After earning a diploma in Marketing and Sales from Humber College,could have walked through many different doors.
Despite the good possibilities, the door closest to his heart was the door that led back home and after spending a short time away in the business world, that is what Carmen did. Carmen has never had to look back and he may not want to.
"I was bored with my job and about a year after I finished college, I decided 'if I'm ever going to try this I am going to do so now when I am 21 years old instead of later in life and regretting why I didn't try this sooner'. And it's been great!" Carmen says. "My father and I have been partners and we started at the bottom and worked our way to a bigger and 70 horse stable and now we are one of the top (stables) in Canada."
It's a touching thought knowing Carmen could just of easily chosen another career path but he trusted his gut, his intuition and the hard work has paid off for him and his family. Carmen credits his dad for all of his inspiration. "He's been supporting 4 kids and a wife for many years now. He had his ups and downs and there were years we struggled financially. I saw the heart and soul he put into it, year after year after year to try and support myself and my sisters and the family. I felt I owed it to him to get involved and continue the family business. Definitely owe everything to him."
"Hard work has a lot to do with (the success) but there is more to it. I think with me, I went and got an education and learned how to run a business. I learned how to sell myself and sell my services and I learned how to deal with owners and clients. Without them, the owners, we are nothing. I can't afford to own all these horses by myself."
Carmen continues his beliefs that without his owners providing him quality horses, no matter how good he is, Carmen could only go so far.
"Aside from working with the horses, there is a lot more to being successful than just training horses." Carmen explains he's "put more of a business oriented aspect into my job, my career and my business... there is having the right people, you have to have them doing it right and you need to trust them. You need to become affiliated with people who believe in you and want to invest in you. That is what I've worked on the last few years and I am proud of that."
Carmen offers wonderful advice for anyone wanting to get into the horse racing industry. Passion is vital, yet more is needed to ensure security let alone success. "I would ask them to what capacity do they want to be involved? There are a lot of people who are happy to jog horses and do the more hands on approach for a living. You're not going to get rich, but you can have a very fulfilling career. Do they want to train? Do they want to drive? Do they want to own their own business and grow it to where they're one of the biggest stables in North America?"
"Learning to have an eye for a horse, spotting a good horse when you see one....You got to put the time in and everyone is not cut out for it. There are a lot of people that can train a horse better than me, but they cannot run a business." Carmen emphasizes that working with top quality stables is the best way to learn, whether you want to drive or train. At the end of the day, any chance of success is based on having a plan and knowing how to execute that plan to fruition.
With the cuts in racing within Ontario, Carmen still manages to employ ten workers, three in the USA and the rest at his stable in Port Perry, Ontario. Why has Carmen been able to employ close to a dozen employees? "Why? My rates are fairly reasonable, we are a family orientated business but at the same time we are trying to grow it the best we can. I didn't settle, when 25 horses was at my max I didn't say 'I'm full'. If somebody offered me a horse I found a way to accommodate them."
"We expanded to the States and we had upwards of 20-25 horses at one time. We are making expansions to our facility here to accommodate ten more horses. When people are willing to invest in you and bring you horses, you have to accommodate them."
Carmen also acknowledges the scary part to any business; "There will be times when things aren't as good and you need to be prepared for that as well."
Something unique Carmen offers to all of his owners is a flat fee rate, ensuring there is no end of the month surprises baring any extreme circumstances such as veterinary emergencies. "What you see is what you get" explains Carmen. "Not only are my rates very reasonable compared to other guys, it is also flat rate and owners know what their bill is going to be at the end of the month. It's all inclusive."
"There are so many costs in training a horse and running a stable" Carmen acknowledges. "Owners think $45 a day? Oh this is cheap. But when trainers need to add in the additional costs for shoeing, vitamins and anything extra that comes up, which always happens, it adds up and then owners think they are getting ripped off. It's all about perception."
Carmen emphasizes managing costs and looking for ways to save. Such as buying in bulk does help him keep his prices low. "If I feel the horses don't need it, they don't get it. It is not cutting corners; it is keeping the costs down. If I keep my cost down, then that saves money for the owner and we all have a chance to make money."
In terms of which races and where Carmen likes to place his horses, he prefers to stick with Woodbine Racetrack (and Mohawk in the summer months). Whether the horse races for a $4,000 purse or a $16,000 purse, it will eat the same and need the exact amount of care and attention regardless. So for Carmen, he steers clear of the 'B' tracks since it is not as easy to make money. Sure if the horse wins three or four races at a 'B' track, it may cover costs and provide a little profit but in reality it is not feasible for growth in the long term.
If owners are not making money, they are most likely to pull out of the game and that is one less horse immediately and that experience may sour the owner for a lifetime ensuring they will not buy anymore horses.
Carmen's stable has the most starts at Woodbine this year and his stable has the second most starts in North America. How did he get to this point? "You have to invest money, but you also have to sell yourself and find others to invest. I consider myself a salesman because that is what I am doing, selling my services.... Anybody can do it, I would suggest you put something together where you can claim one horse, race it at Woodbine. Start with one and hopefully have it snowball from there.
As for Carmen's stable in the USA, he is based in Pine Bush, NY and mainly has his horses race at Yonkers and the Meadowlands for the time being. Once more racetracks open up in Pennsylvania such as Pocono Downs and Harris Philadelphia; he will expand to racing at all four. Right now his stable in the USA has 15 horses, but Carmen hopes to have that number grow to 25 maybe even 30.
For 2014, Carmen considers his best horse to be Bugger Bruiser who he bought for $40,000 last year, and then went on to win all four races after he joined Carmen's barn bringing in over $200,000. "He hasn't raced yet this year but I have him entered into all the big races, the North America Cup, the Meadowlands Pace" confirms Carmen. "He's the nicest horse we've ever had and we are going to give him a shot and hopefully he will dance the big dance with all the other good horses. He's definitely my number one contender this year."
Away from the track, Carmen enjoys playing hockey and golf with his buddies, though he admits he doesn't have the time to get out as much as he used to. Carmen has a 3 year old daughter named Leah and a 7 month old son named Hudson. Carmen also gives a lot of credit to his wife Ashley, who he says has been so amazing, supportive and strong. "She's allowed me to chase my dream" Carmen says. "There are a lot of nights where I am out at the track, I'm not at home and she's at home taking care of the house and the kids.... She's been supportive since day one."
As Carmen's stable grows and with more owners joining the ranks, one thing Carmen ensures is that he wants his owners to have a say. For instance, for a long while Carmen was loyal to driverand vice versa, and not to say there is no loyalty but Carmen does his best to respect an owner's choice for who is driving their horse. Which is understandable as this is a team endeavor. "90 percent of the time it's up to me, but at times owners may request a driver change".
In the midst of all the racing going on, Carmen is currently building his man cave in his basement! At the time of the interview, Carmen was headed out to buy an 80 inch TV for the cave. Yes I said 80 inch TV, well done sir! Aside from the TV, Carmen will add a booming stereo as well has his racing trophies and the blanket from the Super Final last year and a blown up picture of the Super Final Win. Carmen's goal is "to add as many trophies and pictures as I can."
At the rate Carmen is going, he may need to expand the man cave shortly, or build a second man cave. Maybe have one in Canada and the other at his stable south of the border.
by Roderick Balgobin of Supernova Sports Club www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova