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Profile On: Iain Holmes, Racing Partnership

Have you always been interested in horses and when did your interest in racehorses start and the creation of Iain Holmes Racing Partnerships?
I was riding horses off the lead rein before I got the training wheels off my bicycle. Over the years my equine experience has been diverse; I have played polo around the world, travel to the UK to go Fox Hunting, worked for an equine hospital, drove horse and carriages on tours of Boston, and just tried to experience as many different disciplines as possible.

Ever since I was a child I loved horse racing, and after completing my degree I was able to join US trainer Michael Matz in Saratoga, Fairhill and for a brief period in Florida. Michael had recently gained fame as the trainer of US Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who went on to sustain a serious injury in his next start.

The time I spent with Michael allowed me to care for the horse, watch them develop and succeed on the track. The feeling you get from cheering your horse down the final stretch, and greeting them in the winners circle is incomparable – scoring the winning goal in a polo tournament, chasing a fox, or watching a broodmare foal – nothing comes close.

Racetrack at a trainers in Ireland.I gained a lot of experience, had a fabulous time and made numerous contacts while working for Michael, however making a living on the back stretch is really unrealistic – moving every couple of months, earning peanuts, etc. During college I had volunteered at a hospital and thoroughly enjoyed it. Upon departing the track I enrolled in nursing school, and having seen how other partnerships operate, I wanted to make boutique partnerships that allowed partners a true sense of belonging in the sport of kings, rather than mere guests of the managing partner.

I worked hard to create a business plan that had a number of competitive advantages, and lined up an excellent team that would allow our partners the best experience in horse racing partnerships.

How much of your day/week is hands on with horses?
My job with the racehorses is not hands on at all – I rarely do much beyond give them mints, or a pat. The trainer and his/her staff are the ones that are really hands on with the horses, and although I am eager to learn exactly what is going on, there is no need for me to jump in or watch over their shoulder.

I really don’t mind the hands off role, I trust my trainers, and have 4 pet horses at home, whom I get to fuss over, and take care of.

In this field is it possible for someone to be a full time professional, earning a livable income?
As with any business, it really depends on what you want to do. There are some partnerships that have 80 horses (well over 500 partners), and have a number of full time employees, while others are a weekend venture between friends and are not profitable.

The goal for Iain Holmes Racing Partnership is not to acquire a huge number of horses, but provide our partners a great experience with three or four horses. The schedule of a full time nurse in the US is three 12-hour days, which will allow plenty of time to manage a small stable. As much as I love racing, I love nursing just as much – I am just lucky I am able to blend the two so nicely.

What are the general steps taken to be qualified in the field of purchasing racehorses as an investment for others?
There really are no set ways to becoming a managing partner – some are fans who got a few friends together claimed a horse, and then went from there, others include horsemen with years of racing experience.

Grass training track in Ireland.This role is quite unique – I look at my main responsibility as customer service, and my second putting all the pieces of the puzzle together; choosing trainers, bloodstock agents. Working on the track I have been able to surround myself with great people, who have many great champions listed on their resume.

Lastly and the area where most people go wrong – is once you have a team you like – take their advice. I always tell my prospective customers that if I started making decisions, you loose 20+ years experience.

Any advice for those interested in pursuing this horse related service?
I would strongly suggest working in the racing industry at the top level – even if you are just mucking stalls the people you meet, and the introductions you will get will serve you well for your future goals. Beyond making connections you need business knowledge – racing partnership companies are highly competitive, you have to understand the market, and how you can fit in.

Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
I have been really lucky over the years and have had many great horse related opportunities. The one thing I would like though is a miniature Donkey – I will call him Dinky. We once had one in the equine hospital I worked at, and he was by far the coolest equine I have been around.

Favourite horse memory?
I have many great memories, from completing my first cross-country course when I was a kid, to going out with the hounds for my first time, to playing on the Harvard Polo Team where we beat Yale for the first time in 30 years.

However my favourite horse memory was going to my first race when I was working for Michael Matz. Crusader Rabbit went off at 60:1, and along the backstretch fell back to last place. I am not sure what happened around the final turn, however as he came down the stretch he was third, and gaining. He ended up winning by a neck, and not only did I experience watching a horse I knew gallop to victory, I got to make my first trip to the winner’s circle – there is no better place than the winner’s circle!!

Future goals?
The partnership’s goals are to get up to 3 horses with a good group of owners. Once we are at that size, the emphasis will be on improving our bloodstock. I would like to start buying horses at two-year-old sales, which will not only perform nicely at the track, but also have some breeding potential. I think by doing this we can provide our small group of owners with a premier horse ownership experience, some fantastic racing and as sound of an investment as you can get in horse racing.

Best thing about your sport/profession?
There is nothing like racing – to me it is just in a class of it’s own! I also like the champagne when we win (don’t let anyone know, but we have it when we lose too!).

A Judge about a stallion during a grading session – “This horse would make a mighty fine gelding”

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