Home > Running Down a Dream > Chapter 17 - The Standardbred

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

Chapter 17 - The Standardbred
'Splish Splash'
By Murray (the K) Kaufman, 1958, Sung by Bobby Darin

Photo Source: Wikipedia

August 12, 2010


This week has been exciting but stressful. Mariko appears to be a good filly and we faced a tough decision. Here is the deal and at the end I will give you the results.

One more time, I will go back to the list of races Mariko was eligible to enter. One of the races is called “The Standardbred”. It is raced on September 21 at Delaware, OH. This is a big race with a big purse (potentially $70,000.) Jim and I swallowed hard when Mariko was a baby and paid the money to keep her eligible – so did 72 other owners of two-year-old trotting fillies.

While Mariko COULD race in this race, we need to decide if she SHOULD race – and the reason is money. The starting fee for this race is $1,000 and when you add in the shipping and everything else it could cost close to $1,500. Jim and I have paid the price and raced horses in this particular race for the past two years. Once we earned a 4th place check and were ecstatic; once we finished way back and did not earn a penny. It’s a long drive home after spending all that money for zero return.

Alas, owners must do some homework. And boy, did we do some homework this past week.

A list of every single horse that is eligible for this race is available. You can get a very good idea of your competition.

Right off the bat, over half of the possible contending horses have not qualified or are not competitive. So owners like us can whittle the list of possible competitors to about 40 and see how we think our filly stacks up. We did this. In our estimation, Mariko was certainly in the top ten, more specifically around number five – but it’s not an exact science, especially with very young horses. This sounds promising. But suppose the top ten all enter and there is one division for all the money? Then we face a scenario where we may get nothing.

On the other hand, maybe most of the five or so we think are a bit superior at this point decide NOT to race, or decide to race somewhere else? Mariko could be one of the favorites. Predicting, theorizing, researching and guessing about this upcoming race occupied most of our week. To make a long story short, today we paid the money and entered. Mistake? We will see.


When the box with the entries for “The Standardbred” was opened, a total of 16 eligible horses joined us in plunking down $1,000 to enter. This means the race was divided into two races, each with 8 horses for a purse of $33,000 (when they divide the field they divide the purse).

The day of the race was miserable with non-stop, torrential rain. The track was soup. Mariko drew post number one. Normally this post position at this racetrack is great, but today there was standing water along the rail so post one was a mixed blessing. Our driver was John Campbell. He is in the Hall of Fame and is one of the brightest lights in harness racing - it was a real honor to have him driving Mariko Hanover.

The race began. It did not look good. For those of you trying to watch the computer feed it was very hard to see anything because the saddle pads were coated with mud and the lenses were fogged. Mariko was buried on the rail behind, splashing along in the mud. They approached the ¾ mark and Mariko was behind a wall of horses. Finally, in the stretch, John Campbell found an opening, Mariko popped out, began passing horses and got up to finish 2nd.

Between the rain, the mud, the stress, the people…it was hard to see anything. But if you look hard, you will see some very happy owners.


Great (potential) news on Mariko - they had the draw for Friday’s race, the “Keystone Classic.” We drew well (although you never really know until after the race). There are three divisions of $31,000 each. We are in the first division which is solid - but not the top rated horses. There are only six horses in our field – unfortunately, we got the outside post.Still, this is much better than the third division that has a world record holder, seven horses, and several that have banked $100,000 this year. Phewwwwh.

This is exciting. This will be Mariko’s final race of the season. At this point, Jim, Sue and I will probably go to the Meadows to watch the race in person.

Thinking about jumping into horse ownership?

E-mail owners@ustrotting.com and we will get you more information to get started in the racing game. Click here to share this story with a friend.

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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