Friday, July 2, 2010

Queen's Plate Interviews: Rick Balaz

As the president of Sam-Son Farm since 2008, Rick Balaz has engineered many changes to the Sam-Son program while maintaining the tradition of the strong Sam-Son turf families. I sat down yesterday with Balaz at the Queen's Plate post position draw to discuss Sam-Son Farm and its three Plate entries, and here's what he had to say:

KNR: The success that you’ve experienced since you’ve been managing the operation, how does that feel to you both professionally and personally?

RB: It’s awful. No, it feels great. But really, what I get a lot of gratification from I think is, the success is fantastic, but we’ve made a lot of changes in our management style and I think seeing that that has worked, and bringing a lot of other people into the decision making has made a big difference for us.

KNR: Can you tell me a bit about those changes you’re talking about?

RB: Yeah. Mark Frostad has always been a big part of our operation, and he still is. We do have some horses with a couple of other trainers, but Mark is still the key guy for Sam-Son. The big difference is really, the training of the horses before they get to the track. We’ve involved a lot more people who have been at the farm for a long time. We take a lot more time to prepare the horses before we send them to the track, and I think it’s made a big difference as far as the resilience of the horses when they get here, they seem to be lasting a lot longer, we’re not having the kinds of breakdowns or issues we had in the past, although, you know, it’s horse racing. But I think that’s made a big difference getting the horses to the races, they have a better chance to win. We also involve Dave Whitford who runs our Milton farm with a lot of that decision making process of sort of when we’re going to ship the horses, are they ready. You know, ultimately Mark makes the decisions once they get here, but it’s just all that stuff that happens behind the scenes that’s working a lot better for us now.

KNR: Who are the other trainers you have now?

RB: Malcolm Pierce has some horses for us, and we have one with Neil Howard down in the States.

KNR: The horses you have here for the Plate, they all come from strong Sam-Son families, and it’s obviously the fact that they’ve all been able to get here, it’s a testament to how strong those families are and how strong they’ve remained over the years.

RB: Absolutely. It’s a great legacy. We started with my late wife Tammy’s death, and we focused on breeding the best to the best, and this is what we ended up with.

KNR: With your breeding program, what type of horse are you trying to breed? What traits do you look for in your racehorses?

RB: Well, you know, typically if you look at a lot of our horses, they end up being very good turf horses, and that’s just kind of from our families, but you know, now we’re looking to become a little more commercial going forward, we’d like to have good horses, dirt horses. If we can’t run them ourselves we’d like to have horses that people would be interested in commercially. So we’re looking at changing our focus that way a little bit, you know, ultimately if you can breed an Eye of the Sphynx to an A.P. Indy, how much better can you be?

KNR: And that’s obviously working.

RB: That’s working so far, yep.

KNR: You guys have the chance to have back-to-back siblings winning the Queen’s Plate for the second time in 10 years.

RB: That would be nice. Yeah, that would be like winning the lottery.

1 comment: