The lifestyle of training racehorses is not always filled with excitement and success. It is a seven day a week job usually for the full 365 days of the year. Working outside in temperatures that range from 20° below to 105° – there is not a lot of glamour. As a trainer you barely have the time to enjoy your horses race as there is always something going on behind the scenes. So why do it?
Because the success stories you accumulate over time are the some of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. This page is a recap of some of my most memorable horse stories.
When I decided to get back in the sport in 2010 Haley was my first horse. I really like the claimers, you get right into the action, and Haley was my first claim back. I originally claimed Haley at The Meadows in 2010. At that point in time I was working for Microsoft and had decided I just wanted to be an owner and race horses in Pennsylvania where the racing was more lucrative than Illinois. Here is what Haley’s performance looked like in the program after my claim and her first race for me:
To be honest, Haley was not my first choice to get back in the game. I had a verbal agreement with the previous trainer to purchase another horse immediately following a race. That horse deal fell through when the previous trainer changed his mind because that horse did really well. So Haley was kind of a revenge claim two days after the deal broke apart. Well I got what I deserved .. she hit a knee during the race I claimed her and never really got on track and I was losing money.
I went through a few trainers at the Meadows and was looking to get out of her. I shipped her to Brad Irvine at Pocono Downs to take advantage of short fields at the start of the meet and dropped her in a $7500 claimer. She won three in a row getting claimed away from me in that third win.
After losing her I felt that I could have done better with her and still had faith in her abilities. She did not fare well with the next trainer and ended up dropping further in classes, and sustained a bad quarter crack. Somehow I noticed her popping up in a cheap $3000 claimer at Scarborough Downs in Maine. Harness racing has its “A”, “B” and “C” tracks… Maine is about a “G” track… At this point in my life I was back training my own horses and I decided I’d like her back and made an arrangement to get her. She looked pitiful in the program, but I heard through back channels that the quarter crack had grown out and she was race horse sound. It’s pretty difficult getting a horse out of Maine and I had a lot of people around the farm laughing at me for claiming a cheap horse halfway across the country sight unseen.
Her first race in Illinois was in the bottom condition class at Maywood.. the folks that laughed at me stopped laughing that night.
She crushed the field that first race at Maywood, dropping 8 seconds off her Qualifying race win from Maine. Haley went on to win 3 more races for me over the next year, earning $23,412 in Illinois and set a lifetime mark of 1:52.4. Haley only held up a year and I had to retire her off the track. I placed her through Racer Placers with a family in Wisconsin where she took right to saddle and was a retirement demo success at the Wisconsin fair. This video is her lifetime mark at Balmoral Park.
Being laughed at was getting habitual for me, so when I bought So Reserved sight unseen for $3,000 off an internet horse sale there was snickering going on at the farm. So Reserved was sired by Western Hanover, a world champion, and a sire I have an affinity for – so I was willing to take a shot on him. The trainers family that owned him was not having a lot of success with him and he even fell on the track in an accident when they had him. They were under pressure to wrap up business in the states as they were excited to be moving to the Netherlands. I purchased him in July of 2012 and had him shipped to the farm.
For the first three starts things were not looking really good. He was sulking and lacked confidence. The drivers would feel like they had a real contender at the 3/4 but when he would get out in the air he wouldn’t pass any one. I felt he needed to find a few races where he could beat something so I dropped him in the condition claimers. In Chicago these classes are filled mostly with rats and a few horses like So Reserved that are there to learn how to beat someone. The lines below show how So Reserved was learning and getting better. He was also defining his style of racing as a hard closer. He won his first race for me on September 14, 2013 – and in the lower class he was a consistent check earner.
By the end of 2012 So Reserved had won 4 races, $15,184 and set a lifetime Mark of 1:53.1 in 29 starts. This win at Balmoral in a 10 Claimer coming from last out of the 10 post showed me that he was a keeper:
2013 was another good year for So Reserved where he had an amazing 41 starts, 5 wins, $31,453 in earnings and a new lifetime mark of 1:53.0 in his last 2014 start at Pompano Park.
He is still racing and as I write this section (12/26/2014) Over all this time he has never shown a sign of lameness and has the cleanest legs and joints in my barn. Since I bought him he has won 10 races for me and earned $55,103 as of this date (7/4/2013).
I have only purchased two horses off of online ads, this mare and So Reserved, and both of them came out well. This mare was another internet purchase where I payed $8,000 off an ad from a trainer at the Meadows in June of 2013. I am not sure why I liked this mare because her lines and earnings at that point of her career were really nothing that catches your eye, and her sire is not really well liked. When I buy or claim a horse I watch a lot of video, sometimes every start a horse has starting from the beginning and I try to imagine the thought process, hopes and expectations of the trainers that made the starts. I suppose there were flashes of ability in her videos that made me decide to take the chance.
My first training trip with her was a disaster and at first I swore she had a broken bone. I thought “well that was a quick way to burn 8 grand”. Nothing was broke and I managed to get her back on track. These lines show her first 10 starts for me. I was learning that she is a very difficult horse to drive and finding the right driver is one of her keys; and even if you have the right driver she is never consistent. She was starting to show that her best racing style is also coming from off the pace and she has the capability to crank out some really nice closing quarters.
She finished out 2013 winning 5 races and setting a lifetime mark of 1:53.4. As you can see I had her in a pretty low claiming class the last 2 starts at Pompano in 2013. I knew she would not be claimed because the allowance for 3 year olds is 50% and no one likes paying that premium the last few weeks of the year and you may be able to sneak your horse into an easier race or two. At this point I was starting to be a believer in her even though she is not an easy keeper.
She started to really blossom at Pompano in January and moved in and out of Open events. These two videos are of wins in an Open and a $12,500 Claiming event.
I have to admit I have managed her career quite poorly this year. The racing situation in Illinois is abysmal, the harness racing purses are not high enough to sustain a business and because of the lack of horses the classification system is very poor. So every opportunity I had I tried to race her at other tracks where the purses structure was fair. Unfortunately my training farm is very far from the tracks where the money is good and shipping is 6 or more hours. My horses were not able to acclimate of the ship and always raced far off form from the performances they turned in locally.
2014 was a decent year for her, despite my mismanagement, with 40 starts with 7 wins and $38,716 in purse earnings. These next two videos are her winning two in a row in the top classes for mares at Balmoral Park.