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Jason Telfer is enjoying his new career
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Rich Fisher
Trenton, NJ --- Most people try to pick up some extra money in December in order to do holiday shopping. Jason Telfer had no idea it would lead to the start of a new career.

The 32-year-old Iowan had been around horses most of his life but never had an overwhelming urge to get in the sport. But at the end of last year, he had left his meat packing job and hooked up with the father-son tandem of Paul and Gary Liles.

Six months later he began driving at fairs and, shortly after that, he notched his first two driving wins. He is now looking to make a go of it in the sulky.

“I didn’t really think this was going to happen,” Telfer said. “It’s been in the family, but I didn’t figure it would be me doing it. I like to go watch and help out but I never figured I’d be behind a horse, racing.”

Asked what gave him the impetus, Jason said, “I really don’t know. Some extra side work, some extra money I needed, so I got a job with Gary last December. That was the main reason.”

Telfer was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, made famous in the TV show M*A*S*H as Radar O’Reilly’s hometown. Unlike Radar, he grew up in Eldon before moving to his current residence of Selma at age 13. Jason’s parents grew up in Humboldt, Iowa, where his great-grandfather used to race.

“It’s in my mom and dad’s blood, but they quit doing it,” Telfer said.

He became re-introduced to it when he began dating his girlfriend, Heidi Saner, 14 years ago. Heidi’s dad, John, was racing in Illinois, but moved to Selma after Heidi and Jason began dating.

“He started racing over here for Paul Liles; so I just went out to the track to watch and I really enjoyed it,” Telfer said. “I was all around it growing up through my school years, I helped clean stalls and that kind of stuff, but never anything more than that.”

It all changed in December when he began helping the Liles family. After getting more involved and jogging horses, Jason got the urge to drive one. He said his first time in the bike was not too excruciating after his jogging experiences.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s something different that I enjoyed. The first time I was jogging I was pretty scared because I was stuck in between horses but after that, the racing is nothing different than the jogging. I was used to it after the first week or so.”

His first actual race came in June at the Wapello County Regional Fair in Eldon and was, “pretty good, I felt pretty relaxed out there.”

He raced seven more times before getting his first win on July 5 with Hasty I D Claire at the Lee County Fair in Donnellson. It was a three-horse race in which Telfer was second through the first two trips around the track. There was a catch, however.

“That track is short down there and you have to go three laps on that track to get a mile,” he said. “The leader thought we were done. He pulled up on the second lap and I passed him. I got a little break there.”

He almost got a bad break at the end, but held on to win.

“It started raining a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t have gloves on so I couldn’t hold on very much longer. She actually broke right at the wire. So I kept holding on and my hands were slipping. It just slipped right out of my hands pretty much as we came across.”

The excitement of the loose reins sort of nullified the elation of winning; but only for a moment.

“I was worried hanging on but I enjoyed the win afterward,” he said. “Pictures with my family, my girlfriend and father-in-law (John Saner) that got me started.”

Two days later Jason won again at the Keokuk County Fair in What Cheer, when he drove Paul Liles' 2-year-old pacing filly The Real Prize to victory.

“That one was a lot easier,” he said. “The horse turned out to be a real prize.”

Telfer has not won since, but has hit the board a number of times.

“Me and my father-in-law have two horses,” he said. “I got a colt (Perfect Popper) that we lease from a guy. I drove him 12 times and got six seconds. I just can’t win with him, only seconds.”

Jason will continue to work for the Liles family and has a nice schedule through August. He is at Humboldt this weekend and will race in the Cyrus Stakes the following Saturday.

“We have six more races every weekend,” he said.

Telfer is already looking forward to next year. He has some horses with his parents and is getting a few with John Saner, who he refers to as his father-in-law considering how long he and Heidi have dated.

“I’m hoping to get out on my own and train and drive on my own,” he said. “I feel pretty good about where I am right now. I feel really good. And I’ll be getting my own horses for next year and try to go against all the big wigs.”

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