One of the longest running trainer-owner relationships in harness racing is still going strong as Ed Lohmeyer is now in his 43rd year of serving as the sole trainer for New Jersey owners and breeders Bob and Lauren Tucker. In fact, Ed’s son Ed Jr., aka “Charlie,” is handling Hang Ten, a 4-year-old pacer who is racing in Saturday’s $60,200 Exit 16W series final at Meadowlands Racetrack.
“It says ‘Junior’ at the end of his name on the program but I don’t think people pay too much attention to that,” Ed Sr. said. “They all still think it’s me.”
Which isn’t a surprise considering how long Lohmeyer has trained the Tuckers’ horses. They met in 1970 when Ed was still active as a driver.
|Hang Ten was a 1:51 winner for John Campbell last week in the Exit 16W series at Meadowlands Racetrack.|
“I think I drove one of his horses in Atlantic City in the summer,” said Lohmeyer, who was a top driver at Atlantic City, Freehold, Liberty Bell and Monticello during his career. “And then he wanted to change trainers, I guess. He found me and gave me a call. I stopped off at his home; I remember it was a raw winter day. We talked and we’ve been together ever since.”
Ed and his renowned equine veterinarian wife Dr. Patty Hogan also take their association with the Tuckers away from the track. Lohmeyer is 69 and Tucker is 86, and their 17-year-age difference was a pretty big gap 40 years ago. But it was never wide enough to keep them from getting tight, and it has gotten even smaller over the years.
“We see each other whenever we can,” Lohmeyer said from Florida. “In fact, they’re coming down here next Wednesday. They’re going to spend a couple weeks in Florida and spend a couple of weeks with us.”
The obvious question is: How does a relationship like this last so long?
“It’s hard to say; it’s quite a few factors,” Lohmeyer said. “I think we got to be good friends later on. Off the bat it’s pretty much Bob admired the way I was driving back in those days, I was basically driving and training.
|USTA/Ed Keys photo|
|Ed Lohmeyer has been training horses for Bob Tucker for 43 years.|
“As we went on, it’s more about honesty. How you relate to each other. We’re in the same boat in a lot of things (concerning) finding horses to buy. Most of the time it’s yearlings. That’s kind of what we’ve done. Bob had a breeding farm, he probably had 20-plus horses a year and most of the time it was around 30.”
During that time, the memories are plentiful. It’s hard for Lohmeyer to pinpoint any big races since there were so many, but a few things do stick out.
“We bought a horse named Landslide, who was the highest priced yearling (in 1979) at $290,000,” he said, referring to the 1981 Adios Stakes winner. “Eighteen months later we syndicated him for $3.6 million. Bob and some of his Wall Street friends bought the horse. One of those guys included William Simon, the Secretary of Treasury.”
There was another horse, Indulge Me, that Tucker bred and sold as a yearling for $55,000. After the purchase an X-ray showed two bone cysts in the stifle. Tucker took the horse back and gave the buyers credit, but decided to indulge anyway.
“Bob is a real die hard with stuff; he doesn’t like to give up on anything,” Lohmeyer said. “He said to me ‘Why don’t you take her, see how she is, see if she’s any good.”
|USTA/Mark Hall photo|
|The pacing miss Indulge Me banked $675,165 in her career.|
Indulge Me won a division of the International Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old filly pacers in 2008, on her way to $675,165 in her career.
It is those moments that are made more special because of the relationship between owner and trainer. But Lohmeyer is quick to point out that they’re not all good times, and their friendship helps get them through that as well.
“We’ve had some very bad years together,” the trainer said. “They’re not all good. But most of them are 50-50 at the best that you’re having good years. Bob realizes that. He realizes we do the best we can and when we get that yearling in the fall, it’s like someone dealing you a hand of cards, you might get a good hand might get a bad hand.
“Bob, I think, understands completely. I’ll talk to Bob three, four times a week at least and sometimes we’ll talk an hour or more. He knows everything that’s going on. He understands all the things that can go right or wrong.”
Things are starting to go right with Hang Ten, who will start Saturday’s Exit 16W final from post five with driver John Campbell. Last week, Hang Ten and Campbell won by a nose over Papa Ray in 1:51 from post 10.
Hang Ten, bred by the Tuckers’ Stonegate Farms, has won two of five races this year and five of 40 in his career while earning $68,987.
“He’s a real late-bloomer,” Lohmeyer said. “At (age) 2, he never got his record until late in the fall. At 3 he had a so-so year, not a real fancy year. He had a lot of gate speed but didn’t finish. Bob had put him in a sale this January but in the meantime I left him up there to race with Charlie. He impressed my son. He said he’s a different horse. He’s really coming around and Charlie talked them into taking him out of the sale.
“He’s doing real well but he’s got a long way to go. He went (1):51 last week; he’s got to get around the (1):49 range.”
Hang Ten is yet another project in the long-running Tucker-Lohmeyer Show. And while the trainer has had other owners, Tucker has stuck with Lohmeyer for the long run. Their friendship has helped strengthen their partnership.
“I think so,” Lohmeyer said. “Me and Bob kind of think alike. We have a chemistry together. Lauren will always say we’re too much alike in a lot of ways. He got to be like a brother and father for me through the years. Bob is going to be 87 this year, he’s getting up there a little but he’s still as enthusiastic as he was from the first day I was his trainer.”
Lohmeyer doubts we will see many lasting relationships like this one anymore.
“It’s going to be real tough now,” he said. “There’s some people left in the game that stay with people for a very long time. But so many people move around. It’s hard to get somebody to stay with one person. I don’t know if that’s going to happen again.”
If there was ever a possible threat to this kinship, it came 14 years ago when Lohmeyer, who is also a pilot, was flying Tucker back from Hanover to the Somerset County Airport. A gust of wind caught the plane as they were about to touch down.
“One thing led to another and the plane came over on its back,” Lohmeyer said. “We went on the runway over on our back. I opened the door and we crawled out but neither of us had a scratch on us.”
Well, that’s not entirely true.
“When the plane tipped over, we’re upside down and we have our seatbelts on,” Lohmeyer said. “We’re hanging like a bat upside down. The roof is on the ground. I immediately popped my seatbelt when we came to make a stop to make sure the door was open. I asked Bob ‘Are you OK?’ and he said ‘I can’t get the seatbelt off.’ So I reached up and pulled off the seatbelt and he came down and hit his head. That was the only scratch.”
And yet it was hardly enough to put a nick in one of the great harness racing relationships of modern times.