Tim and Gloria Harris of Big Sugar Racing say they are living proof that owners don’t have to spend six figures on horses to be competitive.
“For us, we’re very much at a smaller price tag. There are fewer zeroes at the end of what we’ll be spending,” said Tim, who recalled his $5,000 purchase, Big Sugar High, finishing a few lengths off several $300,000 competitors. “Runners come from everywhere. You’ve just got to look and put some time into it and be patient.”
The Harris family made the conversion from fans to owners and breeders fairly recently. Tim and Gloria had extended family who were running horses in Oklahoma and watched their first stakes race there.
“The crowd, horses and competition certainly brought out a continued interest in racing for us and we sought out mentors to ask questions of about racing,” recalled Tim. ”Over the years we'd take our kids to a friend’s farm from time to time to visit horses. We got to know the horse's names, watched them grow, and followed their development from foals at the farm to runners on the track.”
Big Sugar Racing is now in its second year of racing. In 2012, it launched with a single horse on track who, as Harris puts it “didn’t come close to breaking his maiden at Remington.” Now, the stable runs nine horses who have collected two stakes wins in Iowa.
Mama’s Mad Money is the current stable star. The 2-year-old filly by freshman sire Save Big Money brought the barn its first stakes win in the Iowa Stallion Futurity in July and will likely run in the Oklahoma Classics and Stallion Stakes to finish her season this year at Remington Park.
Harris said so far, he doesn’t have a favorite horse. Tim, Gloria, and their five children find themselves getting attached to each and every one.
“We're so proud of all our horses and have been so blessed with what we've been given from runners to broodmares, winners, foals and great memories,” Tim said. “We want to do the best we can for each horse to enable them reach their full potential.”
Big Sugar Racing has had so much early success thanks to its runners and bloodstock that the Harris family purchased Circle Bar H Farm, where the majority of its broodmares, weanlings, and yearlings will live.
For Harris, the whirlwind learning process of the last two years was made easier by his business experience. A former buyer for Wal-Mart, he is now the president of Harris Consulting, which advises retail suppliers who distribute their products in Wal-Mart stores. His business is quantifying progress through numbers.
“In a lot of ways, those numbers come right back into play when you’re dealing with breezing times and looking at and analyzing data in the horse business,” he said.
He did find that he needed some help navigating the new world of racing, though. Through his work as a consultant, Harris knew Ebby Novak at New Farm, who proved a valuable resource.
“He was kind enough to give me time and priceless guidance that I’ve just started to scratch the surface of understanding and utilizing in our racing,” said Harris.
TOBA’s seminars were also a great resource for Harris. He has attended three seminars in the last two years and says that not only did he learn from the curriculum at each event, but the connections he made there proved helpful down the road. Harris even met his equine accountant at one seminar.
“The seminars were outstanding,” he said. “It was a great opening door to help you understand the different ways in which you can get involved in the business.”
Looking forward, Harris said Big Sugar Racing plans to run 15 horses and will be represented by both 2- and 3-year-olds, primarily in Iowa and Oklahoma.
“We’re more of a regional runner,” said Harris, who said he has one Kentucky-bred ready to run next year. “We’ll definitely continue to breed for sale (Kentucky-breds) and to race (Oklahoma-breds) and we see the potential for breeding in a few more states down the road.”