After finding success in their first several ownership ventures, John Schwarz Junior and some friends decided the time was right to up the ante. Stealing a phrase from poker, they went "all in." So far, it's proved to be all right.
Schwarz, Richard Keys and Kristofer Heim - the primary trio that makes up We're All In Racing - have been enjoying the exploits of their newest Illinois-based stable since it formed near the end of 2004.
Schwarz, who lives in the Chicago suburbs and is a foreign currency trader on the Mercantile Exchange, started putting together harness racing ownership syndicates in 2003.
"The first fund we started was called Open Outcry Harness, which was named after a system of trading," Schwarz said. "There were eight or nine people in the fund. Instead of buying AT&T or McDonald's, we buy horses."
In addition to Open Outcry Harness and We're All In Racing, the partnerships put together by Schwarz include No Cry Harness and Hat Trick Racing. The four "funds," which is how Schwarz looks at them, have totaled 147 wins, including 71 in 2005.
chwarz's interest in racing blossomed during childhood, when he went go to the track with his late brother, Joey, and late father, John.
"My father was a $2 bettor," Schwarz, 38, said. "He never lost more than $10 or $20 at the track whenever we went. I remember he used to take my brother and me to the track on Thanksgiving; they had a 10.00 am post time and we'd be back for dinner. I remember going on Friday nights and then going to have ice cream afterward. It was just a fun thing to go out there. I always wanted at some point in time to get more involved."
In the summer of 2001, Schwarz's brother was killed in an automobile accident involving a drunken driver. In time, Schwarz and his father turned to racing as a diversion.
"We'd gone through our lives without a scratch," Schwarz said. "Then some guy who had nine DUIs in three different states slammed into him on his way home from work. We were just a mess. The horse racing has helped to soothe some of those pains, but it's an everyday fight. I've gone the last five years without my best friend."
One of Schwarz's goals was to get his father to the winner's circle as an owner. They started by becoming Thoroughbred owners, but eventually turned to harness racing and started a business relationship with trainer Homer Hochstetler. On January 20, 2002, father and son stood in the winner's circle with pacer Foudroyant Filly at Balmoral Park.
"You always think about how you can give back to your parents," Schwarz said. "I wanted my dad to be a part of a racehorse. I was fortunate enough to make some monies that I could live my dream."
Schwarz knew he didn't have the money to get involved on a grander scale, so he came up with the idea for his partnerships, where a group of investors could pool their resources. His mother, Elvera, was among those involved in the first one. For the most recent fund -- We're All In Racing -- the investors contributed a total of $250,000, roughly double the amount from their previous groups. Their first purchase was a pacing mare named Young's Tower, who in 2005 won 15 of 30 starts and earned $117,302. The stable also includes Upitagain N, who made $68,189, and Yankee Lariat, who banked $61,369.
"We've done well, it's been really neat," Schwarz said. "We've generally focused on claimers; I like to buy them between $20,000 and $50,000. Now, with Young's Tower and some of the others, we have a few stakes-level and open horses. As soon as something appears to be not very good, we dump it. We've learned to be successful by taking losses. You can't get to the good horses unless you get rid of the bad stock, in our opinion."
Young's Tower, who was purchased privately for $55,000, provided Schwarz and his friends with their biggest purse victory to date by winning the $94,061 Michigan Parimutuel championship at Northville in 2004. She was set to try her luck against the top mares in the division in the 2005 Milton Stakes at Mohawk Racetrack, but was scratched sick. In November, she posted a win over Midnight Jewel, who has earned nearly three-quarter of a million dollars in her career, and then spent the final weeks of the season racing against the males.
Schwarz might give Young's Tower, who has been primarily trained by Rebekah Swinko, a chance at the Meadowlands Racetrack in the upcoming Cape & Cutter and Overbid series.
"We have two options, either racing at the Meadowlands or going to Canada and racing at Woodbine," Schwarz said. "I want to see her win a big race at Woodbine or the Meadowlands. She's travelled around, and I'd love to see her compete against the top mares. Right now, she's just grinding out a lot of money. The thing about her, the way she's won has been incredible. She's had some tough trips, but she's just a horse with so much heart. That's half the battle. You go to bed easy at night when you have one like her."
Courtesy Of Harness Racing Communications, A Division of the United States Trotting Association