Stakes-winning owner Billy Ham has called Florida home since 1980. 

“I moved around a lot as a child because my father was a soldier. Every six to eight months we were moving to Europe or somewhere within the U.S. Dad finally retired from the service and, at the time, was stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., near Augusta. I was a senior in high school and attended public school for the first time at Evans High School. Some of my best friends I have today are some of those high school buddies. After high school and college, I decided to move to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.”

Ham started his racing career in the Quarter Horse world. 

“I started off assisting my brother for a few years racing Quarter Horses,” Ham said. “I raced mostly at Pompano Park in Florida, Evangeline Downs in Louisiana and in Paducah, Kentucky. Many jockey names you may hear of now in the Thoroughbred industry were formerly Quarter Horse jockeys that rode for us.”  

Some of these jockeys were Hoby Kight, Robert Bentley, Nickey Laws, Keneth Lejeune, Ricky Lapalla, Leroy Alemand and Wayne and Randy Rentz.

“We were the leading trainer the last year [of Quarter Horse] racing at Pompano Park, around 1987. We won the big stakes on closing night with Ghost Catcher and I believe he was named Horse of the Meet. We also had Pas Panama that was the claimer of the meet and many other good horses. Our stable peaked at 47 horses,” Ham said. 

When Ham moved to a new apartment, it was very close to Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park. 

“I frequented them often and that’s when I fell in love with Thoroughbred racing,” Ham said. 

Ham soon started purchasing Thoroughbred yearlings at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales. 

“I would stable them at Huck Liles Training Center in Davie, Fla.  I would get them broke, ready to race, and send them to Larry Pilotti, who’s my favorite trainer ever. Larry had a big stable at the time and was the top trainer for Monarch Stable. Two or three times back-to-back, Larry would win the first time out with my horses and immediately get an offer from Monarch Stable. Monarch had quite a bit of success with all of them—Box Cutter, Sparkling Brandy, etc.” Ham said.

Larry retired from training and is now the paddock judge at Gulfstream Park. 

“My new favorite trainer is Michael Yates and I bet on his horses religiously.” 

One horse sent to Yates, a Mecke colt bought for $2,400, went on to be a stakes winner. 

“I remember purchasing the 2-year-old in training at OBS from Ocala Stud. His under-tack time was slow, but I just had to have him. I loved everything I saw. I named him I’mroyallymecke’d. He proved me right and retired a stakes winner.”

The first yearling Ham ever sold as a breeder was named Triple Scout. 

“She went through the 2018 OBS winter sale and was purchased by Tami Bobo [First Finds]. She is by Kantharos, who bred her at a $5,000 stud fee and is out of my mare, Exclusive Ute, who I still own. I follow her races to this day and I love watching her compete.”

Through his last start, a second in a $10,000 starter, optional claiming at Horseshoe Indianapolis on May 20, Triple Scout has 13 wins, 10 seconds and five thirds with earnings of $145,675. Seven of her wins came in 2023.

One of Ham’s favorite parts of being a racehorse owner is the racetrack atmosphere. 

“I really miss it, and at times, I’ve pondered selling my breeding stock and getting back to the races. I have two yearlings by Raging Bull (Fr) and by Basin. Both fillies are extremely smart and look to be very talented. My Basin filly [Seeking Mayhem] runs circles around the others in the field. But she is built like a speedster whereas my Racing Bull filly [LaMotta] will be more of a distance, turf type. I’m going to try and sell them first and if they’re RNA’s, they’re going to the track,” Ham said. 

Today, Ham is offering his Thoroughbred services through Ham Equine LLC. 

“I’m looking forward to consigning my yearlings for the October 2024 OBS sale, and I’m hoping to get a few clients horses as well.” Ham said.

Return to the May 28 issue of Wire to Wire