Already a successful owner and bloodstock agent by age 32, Chad Summers wanted to do more in the sport where he’d spent most of his life.
Still, when the Long Island, NY, native took out his training license at the beginning of 2017, it raised more than a few eyebrows.
“It was about opening a public stable,” he said. “I had the support of big owners who wanted me to do it. It wasn’t something that I was necessarily looking to do (at that moment in January), but the opportunity was right. I feel like you only get that one opportunity, so it seemed like the right time.”
Summers grew up cutting his teeth in virtually every aspect of the sport, from a hot walker and a groom, to a clocker’s assistant and racing manager, and everything in between, but it was in his role as a bloodstock agent when he was able to showcase his eye for talent.
He was instrumental in helping his clients acquire Grade 1 Mother Goose winner Off the Tracks for $50,000 (with career earnings of $570,000), three-time Grade 3 winner Tommy Macho for $25,000 (with career earnings to date of $785,000), and Grade 3 winner Arella Rockstar for $13,000 (with career earnings of $150,000 and a perfect 2-for-2 record).
“At the sales, you want athletes, whatever you can find,” said Summers. “The thing we’ve had the most luck with is not necessarily the cost; you need to find a sound horse and an athlete.”
His best find is a New York-bred colt with a penchant for early 2000s hip-hop named Mind Your Biscuits.
Originally purchased for $47,000 by Machmer Hall Farm, Summers (along with his father and brother) privately bought a half-stake (and later, a full stake) in Biscuits for $30,000 after the colt failed to meet his reserve price at auction. No horse better exemplifies Summers’ ability to identify lesser-sought horses with high ceilings.
“He’s a New York-bred who was bought for $30,000,” said Summers. “It gives anyone who’s ever wanted to buy a horse the hope that you can (without paying for a high-priced sire).”
After four efforts as a juvenile, Biscuits added blinkers and had an eventful 3-year-old season. He broke his maiden, then won his first graded stakes race (the Grade 2 Amsterdam) before finishing fifth in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop and runner-up in the Grade 3 Gallant Bob.
Biscuits’ summer efforts were enough to convince Summers to make the trip to Santa Anita for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but he needed help getting there. Prior to shipping cross-country, Summers and the other co-owners (including J Stables, his brother, and his father) decided to sell a 25% share to some connections with deeper pockets.
“One of the reasons that I did sell 25% of the horse before the Breeders’ Cup last year was because I had to write a check for $45,000 between the pre-entry and the entry (fees),” Summers said. “When you and your partners have to write that kind of check, sometimes you have to make a business decision. We did the math: if you’re not top 3, you’re not going to make any money; if you’re 4th, you’re going to break even; if you’re 5th, you’re going to lose money. Even though we had a good year and he had just made $60,000 in the Gallant Bob, it was still a big check to have to write.”
Financial needs notwithstanding, Summers said that he never would have sold stock in Biscuits if it had meant relinquishing the final say in his prized colt’s career.
“The key was making sure that I still had full management control,” Summers said. “Without that, I wouldn’t have done the deal. That said, I couldn’t ask for better partners. It really feels like a team and a family.”
It was that new partnership with Michael Kisber and Head of Plains that convinced Summers to explore a training license. Meanwhile, Biscuits finished 1 1/2 lengths off the winner, Drefong, as part of a fast-closing, third-place effort in the Sprint (which became a second after Masochistic was disqualified). Biscuits returned six weeks later to defeat Sharp Azteca in the Grade 1 Malibu over the same track.
Biscuits seemed primed for a big 4-year-old season when Summers announced that he had received his training license and would be moving Biscuits (and a handful of others) to the newly-formed stable.
While an owner becoming a trainer isn’t entirely uncommon in the thoroughbred world, moving a star performer right after winning his first Grade 1 drew the ire of many keyboard jockeys. Summers has downplayed any talk of unhappiness with or criticism of Biscuits’ former trainer, Robert Falcone, Jr.
“(Biscuits) has been my horse from the beginning,” Summers said. “I worked closely with Robby (while he was training Biscuits), so nothing really changed but the name on the paper. Robby did a great job with him. I’m sure we’ll do business together again in the future. He’s a great kid with a promising future and an excellent opinion.
“On the one hand, I feel like I paid my dues and earned this. On the other, I feel extremely fortunate and blessed. This is a humbling game, and I know how lucky I am to be in this position.”
Stay tuned next week and all year long as www.RacingDudes.com follows Chad Summers and Mind Your Biscuits on their quest for vengeance in the Grade 1, $1,500,000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 4, 2017.
Next week’s story: “Training a Star: Chad Summers Profile #2”