Meet Wasabi Ventures Co-Owner Club Member and Ambassador, Lauren Floyd! She grew up riding horses in northern Virginia. Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown run sparked her interest in racing, but she didn’t become a serious fan until 2014. Lauren rode horses all through college at the University of Mary Washington and graduated in 2014 with a degree in English. Currently, she works in the software development industry in the DC area, which helps finance her horse racing hobby. She joined Wasabi Ventures Stables in May 2018 and is now one of two Maryland track ambassadors for the club.
1.What attracted you to the horse racing industry?
I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. I started taking riding lessons as soon as I turned 8 and have been riding off and on ever since. In 2004, one of my best friends suggested that I watch the Kentucky Derby on TV, which turned out to be the year of Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown attempt. I was starstruck after his win in the Preakness, where he obliterated his competition. Of course, I was heartbroken when Birdstone ran him down in the Belmont.
Afleet Alex captured my imagination later that fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. I remember they did a story on how he had to be bottle fed as a foal by a girl who also happened to be named Lauren. Even though he didn’t win that day, I was sure that he was my horse for the Triple Crown in 2005. His near fall in the Preakness and his electrifying turn of foot in the Belmont quickly made him one of my all-time favorites.
For those first few years, I watched every race I could find on TV (meaning that I was limited to the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup coverage) and devoured articles in the newspaper, but I didn’t know how to follow it more closely. I became engrossed in the Thoroughbred book series and fell in love with novels like The Black Stallion.
After Barbaro’s tragic breakdown in the Preakness in 2006, I drifted away from the sport for a while. I returned to horse racing in 2014 when I attempted to “beat” California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby. (We all know how that worked out!) At that point, I figured out which websites were best to follow horse racing and got into “horse racing Twitter.” I’ve been a complete addict ever since.
2. What aspect of horse racing do you enjoy the most?
There are so many different aspects to racing that I love, but I’ll try to go through some of them. Obviously, I love the horses themselves, first and foremost. They all have such unique personalities and it’s a real joy seeing them act goofy in their stalls while begging for mints, or playing with sticks in their paddocks (I’m looking at you Campaign Vows!).
I love the community aspect of racing. I’ve met some wonderful friends through the sport, including many of my fellow co-owners through WVS. Some I’ve never met in person, but we still manage to talk almost every day about our mutual passion for horse racing. Twitter and other social media make prominent owners, trainers, breeders, and jockeys incredibly accessible to everyday fans.
One of the more unique aspects of our sport is that you can be a fan of an unlimited number of horses, trainers, owners, and jockeys. Sure, there are traditional rivalries, but I love that every fan can still appreciate and cheer for a horse like American Pharoah, Winx, or Frankel.
I revel in the sense of anticipation as the horses load into the starting gate, that electricity in the crowd when the field turns into the stretch, where even the grooms are cheering their horses on. There haven’t been many moments in my life when I’ve cried tears of joy, but horse racing has given me quite a few of them.
Finally, I love that there’s always more to learn about the sport and its various aspects, from training, to breeding, to the sales ring and more. There’s just so much to research and analyze, which makes it a very engaging sport even beyond race days.
3. Why did you join the Wasabi Ventures Co-Owner Club?
I’ve been involved in a couple of other affordable racing partnerships since 2016, but WVS was the first one I could find that was based in my area. Christie Lane Craven, a friend of mine from the track, shared some of her experiences owning through WVS with me and I was immediately intrigued. I bought into my first club horse in May 2018 and have since owned a total of nine through the club, including several broodmares.
I love that not only can I visit the horses regularly at the barn, but also that our trainers know who I am and are happy to speak to me at the track.
I thought I knew a lot about the industry before getting involved with WVS, especially since I’d been in other partnerships before, but I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the claiming game, buying at the sales, breeding, and a ton of other things as well.
I’m also incredibly budget conscious, so it’s imperative that I know exactly how much a partnership is going to cost me going in. With WVS, I don’t need to worry that I’m going to bust my budget for a particular month if one of my horses gets injured or sick. In fact, I’ve actually made a real profit on several of my WVS horses, which certainly didn’t happen for any of my other partnerships (even the highly successful ones!).
4. Who is your favorite horse?
I have so many that I can’t just name one! One of my all-time favorites has to be Afleet Alex, who helped cement my love for the sport. I’ve been a complete sucker for a good closer ever since, and I was ecstatic when his son, Texas Red, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile back in 2014.
Cistron will always be near and dear to my heart too. He may not be as well-known, but I owned a small interest in him through the Little Red Feather crowdfunding partnership in 2017. In his very first race for us, he dueled through the stretch with another horse to prevail by a head. I was screaming him on from my living room and burst into happy tears when he crossed the finish line in front. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Cistron went on to win the Northern Spur Stakes for us at Oaklawn Park, and I got to see him in person when he finished 3rd in the G2 Penn Mile. To date, he has won over $300,000 and I still get a leap of excitement whenever I see one of his workout or entry notifications.
Participate will also always have a special place in my heart. She was one of the first horses I owned through WVS and got me to the winner’s circle for the first time in person after scoring by open lengths at Laurel Park. She also took us to Maryland Million Day this previous fall, which was an experience I’ll never forget. She has since been retired, but we are really excited that she’s been booked to Irish War Cry this spring!
Other favorites include some of the other horses I’ve owned in partnership, such as Insta Erma, Trapped N My Mind, King Abner, Noble Freud, Smokin Hot Factor, and Campaign Vows. I’ll also always be a huge fan of Smarty Jones, Beholder, Shared Belief, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Ruffian, and the great Man O’ War. (I said I had a lot of favorites!)
5. What issues in the industry would you like to see addressed?
It’s crucial for us to improve racing’s image among the general public. I’ve met far too many people who think that all racehorses are drugged and abused. In reality, many owners and trainers care very deeply about their horses and do their best to keep their horses happy and healthy. However, I’d like to see harsher punishments for any owners or trainers who do drug or abuse their horses, including lifetime bans if needed.
I also wish the public had a better way to see how much we love these animals and how many of us are utterly heartbroken if they break down on the track. Too many people think that owners are only in it for the money, which is far from true in most cases. To go along with this, I’d love to see more research done on how to prevent breakdowns to begin with. Obviously not all instances are preventable, but it would be fantastic to help lower those numbers as much as possible.
Beyond those, we need to find more ways to get people involved as owners in the industry, even if it’s only at a smaller level. WVS is doing a fantastic job of bringing new owners into the game. Virtually all of the other owners I know through WVS and other affordable partnerships have gone on to own additional horses later. We need more innovation like this to help get more people investing in the horse racing industry. More owners means more breeders and more horses, which means larger fields, more bettors, and higher purses.
6. What is the most exciting part of being an ambassador?
I haven’t had the chance to be much of an ambassador yet, as I’m sharing duties in Maryland with fellow co-owner, Chad Glass, but I’m really excited to share the joy of racehorse ownership with other local fans! Getting to visit with your own racehorses at the barn is one of the best parts about being an owner in this game. I have so many goofy photos of our horses at Pimlico. I’m looking forward to adding to my collection and sharing them with club members who can’t make regular trips to Maryland. The plan is for us to have at least monthly track visits in Maryland (although I’m sure there are times where we’ll meet up much more often) as well as quarterly visits to Pimlico to watch our horses train. I’m just thrilled to be along for the ride!