Tim Harris starts his own Thoroughbred breeding operation
Tim Harris first worked for Walmart in the stores while in college. After school, he transferred to the home office and had different management roles, including being a buyer in merchandising, when another opportunity beckoned.
“I saw the numbers of how my past experience could be applied to horse racing and breeding,” Tim said.
For a year, he partnered with his father and sister in a horseracing company called Racing Divas. After the thrill of watching his horses run and do well at Will Rogers Downs in Claremore, Okla., he decided he didn’t want to pay someone else to house his horses. The thrill of competition had also captured him, especially after their first horse returned their investment and made a profit within one month. They invested that money and purchased two horses at an auction, with one of them winning the Oklahoma Stallion Stakes at Remington in Oklahoma City by the end of that same year.
After that first racing season with the Divas in 2011, Tim decided to go on his own, partially because he had a vision for what he wanted to do and partially because he would rather risk his own money than be concerned about money from partners traveled through the area he now calls home and, the location of Circle Bar H.
Analysis and evaluation were a major part of a skill set that fit comfortably in horse racing.
“Being a breeder is analytical,” Tim explained. “A number of sources predict the success of broodmares and studs; but if it were just numbers and science, billionaires would always win and they don’t.”
The analytical sources are not very different from the EPDs used by cattlemen with the addition of grading according to a horse’s values. One source, G1 Gold Mine, is popular in the United States and used by some of the best farms in Kentucky. This source gives priority to stallions. Another is the Tesio program, similar but emphasizing breeding females. Similar programs, like True Nicks, are more flexible and analyze breeding pairs though it too emphasize the stud slightly more.
This is where Tim Harris’ skill set comes into play. Particularly fond of racing females and never owning or wanting to own a stud. Tim looks at all of the genetic background, including pictures, and tries to create the perfectly balanced couple by matching the stud to the broodmare in a process very similar to matching a bull and a donor female for embryo transplants.
Tim was a Springdale, Ark., townie with Cherokee on his father’s side. Coming back on tribal land to raise horses was appealing, especially as he fondly remembered going to his grandfather’s small farm in Muskogee. That farm had bees, chickens, a milk cow, an orchard and a large garden.
Tim’s parents, Claude and Betty, were always together and encouraged a competitive spirit in all things, and belonging to the church was always a priority. Tim also remembers his father making a competition of digging potatoes which, of course, made them work all the harder and faster. Claude taught them to be competitive but, in a fun, rather than ruthless way.
This competition and encouragement played a key role in Tim’s partnership in Racing Divas. However, Tim went out on his own and over a two-year period purchased 190 acres on Cherokee land where he typically has 25 to 40 racehorses at different stages, from 2-year-olds just getting ready to run their first races to those approaching retirement. The Oklahoma Classic Night is the most important in Oklahoma racing. Tim had one 2-year-old filly named Zapit after her mother who had been killed by lightning. Zapit won the Oklahoma Classic Night in her class and set a record at 90-1 odds, resulting in the highest payout ever at that event.
“The future of Circle Bar H has to be in breeding and selling more than racing,” Tim said.
This year, Tim is breeding 10 mares, with eight mares traveling out of state to be bred and two in Arkansas. Tim saves costs by taking more than one mare to the same stud.
“We look forward to whatever God gives us and hopefully we will have foals by the freshman studs, Honor Code, Maximum Security and Honor AP,” Tim said. “We could never do this without my friend Terry Nickel at Endeavor Farm. We have been partners for several years and they take great care of our mares while in Kentucky.”
“Love season” is between Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day with the goal of having foals born as close as possible after Jan. 1, the official birthday of all foals. Typically, the mares with their foals travel for re-breeding 10 days after foaling and stay long enough to ensure a solid pregnancy before returning home.
Tim also has a small cow/calf operation for personal and family use that may expand into a commercial operation sometime in the future.
Tim openly admits he treats his horses like family and is very particular about their second careers. Because they are used to running full out, they need to be retrained for the show ring, barrel racing and jumping events. Horses close to retirement often become pleasure horses or broodmares.
“My horses are important to me, and I want to know they have good futures,” Tim explained.
Every farmer and rancher knows how difficult finding good, reliable help can be. Tim has found a solution that not only works well for him but is monitored by an outside source. He hires people from the drug court which is always looking for someone who will give others a chance, that is a hand up and not a handout. The workers receive counseling until they graduate and are tested frequently. Anyone who fails a test is removed so Tim doesn’t face the difficulty of firing people while helping break an obstinate cycle for those who succeed. Of the three who have graduated, two are full-time employees with both being groomed for management at CBH.
“I learned from my father and Walmart, how to treat people right and how to listen to their ideas,” Tim said. “It’s also important to let them know they are trusted. While not everybody works out, the success of those who do enhances my own. I wish more people would try this route and find the kind of help they’re looking for.”