After more than four months away from the track, Hall of Fame bound driver Brian Sears will be at The Masters this weekend before returning to drive horses beginning next Thursday at Yonkers.
by Dave Briggs
After more than four months away from the track, driver Brian Sears is set to return to driving next Thursday (April 13) at Yonkers, but first he’s making a detour further south to take in The Masters.
The road trip to the Augusta, GA golf shrine comes less than three weeks after Sears, 49, recorded his first hole-in-one. The ace came March 19 at the Legacy Golf Links near Pinehurst, NC
“I spent my winter in Pinehurst,” Sears said Wednesday. “My mother has a place down here… I’m enjoying the mild winter and playing a lot of golf. I was fortunate enough to meet someone from ‘The First Tee’ (https://thefirsttee.org). It’s a non-profit thing that teaches kids about golf. I met this guy and went out to dinner. He invited me to play golf… Anyway, he ended up inviting me to The Masters, so I’m packing to go to The Masters as we speak.”
A year ago, Sears attended the practice round at The Masters. This year, he has tickets to both the Friday and Saturday rounds.
It hasn’t been all golf and relaxation in Pinehurst this winter for Sears. He said he’s been helping his close friend, trainer Gates Brunet, in the barn.
“He’s training a filly that I have with my dad. So I’ve been down here, helping him train a bit,” Sears said of the homebred two-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven filly out of Native Bride that he owns with his father, Jay.
As for the extended winter break from driving horses that started when Brian had laser eye surgery in early December, Sears said he really appreciated the down time.
“The last time I had a break like this, it was when I had a broken wrist and had four months off. I feel really good. It was a needed break and I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.
“Timmy (Tetrick) was also down (in Pinehurst) for a few months. It’s a lot of downtime when you are used to going to work every night, but, you know, you adapt and make the best of it.
“But, you get itching to get back, there’s no question.”
Brian said one of the toughest things about being away from racing is the lack of structure.
“I’m actually looking forward to getting back into a steady routine. That’s the way my life has been structured around racing five days a week and I’m actually looking forward to getting back to that,” Brian said.
He’s also looking forward to being officially inducted in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame on July 2 in Goshen, NY, the home of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
“It’s quite an honor. I’m pretty excited because of the people I look up to in the business and being able to join them,” he said.
“Growing up, I looked up to guys like (Bill) O’Donnell and (John) Campbell and, even closer, I was close to Joe Pavia growing up as a kid, in high school. I got to know Billy Fahy at The Meadows, when he moved back to Pennsylvania. I was able to pick Billy’s brain and I always thought he did a really good job as a driver.”
Brian said he also learned a lot from his dad.
“I’ve always had pretty good discipline. My dad taught me and I’ve been pretty good that way,” Brian said.
Lifetime, Brian has won 9,715 races and $176 million in purses. He ranks 14th in North American history for wins among drivers and sixth in purses. He led the sport in earnings in 2005, with a then-record $15 million, and has finished among the top 10 in purses the past 13 years.
Brian has driven three Horse of the Year award winners — Rocknroll Hanover in 2005, Muscle Hill in 2009 and Bee A Magician in 2013. He has won the Hambletonian three times, with three different trainers, and is the only driver to twice win the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks on the same day. He accomplished that feat with Muscle Hill and Broadway Schooner in 2009 and again with Royalty For Life and Bee A Magician in 2013.
Brian won 301 races last year and $7.49 million in purses. His top wins came with Control The Moment in the Meadowlands Pace and Flanagan Memory in the Breeders Crown Open Trot.
— with files from Ken Weingartner / Harness Racing Communications / USTA