Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: Hamm’s First Grade 1 Is Not ‘Beginner’s Luck’

Maybe it’s a cliché, says Thoroughbred trainer Timothy Hamm, but success breeds success no matter the industry.

So, yes, the 54-year-old was beyond thrilled to saddle the first Grade 1 winner of his career with Dayoutoftheoffice in the Oct. 10 Frizette at Belmont Park, but the adjacent reality is that Hamm’s program has been quietly building up to that top-level victory since he purchased his first racehorse in 1994.

An undefeated 2-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, Dayoutoftheoffice will become Hamm’s first Breeders’ Cup starter on Nov. 6 at Keeneland. This may be the Ohio native’s first chance to show he has what it takes to compete at the World Championships, but Hamm is more excited than nervous about the opportunity.

“The thing I like most is I want our team to feel like we’re getting somewhere,” Hamm said. “That’s the biggest thing the Breeders’ Cup means to us. Obviously, the next question will be whether you can do it again. The first time can be beginner’s luck, so hopefully the entire team can buy in after this and making it to the Breeders’ Cup will become a habit.”

His words might sound cocky, but Hamm doesn’t mean them to be. He’s simply that confident in his partners and in the program he’s built from the ground up over the past 25 years.

Hamm owns Dayoutoftheoffice in partnership with Anthony Manganaro’s Siena Farm, a somewhat unique business model at the upper end of the sport. It isn’t all that unusual for Hamm, however; he is partnered on nearly 85 percent of the 200 or so Thoroughbreds in his care across all levels of the industry, from broodmares to stallions and from yearlings to active racehorses, and everything in between.

The partnership model may be unusual, but it has been a cornerstone of Hamm’s success since the very beginning. Keeping an ownership stake in so many of his horses has allowed Hamm to both remain grounded and focus on doing what’s best for the animals.

Hamm didn’t grow up in a “racing family,” at least, not in the strictest definition. His father worked at General Motors during the day and trained Thoroughbreds from his Ohio farm on the side, keeping them fit via a jogging machine and shipping to tracks like Mountaineer to race on the weekends. He trained just over 100 winners through his part-time career, and taught Hamm a lot about how to make ends meet with the horses.

However, those lessons did not take root until well after college, Hamm said, laughing good-naturedly. As a young man Hamm was more focused on Saddlebred show horses. By high school, he became ensconced in football; Hamm played linebacker for Youngstown State throughout his university athletic career.

Those passions didn’t leave a lot of room for Thoroughbreds in Hamm’s schedule, though he’d still help out his father at the family farm when he had spare time.

After graduating with a four-year business degree in 1989, Hamm launched a construction company. He finally started to feel that pull back to the horses in the mid-1990’s, and purchased his first racehorse at an OBS 2-year-olds in training sale in 1994.

Hamm spent $13,500 on a filly named Willowy Proof, but he admits he didn’t know much about the racing industry back then.

“I was showing her to someone and they said to me, ‘Oh, you have a Pennsylvania-bred,’” Hamm remembered. “I said, ‘Okay, great. What does that mean?’ And they told me there was extra money in Pennsylvania if I ran her there.

“My mom helped me get her ready, trailering her to Mountaineer to train in the mornings while I was working construction. It wasn’t a business, then; I really just wanted to own a racehorse.”

When Willowy Proof made her first start at Philadelphia Park on July 25, 1994, the filly dominated a maiden special weight event by 9 1/4 lengths. Before Hamm even walked off the track, he was turning down offers of $100,000 for the filly.

“I just wanted to have fun with her,” he said.

In 1996, Hamm returned to OBS and bought four more 2-year-olds. Each of those four became a stakes winner, including Rose Colored Lady, a $20,000 daughter of Formal Dinner who would earn $139,294 on the track. That was hardly her best contribution to Hamm’s future career, however.

He launched Blazing Meadows Farm in Ohio in the late 1990s to begin taking advantage of the state’s breeding program when his horses were done running, and Rose Colored Lady rewarded Hamm with four stakes winners in her first four runners. Her fifth foal would be Too Much Bling, a three-time graded stakes winner who earned over $500,000 and is currently a sire.

Hamm trained Too Much Bling through his first two starts, then sold the majority share to Stonerside Stable. Transferred to Bob Baffert, the horse made it to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2006 and finished sixth.

Looking back to 1998, Hamm was still operating the construction business by day and training/breeding racehorses on the side. He read an article about pinhooking, and decided he’d like give that a try.

Hamm bought two horses for $25,000 each at the Keeneland September sale. The first, a Cherokee Run filly, commanded a final bid of $250,000 at the next year’s OBS Calder sale. The second, a daughter of Dehere, recorded the fastest breeze of the OBS April sale and sold for $150,000.

“I was sitting back at the construction office after turning $50,000 into $400,000, and I just thought to myself that maybe I could really make a living at this,” Hamm said. “I just remember thinking, ‘Man, that’s a lot of two-by-fours.’”

By 2007 Hamm was ready to make the move to the horse business full time and sold the construction company.

“I guess I always thought I might want to do it as a career, but I had to own all my own horses from the beginning,” Hamm explained. “I mean, who’s going to hire a trainer who’d never trained a horse before?”

Success continued to build for Hamm over the following years, and he diversified his program from breeding to racing and sales both in Ohio and on a farm purchased in Ocala. He started several big-name runners in their careers, including multi-millionaire and champion Wait A While, but in keeping with his business roots, Hamm most often sold horses before their first graded stakes victories.

His success on the track has primarily come in Ohio, where he’s trained over 25 state-bred champions and five Ohio-bred Horse of the Year title winners.

WinStar Farm noticed that success and offered Hamm the chance to partner on a group of mares and later, on a stallion in Ohio named National Flag, which has continued to snowball Hamm’s efforts toward the top.

Those types of partnership deals are not particularly uncommon in the industry, especially the breeding side. The rarer success is in partnership deals on the racing side; typically, a trainer will take on a horse’s expenses himself, rather than charge the owner a day rate, in exchange for a larger cut of the horse’s earnings.

If the horse runs well and earns enough to pay his bills, the deal works. If the horse doesn’t earn enough to cover his costs, it can quickly become a major financial burden for the trainer who made the deal.

“We’ve always bred some homebreds, and we did take some (tougher) deals early on,” Hamm said, explaining that even with horses in which he is not a partner, he doesn’t use a day rate to make a profit, just to pay the bills; the horses’ success should be the profit part of the business equation. “It allowed us to weed through clients and stick with the ones who wanted to be successful. Those people don’t want a horse on the track at a low level, so you’re already starting off ahead of the curve.

“From there, you have to be sincere about what you’re doing and give every horse the same opportunity for success. You make those deals with people who are winners in life, then do everything right along the way.

“Is it always a gravy train? Absolutely not. When it’s good, it’s great; when it’s not, it’s not. You have to be in a position to ride out the tough times. For a lot of people who take horses on deals, they aren’t able to diversify their interests enough to carry the bad years.”

Dayoutoftheoffice wins the Frizette under Junior Alvarado

Approximately six years ago, the group at WinStar mentioned Hamm’s name to a co-owner of Siena Farm, David Pope. Pope reached out to Hamm and they agreed to partner on a group of yearlings.

One filly in that first group, Velvet Mood by Lonhro, would go on to win her first three races, including the My Dear Girl Stakes in Canada, so the partnership was off to a great start.

Siena does some commercial breeding as well as breeding to race, so Hamm would be given the opportunity to partner with the farm on yearlings that didn’t make their reserves at auction and also on some that the farm thought might be particularly special.

The latter was the case with Dayoutoftheoffice. Out of the Indian Charlie mare Gottahaveadream, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Here Comes Ben, Dayoutoftheoffice has been an exciting prospect since the very beginning.

“I guess like anyone else, I’m partial to horses that have a lot of size and scope,” Hamm said. “Like most of the Siena horses, we got her around September and took her the farm in Ocala to start training her. Around January or February we started thinking this horse could be really special, but it was a long time away from her first start.”

Dayoutoftheoffice has won each of her three career starts and should be a strong contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6. Win or lose, Hamm can’t wait to get back to the Breeders’ Cup and prove that a multiple leading trainer/owner/breeder from Ohio can compete with the world’s best.

“You know, whenever people partner with me, I tell them sincerely: ‘If you lose, you’re going to be one of the few who loses with me,’” Hamm said. “I’m self-taught, and I knew business before I knew horses, but now I do everything from A to Z. … Making it to the Breeders’ Cup means a lot to the whole team, for sure, but we don’t want this to be a one-time thing.”

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