Fireworks in Ohio

Few weekends are busier on the Ohio Sires Stakes schedule than this one, with 37 events and nearly $1.5 million in purses up for grabs over four days at Scioto Downs and Northfield Park.

by Bob Roberts

Fans of the Ohio Sires Stakes (OHSS), a rich program stretching from early May to mid October, won’t know if they are coming or going this holiday weekend.

Starting tonight and continuing through Fourth of July Monday there will be a staggering 37 divisions of races at either Scioto Downs or Northfield Park worth a whopping $1,480,000 in purse money.

It adds up to the busiest four days on the 2016 OHSS calendar and will have horsepeople scrambling up and down Interstate 71 from Scioto Downs to Northfield and back.

First up are tonight’s (Friday’s) three legs of three-year-old trotting fillies at Scioto Downs. The
action continues at the Columbus oval on Saturday with four legs of three-year-old pacing fillies. Northfield welcomes both freshman filly pacers and trotters on Sunday in the biggest of ways. There will be 14 legs of action, six on the trot and eight for pacers.

The spotlight returns to Scioto Downs on Monday where 14 races aren’t enough races to satisfy eager horsepeople. There will be 17 Ohio Sire Stake races – the entire program — for filly and colt freshman trotters.

No one will be as busy as central Ohio owner/trainer Christopher Beaver who will send out 15 horses over the long stakes weekend. To call him a trot man is an understatement.

“I’ve got 40 horses in my barn and 39 of them are trotters,” said Beaver.

That one pacer, a two-year-old colt named Heracer, will race Monday at Scioto in the Ohio Sires series.

Beaver’s top OHSS performer is the three-year-old filly Kestrel who was voted the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter of the Year.

And no one is enjoying the success of Ohsowigglesspecial, an ultra-consistent brown filly pacer with a compressed name, more than her trainer and co-owner, Joe Paver.

“We didn’t stake her (to the OHSS races) as a two-year-old so she learned her lessons racing at the fairs last year,” said Paver. “It gave her a good foundation.”

Beaver will begin his Sires journey on Friday at Scioto by sending out three sophomore filly trotters, including Kestrel.

“She was like a spoiled child when we started with her,” Beaver said of Kestrel, a winner of seven of nine starts and $216,650.

“She had all sorts of quirks. She’d run you around the barn or go straight up in the air. One day, she nearly took my wife’s head off. She didn’t like anybody and really hated it when the vet came around.”

Beaver thought Kestrel might not make it to her three-year-old campaign after tearing a ligament in a stifle after a run-in with a fence post.

“It looked bad. She was really lame,” said Beaver. “But we took a gamble by injecting her stifle with stem cells. She spent some time in Florida recovering and has come back strong winning the (May 29) second leg of her division after missing the (May 6) first.”

When the Ohio Sires Stakes pacers take over at Scioto on Saturday, Beaver will head up to Northfield for a more square-gait action and shot at a big payday. He has two horses (Il Sogno Dream and Muscle Up The Goal) entered in the $180,000 Cleveland Trotting Classic.

Beaver will return to the OSS circuit and Northfield Park on Sunday when he sends out five freshman filly trotters in five of the six legs.

The dust won’t settle around the storm of Beaver trotters until Monday. He’ll have freshman colts racing in four of the five OSS races at Scioto.

Paver’s Ohio Sires Stakes weekend will be considerably less hectic than Beaver’s. He only has to worry about Ohsowigglesspecial in Saturday’s 11th race at Scioto Downs.

The daughter of Mr Wiggles—So-Ho Special was a county fair monster last year, winning 10 of 14 starts with four seconds for earnings of $27,335. The richest pot she raced for and won was the $9,803 dash at Upper Sandusky. She got $4,411 of it.

“That was a lot of winning for not a lot of money,” said Paver.

The cheapest purse that Ohsowigglesspecial chased was the $2,958 purse at Paulding in her career debut. She finished second and collected $739.

“I’m partners on her with my dad (Pearl) and my brother (Dennis),” said Paver. “I wanted to stake her to the Sires but I got outvoted. There was no arguing and it worked out, because she got a good foundation. I remember schooling her at the fair in Ottawa by putting her alongside and behind the water truck. She was taught to get use to stuff out on the track.”

But Ohsowigglespecial has made up for lost Ohio Sires Stakes time by winning both her state-bred starts this year at Miami Valley and Scioto Downs. The two triumphs earned the Pavers $40,000.

“Winning an Ohio Sires Stakes race is like spending a full summer at the fairs,” said Paver. “And we’ve got two of them.”