Home > Running Down a Dream > Chapter 12 - Early Troubles

Running Down a Dream
Bob Carson takes new owners from sales ring to turnout
written by Bob Carson

Chapter 12 - Early Troubles
'Trouble Waiting to Happen'
By Warren Zevon, 1986

Photo Source: Wikipedia

July 11, 2011

Dang…Mariko broke in her race (broke means “a break in her trotting gait.”  For some reason, either mentally or physically, she stopped trotting).  We are not sure why and neither is Marty.  Mariko has talent; she trains well, can trot beautifully, but so far has sort of fallen apart in early competition.  It may just be immaturity.  Marty will put her in another qualifier next Friday to see if she improves.  She is still a work in progress.
Fantail went to two fairs.  Her first one was a nice third place and she followed it up with a second place at the Big Butler Fair.  Although Fantail was much more flighty early on, she seems to be getting the hang of things and improving.  Her next race will be at Dayton (PA) on July 16th.
The PA fair organization does a nice thing.  They show a video recap of the race.  If you go to the link above, then wait or move to the 1:25 second mark.  You will see a few seconds of Fantail racing to second place at the Butler Fair.  She is inside (closest to the rail).

As you are learning, you will discover that an important part of the process is learning WHERE and WHEN and IF a young horse should race.  There is a lot to consider and the evaluation is ongoing.  Here is an earlier e-mail exchange between Jim and Marty discussing where to race Fantail.

Sent: Tue, Jul 5, 2011 12:43 pm
Subject: Fantail

Marty:  Bob and I are wondering if it wouldn't serve us better to try and race Fantail in the 2yr old maiden filly race at The Meadows on Monday, July 11th.  Draw is tomorrow.  It might give us a clear clue as to whether she'd be at all competitive in the Stallion Series that races at the Meadows somewhere around July 22.  Regardless, if she didn't compete very favorably, she'd still have the Dayton Fair in her sights.  IF she did, we might consider bypassing Dayton and give her the opportunity at the Stallion Series.  Could we be over-estimating her talent? Sure, but, how do we find out otherwise?  As always, we solicit your input as a valuable part of this decision.  How's the other half of our babies doing?  Mariko? 


Hello Jim,
I think Fantail needed to pace in 2:01 to be qualified for racing at the meadows. Today the 2 year old race went in 155.4. I don’t think your filly is at all ready to be competitive at this level but will enter her if that’s what you and Bob want. Her fastest mile is 2:03 which would be distant in a 155.4 mile so she would learn very little in this type of race. I also think the Stallion Series is way above her ability at this point and obviously she will need be qualified to race in the Stallion Series also. Just let me know if you want her entered. If she were mine (which she isn’t) I would race her at the fairs and hope she can make money there. If she becomes dominant at the fairs then I would take a chance at stepping her up.
I trained Mariko in 2:08 with trotting hobbles. She was still having trouble in the straights and was better in the turns. I feel she has some soreness in her knees but Dr Miller is coming tomorrow (Wednesday) and he will examine her.

Sent: Tue, Jul 5, 2011
Subject: Re: Fantail

Marty:  Thanks for your views; we appreciate your analysis.  Possibly, we owners get way too optimistic and ignore the obvious.  That being said, I (my individual opinion) don't believe colts and fillies learn to go fast to compete with those going in stake races, later in the year or later in their careers.  But this conversation is all about now and being realistic, maximizing what we have.  Let’s go to Dayton and see how she develops. 
With respect to Mariko, please keep us informed.  If she's always going to be a touch colt-sore due to her size etc, I think we'd be inclined to turn her out and let her mature.  If it's something relatively simple, stifles or a one-time injection, equipment changes, then sure, maybe she still has some time to compete and make some money.  I know our original thinking was to keep her off the fair tracks.  Are we still thinking the same?  Bob and I know you do everything & work hard to bring out a horse's potential, so we're comfortable with your decisions.
Again, thanks for your thoughts


Sent: Tue, Jul 5, 2011
Subject: Re: Fantail

Hi Jim

I agree a horse has to go fast to learn to go fast and believe me if I thought Fantail was ready to go fast I would surely take her to the Meadows Friday to qualify. But right now I think she is still learning and if she can be competitive at the fairs I think that is the place to go with her. I believe in building up a horse’s confidence. I think confidence in a horse is more important that anything. If she learns to go with and beat or pass other horses she will be more likely to develop what speed she has on her own. This way when she does go to the Meadows and the races go fast she will at least have confidence in herself that she can stay with and pass the horses she is racing with. If she does not have the speed she will still do the best she can.
I feel the same as you and Bob with Mariko, I think she has a lot of potential down the road and would never do anything to hurt her future by using medications to make her go now. If Dr Miller thinks she has any sort of knee problem I will probably have him take x rays to be sure there are no possible stress fractures or chips present or any potential areas of stress fractures. If everything looks good and he feels injecting her joints is in order it would be a onetime thing.

Stifles are always a problem with trotters and the internal blister is usually a very successful way to treat them in my opinion. I don’t think there is any risk to the filly now or for her future if we do inject her stifle muscles. As far as the fairs go with her I would like to wait and see what Dr Miller has to say tomorrow. I am sure she would be competitive there but am worried about her size on the small tracks. The up side is that the races do not go as fast and would not be as hard on her as the sires or stallion series.

So as you can see my friends, deciding where and when to race your horse is a day by day process.  For the most part, Fantail and Mariko will show us where they belong.  When horses get to age 3, they have a track record and find the level that allows them to be competitive.  However as young two year olds, it’s all a bit of a mystery.  And it can change quickly, some horses take time to learn and get confident, some horses are just not physically developed. 

Personally, this is the most interesting time for me, qualifying and the early days of racing.  These races can be thrilling or deflating – but they are never boring.

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Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

Bob Carson
Hoof Beats Magazine About the Author
Bob Carson's award-winning freelance writing has appeared in more than two dozen national publications. He is a steady contributor to Trot Magazine, The United States Trotting Association and Timeline Magazine. After more than 200 magazine articles and stories, his first novel, The Voyage of Mess (humor) was released in 2009. In 2005 he produced the documentary film, Touching Home (Minor League Baseball). In 2006 he received the Hervey Award for Journalistic Excellence and Best of Ohio Fiction awards. He has published Minor Trips (Minor League Baseball) since 1991. Bob Carson has owned harness horses for more than a decade, including a stint as a weekend trainer. He lives in Strongsville, Ohio, with his wife, Sue, and daughter, Katie.
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