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News & Notes May 11 (5/11/2008)

MTA 2-Year-old In Training Sale A Success
The Minnesota Thoroughbred Association Horses in Training Sale, held last night at Canterbury Park, should be considered a success. Kudos to the MTA for taking this on. It has been more than 15 years since a training sale has been held here. “It went very well,” said executive director Kay King. “We had awesome cooperation from everybody.”
Twenty-seven horses were consigned and every one made it through the ring. Of those, 17 were purchased by new owners, seven were buy-backs, and three brought no bids. Total sales were $265,900 with the sale topper being Hip #26, a 2-year-old Johannesburg colt, purchased for $40,000 by defense attorney extraordinaire Joe Friedberg.
MN Bred Quarter Horse Runs Big In Oklahoma
The first of two days of trials for the Heritage Place Futurity were held last evening at Remington Park in Oklahoma. Canterbury trainer Ed Ross Hardy had one entered, Alikazam, a 2-year filly by Shazoom out of the mare Miss Eyewear. She finished second in her heat recording a 97 speed index in a final time of 17.621 seconds. Unfortunately that was .004 too slow. “They take the five fastest (for the final in two weeks) on Saturday and the five fastest on Sunday,” Hardy said. “My filly was the sixth fastest.” With milliseconds deciding fate on a regular basis, quarter horse trainers seem to have a way of shaking off these bad beats. They just line up again somewhere down the road. Owned and bred by Minnesotan Rodney Von Ohlen, Alikazam is pointed to the Northlands Futurity trials in Shakopee on June 15.
Quarter horse racing begins at Canterbury on May 23. Hardy’s stable should begin arriving here next week and he plans to be here himself for the first weekend. He likely won’t have the numbers on site as he has in the past but expect quality and a lot of wins. “We have a pretty stout group of horses headed to Canterbury,” Hardy said.
More on Web’s Gemsby Jim Wells
There were three of them at the start, but the number has grown steadily since they claimed the first horse three years ago and today there are 14 total investment interests in 14 horses involving 20 individuals.
The name of the group is Web’s Gems, its derivation a simple matter of a boyhood nickname that stuck and a passion for ESPN television. Of such glamorous stuff are partnerships in thoroughbred racing sometimes made.
The partnership has deep Minnesota roots, but it has taken on a life of its own and attracted investors from Iowa and California.
Here’s the skinny:
Matt Wiebke, 38, who heads the group, is a lifelong resident of Bloomington. He and boyhood buddy Todd Klement used to show up at Canterbury when they were 14 years old and have their dads bet for them. The seed was planted. In 2000, having earned a MBA in finance at the U of M, Wiebke, by then an investment manager, bought a home next to jockey Paul Nolan, got increasingly more interested in the sport and decided to expand that interest. After attending a number of ownership seminars, he, Klement and business colleague Chris Sour of Wayzata hooked up with trainer Jamie Ness and claimed a horse named Uncle Brother in June of 2005. They lost the horse to trainer Troy Bethke the very next race, but the seed, planted a decade earlier, had sprouted.
And a name for that group?
“Well, my nickname was always Web,” said Wiebke, “and Todd, after watching Web Gems on ESPN, suggested the name.”
The plan has taken some work and adjustment from the start.
In the business model that Wiebke first drew up, he put in half of the original $20,000 investment. Then, he tried to convince family and friends to make $5,000 investments. He had to adjust that figure.
“I lowered my minimum to $500, hoping to plant seeds,” he said. “A few of those $500 have come and gone. But more importantly, my partners will tell other people they know and it goes from there. It’s grass roots marketing if you will.”
Wiebke credits Dan Kjorsvik, another Ness owner, with helping him in the early stages of horse ownership. “I picked his brain a lot on how to operate. Jamie’s been a huge driving force, of course, but Dan has been kind of a mentor.”
Klement got married and left Bloomington for the West Coast. Web’s Gems now has three California investors and another from Iowa. The partnership is mostly Minnesotans, although Wiebke expects it might expand significantly beyond the state at some point.
The partnership is fluid. Sometimes investors decide to strike out on their own. Sometimes they simply want more say in the matter. “It’s hard enough for me and Jamie to agree on something sometimes,” said Wiebke, who recognized immediately the need for a single voice to represent the group.
“Can you imagine if we had to consult other investors every time we made a move,” he said.
The most difficult part of the partnership is determining value each quarter or when a partner wants out. How much is a horse actually worth?
Sometimes Ness becomes part of the arrangement in a horse, an idea that started when the partnership was somewhat cash poor.
“We were struggling to make ends meet, our bank account was going down,” Wiebke said. “We brought in a partner who committed to investing $8,000 but he backed out when we found a horse.”
At that point, Wiebke told Ness that he really liked the horse in question and could handle the purchase price. Monthly training and barn costs were another matter. A deal was struck.
Now, whenever Ness becomes part of the equation or any other ownership, owner identification will include his business label, Jagger, Inc., a tribute to his Boston Terrier.
As an investment manager, Wiebke is quite familiar with the benefits of diversification. It reduces risk, for one. “It limits the upside, of course,” he said. “But the losses are easier to absorb.”
Ness’s recognized skill with claiming brings in another financial gambit that Wiebke characterizes with a long respected business axiom.
“We try to buy low, sell high,” he said.
Todd Klement, Foothill Ranch, Calif.
Chris Sour, Wayzata
Dan Bins, Minnetonka
Greg and Mark Vacura, Bloomington
Sheila Otterson, Blooming Prairie
Jon Theis, Minnetrista
John Bernstein, Minneapolis
Paul Jungquist, Fridley
Chris Tollefson, Eagan
Mark Kane, Brooklyn Park
Jim Merritt, St. Paul
Corey Tollefson, Prior Lake
Tom Toole, Mission Viejo, Calif.
Chris Buesgens, St. Paul
Ken Lundquist, St. Paul
Chris Coffey, Waukee, Iowa
Tom White, Laguna Woods, Calif.
John Waterman, Brooklyn Center.
Ness Wins At Presque Isle
Jamie Ness took a moment during the MTA sale of two and three-year-old horses Saturday night to watch the $100,000 Tall Ship Stakes from Presque Isle Downs. It was not mere curiosity, Ness had a horse named Repenting in the race and liked the three-year-old’s chances. Repenting rewarded that confidence by beating the field, including the favorite, trained by Steve Asmussen. Repenting was sent off as second choice at even money and won by 2 ½. “He’s on his way to Canterbury right now,” Ness said Sunday morning. “He’s the real deal.” Ness claimed Repenting for $25,000 in Tampa, and the horse has won four in a row. Next up? “I’m looking at the Ohio or Iowa derby,” Ness said. “I think he’s that good.” He trains the horse for Balkrisna Sukharen of Blaine, who has had a run of good luck with Ness-conditioned horses. Ness claimed Looking for the Secret for him last year in Tampa and the horse won the $250,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Dash at Calder on April 26. Owner and trainer have their sights set on the Claiming Crown for the horse. “He has won close to a half million for us,” Ness said. “He has the golden touch right now.” *************************** Doug Oliver was seated at a table on the second floor Sunday afternoon and chuckled when reminded of his statement a day earlier. Oliver sent out Mego, winner of the second race on that card, his only starter for the day. “This is the ideal way to do it,” he joshed. “One starter. One winner, and I’m done for the day.” Mego is owned by Bryan Oliver, Doug’s son. Sunday, Doug couldn’t help chuckling after the fourth race. Pop the Latch, owned and trained by Oliver, was the winner. The seven-year-old mare was his only starter on the card.