Goshen, NY --- When Jerry Dahl bet on his first horse, he never thought that he would end up driving a winner at Roosevelt Raceway. But the modest fan loved the game so much that he started training and driving his own horses. Following the Roosevelt era, and several “regular jobs,” Dahl traded in his driving colors for a palette of watercolors.
“It is a different thrill but it’s like being back at the barn, back in the bike, back in the winner’s circle.”
|This original watercolor of Valiant Bret and Lucien Fontaine will be raffled off on Saturday.|
The talented artist read the RR article on the USTA website and thought it would be fun to do a painting of a horse from that iconic era and share it with those who also have such great memories. The 18 x 24 rendition of Valiant Bret and Lucien Fontaine will be raffled off at The Meadowlands on Saturday (May 17) during the Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Night.
Of course, the affable “Loosh” agreed to autograph the piece, making the artwork all the more treasured. The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame will receive the funds from the raffle.
Dahl was first introduced to harness racing back in his high school days when a friend offered to take him to Brandywine Raceway. Initially Dahl was apprehensive, but finally he agreed and was forever hooked.
While in college in West Chester, Pa., he met a young Joe Holloway who let him jog his first horse. Then he went to work at Winterset Farm near Wilmington. Dahl got his matinee license a year later in 1973 and he was off to the races.
Despite a degree in business administration, Dahl stayed with the horses and was working for Walt Warrington at Roosevelt as a second trainer.
“I loved Roosevelt,” noted Dahl. “The biggest thrill of my harness career was winning my first drive there in 1983. To me it was like hitting a home run at Yankee Stadium.
“I never thought driving horses was a possibility. Herve Filion was my idol when I was just a fan. My biggest thrill was when I actually got to drive against him.
“I will never forget the day he beat me by a very short nose at Brandywine. I still have that picture hanging in my kitchen.”
Dahl faired pretty well during his time at the track, amassing 99 wins and more than $300,000 in purses.
“During the late 1980s I could see that things were changing. I was not interested in just training. When I saw Billy Haughton putting up Billy O’Donnell I knew the catch driving era had begun.”
Dahl raced mainly on the Liberty Bell-Brandywine-Dover circuit. A few years after that phase of his life ended he began painting water colors in 1988. After many land and seascapes he soon gravitated toward equine art.
“Horses were a part of me and art was in my family. My father was a rare talent. Painting horses keeps me connected to the barn area and the horses that I have loved my entire life.”