out as a day at the track with the guys a mere three years ago; a moment that has drastically changed his life. To nobody's surprise, he was instantly hooked by the majesty, the competitiveness, the fierce nature of the sport, the magnificent animals, and of course, money! (Again, who doesn’t like money, right?) In these three short years, Chris has made the jump from casual fan to a successful ownership operation; a move that I’m sure many of us have thought about from time to time.
Seeing the celebrations and happiness in the winner’s circle (because as my friend Matt says, only winners go to the winner’s circle,) Chris was lured in and wanted a piece of the action. Breaking into ownership is no easy task and winning is even harder. With dreams of going after the Triple Crown and winning million-dollar purse stakes he had to start somewhere and his first venture into ownership was with a small percentage of a horse named Run A Buck. This Wayne Catalano trained horse seemed to have a lot of trouble even making it to the starting gate however scratching at Hawthorne and Gulfstream before finally winning at Keeneland in his 4 year old debut. Funny enough, Chris doesn’t think this horse has done much since (much like my handicapping).
After getting his first win Chris was ready to take an even more active role in the sport. He created Horizon Racing for a variety of reasons but mainly to claim more horses, track his expenses and revenues, and of course make money! (Where have we heard that before?) You can see Chris in the paddock every race day, usually on the west side, working with trainers Tammy Domenosky or Jere Smith Jr. to determine if any horses are worth dropping a claim slip. Interesting note about how the name Horizon Racing came about: Chris had used a logo depicting a mountain for a previous business venture. The logo inspired the use of the name “Horizon” although the stable never used that logo. Weird!
With a current winning rate of 16% and an in-the-money rate of 60% (HUGE!), I asked Chris what separated or distinguished himself from other ownership operations. He said he loosely follows Midwest Thoroughbred’s model of claiming horses and running them back at the same or more competitive level based on ability while trusting his trainers and collaborating with them on determining the best spot for his runners. A part of his operation which I found particularly interesting is that Chris actually consults the condition book before making a claim. He wants to be sure that a race will be available within 3-4 weeks to run the horse, and if a race is not available he will not claim the horse. Now that’s talkin’ brilliant strategy! The “best” horse Chris has owned a part of up to this point was a filly named East Coaster, a runner who never gave up and ran her heart out in every single race she was in.
Throughout the day in and day out of racing Chris has not taken his eyes off of the prize. I asked him to check his crystal ball and see what he views in the future of his stable. With anywhere between 3 and 6 horses in his stable, Chris would like to increase that amount and build a more robust stable and operation. In the near term he would like to have about 10 horses in his operation with having his sights on a much larger stable 5-10 years from now with a few stakes-class horses mixed in. His next goal is to have a runner in the Claiming Crown and 15-20 years down the road having his photo taken with his winning horse in the Kentucky Derby!
Being the “Chicago Dark Horse” that I am, I had to ask about Chris’ opinions on Arlington Park! He stated that Arlington is one of the most beautiful tracks that he has ever been to and he especially likes Arlington Million day for the quality of racing that occurs on that day and the great race that the Million is. For obvious reasons he is a proponent of the pending expanded gambling legislation and hopes it passes soon!
I can tell you that I am pleased to have connected with Chris. I have enjoyed the time I have spent with him either at the morning workouts or hanging out in his owner's box! He is a brilliant and down-to-earth individual with a bright future in the racing industry. In order to keep our sport thriving we need more ownership operations like his! Also, if you’re interested in talking to Chris, or have an interest in learning even more about ownership than I have already stated above, you can contact him via phone at 312-231-3301 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have any of you met a great owner like Chris too? If so, I am interested in hearing about your experience!