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Combs still devoted to blacksmith trade
Saturday, April 9, 2011 - By Hannah Gentry

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Anderson, IN --- The term loyal employee may have been made for blacksmith Loren Combs. Combs has been the blacksmith for the backside of the track since before Hoosier Park was even open for business. Being an employee since 1994 makes Combs one of the longest standing employees here and he says he can’t think of anything else he would rather be doing. Combs’ values the position he holds as well as the longstanding relationships he’s made along the way.

Hoosier Park photo
Blacksmith Loren Combs has been at Hoosier park since the track opened.

Passionate employees like Combs are rare but for Combs, horses are not just a business, but a way of life.

“Horses are what I know,” said Combs. “I’m 74 years old and I’ve never been without a horse.”

Combs grew up on a farm in Eaton, Ohio where his family owned horses. Combs recalled that a childhood trip to a fair and being inside the horse barns further fueled his desire to work with horses professionally.

Combs began his venture into the horse racing business at Lebanon, Ohio. He began working as a blacksmith and continued his trade at area racetracks and training venues. When Hoosier Park was about to open, Combs received word from friend and Race Secretary Herman Brickel that he would like Combs to join the Hoosier Park team.

Now a resident of Celina, Ohio, Combs has held numerous positions outside of the blacksmith shop on the backstretch at Hoosier Park. He has served as paddock blacksmith and identifier. He has also continued to dabble as a trainer and has even driven in a few qualifying races during his time in Indiana. Combs has a rich history with trainers and gained experience from some of the best in the business. He once worked for Wayne “Curly” Smart, a harness racing great who drove horses like Popular Byrd, Ensign Hanover, Meadow Race and Gold Worth.

Working for years as a blacksmith and working solely with Standardbred horses, Combs says he has a “tack time” (can put a shoe back on) of only five minutes. Owners and trainers alike call on Combs from all over the nation to work with their horses. He has built trusting relationships with these individuals and they reach him personally in times of need. He’s known not only for his tacking techniques but also in his ability to help with problem horses such as “knee knockers.” His dedication to his work has made him skilled and an expert in his trade.

Combs works both at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs during the year. He admits Hoosier Park is where he likes to spend most of his time because of the people he works with.

“It’s amazing how great everyone is,” said Combs. “From the general managers on down, I know anyone would help me if I needed it. As long as I can walk, I’ll be working here at Hoosier Park.”

Combs is not only devoted to his career but his loving wife, Lois, of 54 years. He says it is his wife and the great people of Hoosier Park that drive him to continue doing what he does with a smile on his face. Hoosier Park is lucky to have committed employees like Combs who is dedicated to all aspects of harness racing and considers it not only a career, but a lifestyle.

Pat Wood greets racing guests with bright smile
By Ben Wilson

If you have ever been to Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, there is a good chance you have seen or been approached by Pat Wood. Wood has been an employee of Hoosier Park since 1994 and is currently working for the guest services department on the racetrack side of the facility. Her job requirements are to interact with guests that come to the establishment, and she is very good at her job.

Wood tries to greet everyone, answer questions regarding the horses, inform guests on wagering, and is even known to sit down and watch a race or two with a guest who might be unfamiliar with horse racing. Many people may know Wood, but the story of how she came to acquire such a love for horses and Hoosier Park is not known to most.

It all started when Wood moved to Anderson 24 years ago. While she was a resident of Indianapolis, she was asked to move to Anderson by a doctor she was working for. The doctor happened to be opening a new practice in the city and asked Wood if she would relocate for work in the new location. Wood and her husband, Jerry, made the decision to move to Anderson where they purchased a house. The house just happens to be right across the street from Hoosier Park.

Wood watched the first race at Hoosier Park in 1994 from the roof of her house with her binoculars and a telephone in hand. Watching from a distance was the only interaction she had with Hoosier Park at the time. However, that would soon change.

“One day, we received a knock on the door,” said Wood. “It happened to be one of the trainers from Hoosier Park. They asked if they could turn their injured horse out in our pasture. And the next thing you know, we were horse owners.”

Being a distant fan of horses, Wood gave permission for the horse to be let out in their pasture. The horse was at Wood’s house during the day, but had to be picked up every night. Wood eventually fell in love with the horse and decided to clean out her own barn so the horse could just stay and would not have to be picked up in the evening.

“You are never too old to start in racing,” Wood said. “I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. The horse people are a breed of their own. They are just so friendly. It’s like a big family here at Hoosier Park.”

Having Wood perusing the grandstand each night is a huge benefit to racing fans as well as Hoosier Park. She is engaging and fills the room with her enthusiasm for racing.  Wood greets each guest with a bright smile and a cheerful attitude, making their visit a memorable experience at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

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