You have to give Barry Arnason credit. He walks the talk.
The Manitoba Jockey Club board member and vice-chairman of the new FN Developments Inc.'s board of directors continues to bolster the Manitoba horse racing industry through buying horses south of the border and investing heavily in Manitoba-breds.
"I have three of my own mares and I'm partners with breeder Cam Ziprick on four other mares," said Arnason. "My dad was one of the originals in the business here and he got us involved at an early age, so I'm partial to it. And with the dollars and cents in this game right now you've got a big edge if you can get a good Manitoba-bred."
Arnason and Ziprick have invested in better-quality broodmares over the past seven years and it's now starting to pay off. A stakes-winning home-bred can grind out as much as $80,000 and sometimes more in the lucrative restricted stakes and additional Manitoba-bred bonus programs.
"In my case I'm not backing off a bit," said Arnason. "I'm pressing. I think there's going to be an opportunity to do well in the industry. You can see I've been buying horses all over. I re-bred all my mares. I believe in the industry. It's struggling all over but it's worth saving because of the job creation and the enjoyment. I'm working on bringing in more partners, getting my son and more young people involved, because I think it's worthwhile. It can be unbelievable fun with the right kind of partners who share the same values."
Arnason purchases horses privately and enjoys buying horses at auction, but gets immense satisfaction from breeding and raising horses with his partners.
"When you have bred and raised the horses, it doesn't get any better," he said. "It's so much fun when you've been a part of every aspect. Breeding and raising the horses is my favourite part of the game. Jet Again was kind of a gangly two-year-old, but now he's coming into himself."
A home-bred son of Manitoba sire Going Commando, Jet Again was named by Ziprick's wife, Sherisse, for the return of the Winnipeg Jets. Stakes-placed as a two-year-old last year, Jet Again appears to have improved dramatically and is now 2-for-2 in 2014. In his last race over a sloppy track on May 24, he came from well back to catch lone speed horse Storm Chance and drew out impressively to win with something left.
While it's tempting to run him in the $30,000 Golden Boy on June 4, it's more likely Arnason and partners Ziprick and Charles Fouillard will point towards the $25,000 Frank Arnason Sire Stakes on June 14.
Not only is the Frank Arnason Sire Stakes named after Barry's late father, it's also restricted to Manitoba-breds and allows Jet Again more time between races.
That would likely fit perfectly into the management plans of trainer Jim Meyaard, who is currently winning at a 46 per cent clip and tied for second in the standings with a record of 6-5-1 from 13 starts. The sharp 46-year-old conditioner from Barons, Alta., is a hands-on horseman, as is his wife, Amber, and the couple have an exceptional care, feeding and management program that shows in their results.
There's a backup plan for the Golden Boy Stakes, regardless.
Arnason has another three-year-old, named Northern Contract, with veteran trainer Don Schnell, and he could be a good one. Schnell has been training horses for more than 40 years and has conditioned stars such as Majestic Horizon to win over $500,000 and Rail Bender to win 38 races, among others. If he thinks he's got something special...
And the backup, backup plan? Besides Arnason and partners' emerging three-year-old filly stars Aware, Tribute to Paul, Nose the Pose and 2013 Horse of the Year Zdeno, who is recovering from a virus and slated to return in the fall? The various partnerships have six more horses with trainer Emile Corbel, who himself has a Manitoba Derby and two Assiniboia Downs Gold Cups to his credit.
"We were short of horses here," said Arnason. "I bought a trailer off of Shelley Brown and loaded it up with six horses from Florida. I went back into the horse-hauling business. I hauled them up myself with a buddy of mine. It was quite interesting, to say the least. It's called 'Grumping Old Men Horse Hauling.' "