Home > Running Down a Dream > Chapter 19 - A Nice Surprise

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

Chapter 19 - A Nice Surprise
'Hold On, I'm Coming'
By Sam and Dave, 1966

Photo Source: Wikipedia

October 2, 2011

Amigos and Amigettes,

From a bit of a valley to a peak!

Should you continue in our crazy little sport of racing harness horses, one thing you will struggle with is “When to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” Keeping horses that you own, taking responsibility for them, investing money and dreams in them is natural, but it can also be a mistake. The decision to “move on” with a new dream is especially difficult to make when the horse is only two-years old and you already have a bundle of money invested.

We were very, very fortunate that both Mariko Hanover and Fantail Hanover raced this season. It is not unusual for these young horses to lack the physical and mental maturity to race at age two. The trainer and owner must make the decision to put the horse (and all the invested training, purchase and staking money) aside and wait and try again with your horse the following year. There is a theory in many harness circles that none of the horses should race at all until they are three-years old. But money has a lot of pull, and there is money on the table for two-year old races.

As you know, Fantail has raced on the fair circuit. Sue and I, and Doug and Mary, have logged about a thousand miles traveling to watch her race. Fantail’s results have been mixed - a second, a few thirds, always a small check. She always starts her races behind the rest, picks things up at the half and is making progress at the end. She seems to be a bit “choppy”, and her strides are somewhat short and timid. She is a long way from having the ability needed to race in Sires Stakes competition.

Jim, Marty and I decided to take her off the fair circuit a few weeks ago. We were facing a decision on Fantail. Our options were:

· Send her to romp in a field for about six months, bring her back in, train her, stake her and try again at age three.

· Place her in a sale. Fantail has shown some ability; she is Pennsylvania eligible and very nicely bred. You never know, but we think she would bring $5,000-$10,000 at auction.

We were on the fence. To help us make the decision, we decided to re-qualify Fantail and give her a couple of starts at a racetrack instead of a fair track. She qualified easily. We entered her in a race. We hoped she would get off to a good start on a good track. Fantail got only a so-so start on a bad track – but she won, and she won easily.

Here is the video in case you missed it.


Anytime your horse races well they look terrific, but to me, in this race Fantail looked like a different horse; more fluid, more confident. I was sure that Marty had made some shoeing or equipment adjustments. When I asked him he chuckled and said, “Well, I could TELL you that I made all sorts of changes and it would make me look real smart.”

Another lesson about these young horses is that they can “find themselves.” Some are early, some are late, and some never do.

The outcome of this race was that Jim and I decided to go with the first option. We like Fantail’s attitude. We like that the family history includes “late bloomers.” We are hopeful that she will go about 3 or 4 seconds faster as she matures (this is average for horses between ages two and three).

So Fantail ends her first year on a high note and heads to Marvin Raber’s farm for rest and growth. Like Mariko, she will start back to training around February with high hopes for next season.

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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