It is not uncommon for many people to take a hobby and turn it into a business.
After a few years in construction, Ohio native Tim Hamm has built his hobby into a solid racing operation that includes being an owner, breeder, trainer, and ambassador.
Hamm may not be a household name amongst New York horse racing fans. However, the 53-year-old has a strong base with horses at Belterra Park and Thistledown, as well as Presque Isle Downs in Northwest Pennsylvania. During the winter and early spring, he splits his stable between Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and Mahoning Valley Race Course in Ohio.
Along with being a breeder and representative of Blazing Meadows Farm, trainer and a board member for the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners organization, Hamm operates a farm outside of Tampa where he helps yearlings transition into 2-year-olds in the winter.
Also over the last several years, Hamm has been working with powerhouse breeders and owner WinStar Farm for select stallions being bred to his mares before bringing them back to Ohio in foal.
Hamm’s latest venture with WinStar is National Flag, a horse who won his first race at Saratoga as a 2-year-old before becoming a graded stakes winner. With National Flag standing as stud in Ohio, the WinStar and Blazing Meadows have combined their brand into WinBlaze.
At Saratoga, Hamm had a couple of horses stabled near Brad Cox’s barn five years ago. Only one horse started for Hamm that year: Tippany, who finished seventh in her first career race behind eventual multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Paulassilverlining.
Hamm is taking another shot in expanding his business to Saratoga. He currently has just six horses in training at Saratoga, including unbeaten 2-year-old Fast Scene who won both her debut and the My Dear Stakes at Woodbine rather impressively.
“We have a couple of nice horses,” Hamm said. “We have some maidens who I think belong here. We would like to win a race, just like everyone else. I would like all of the horses come out of here healthy and move onto the next venue in good order. We are looking to maintain what we do and get the horses looking forward. We are going to try to make this a yearly stop.”
Over a 23-year training career, Hamm has won more than 1,200 races for close to $27 million in earnings. Many of his stakes winners occurred in Ohio, but two of them were graded stakes winners: Joanies Bella (2001 Arlington-Washington Lassie) and Afternoon Stroll (2009 Appalachian).
While working construction in 1995, Hamm bought his first horse for $10,000. After she won her maiden easily at Philadelphia Park, now known as Parx, Hamm learned that his hobby could become a business.
“When I started construction, one of my goals was to own a racehorse,” Hamm said. “As I was walking off the track, some guy says, ‘Hey. Do you want to sell that horse? I would like to buy your horse. It’s good money. I’ll give you $100,000 for her.’ I kept her. It was sort of a hobby for me.”
A year later, Hamm bought a few horses that included the mare Rose Color Lady for $20,000. While Rose Color Lady won 4-of-48 races for just over $139,000, she eventually became more valuable as a broodmare.
One of the horses that she helped produce – and that Hamm developed – was multiple graded stakes sprinter Too Much Bling. After Too Much Bling won his first career start by 19½ lengths at Thistledown, Hamm sold the majority share to Stonerside Stables as the horse later finished third in the 2005 Hopeful. A year later, Stonerside Stables purchased Rose Color Lady for $750,000 at the Keeneland sales.
“We end up selling her for $1 million at the Fasig-Tipton sale,” Hamm said. “It was $750,000 through the ring, then the rest was through stud fees and everything else. It was a pretty good deal. Those kinds of things got me out of construction.”
That wasn’t the only scenario that took some convincing of Hamm leaving the construction business. In 1999, he purchased two horses for $50,000 before reselling – or pinhooking – them for a combined $400,000.
“I turned $50K into $400K in 5-6 months,” Hamm said. “I was at the construction desk doing estimates and realized that I would have to sell a lot of 2x4s to clear $350K. It got my mind churning and it took me several years to make that total jump.”
In between training, developing and breeding horses, Hamm still finds time to watch his 17-year-old son Shane play football at Archbishop Hoban in Akron. Archbishop Hoban is one of the top high school programs in the country after winning four consecutive state titles that includes 29 straight wins over the last two years.
His son enters his junior year and can lift 250 pounds in a power clean, has been the starting quarterback for the last two seasons and is currently going through the recruiting process for college football.
“They have a really good team,” said Hamm, who was also a linebacker for Youngstown State. “They have six or seven kids who go to Division I schools each year. I have given him all of the pointers that I know. He learned all that I could teach him. It is a lot of fun. Outside of horses, that’s my favorite thing to do is watch him play football.”
While Hamm would consider being a football coach as his second life, he believes he has found a niche – and that he’s happy – in something that was once a hobby.
“I am grinding out one thing to the next,” Hamm said. “In this business, I think it’s the hardest business in the world to make a living at. You have to figure out your niche and how to make a living at it. But it’s pretty cool. I think the thing that keeps me in it is that it’s challenging every day. You never get to the bottom of it.”