Over eight races seasons, the former $6,000 yearling purchase has won more than 26 per cent of her 187 career races and finished on the board 70 per cent of the time for Indiana’s Ernie Gaskin and his nephew Tyler George.
by James Platz
American Girl is the picture of longevity. In a career that now spans eight seasons, the Art’s Chip mare has put together a rather distinguished racing resume. Friday night she added another significant milestone when she collected her 50th career trip to the winner’s circle with a 1:52.3 effort at Scioto Downs. Not a bad accomplishment for a $6,000 yearling purchase.
“She’s got the heart of a champion. You can never underestimate that,” said Ernie Gaskin, who developed the pacer. “It speaks to her being a great horse.”
A champion can come from anywhere, but in this case, American Girl is a product of Michigan-based breeder Gardner Farms. She is from the first crop of Art’s Chip out of the Dragon Again mare L Dees Lourdes. When it comes to Gaskin and his partners selecting yearlings each fall, American Girl checked many of the important boxes, one of the biggest being price.
“The big thing with us is price. You pay $60,000 for a yearling and you win some sire stakes money, but if you do the math, you might not have made anything,” the trainer said. “A $5,000 filly might not get into the sire stakes until she is three and mature, but in the end it’s a better deal.”
As Gaskin explains, after the yearling sales each stable purchase is divided up in quarters or thirds among a group of partners that have collaborated for nearly a quarter century. Each partner is free to pick and choose from the group. In the case of American Girl, Fort Wayne, IN resident Stanley Rosenblatt stepped up to take a third. Gaskin’s wife, Darla, kept the remaining two-thirds when no other partners showed interest.
American Girl has been more than just a “better deal” for Rosenblatt and the Gaskins; she’s turned out to be the horse of a lifetime. With $932,720 in earnings to date, she’s made back her purchase price more than 150 times. But her impressive career is more than just gaudy earnings. When you dig into her past performances, the lines tell a greater story.
“If you think of all the other champions and other mares that American Girl has had to face. Many of them are gone now, for whatever reason,” Gaskin said. “More still keep coming, bigger and better ones, all the time. That never stops. We have had to pick our spots and make sure she is right.”
Over the course of the last eight campaigns, American Girl has lined up behind the gate 187 times, meaning that she finishes in the winner’s circle once every 3.7 starts. Combine that with 43 runner-up efforts and 38 show finishes, and the mare has hit the board in 70 per cent of her starts. American Girl has missed a check only 16 per cent of the time, explaining why she has amassed nearly $1 million in earnings. And she has done all of this competing in Indiana Sires Stakes or mostly in the top classes in Indiana and Ohio. The mare picked up an Indiana Sires Stakes finals win in 2014 as a five year old, the same season she took her 1:50.3 mark at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.
Gaskin served as American Girl’s trainer from the time she first stepped onto the track until late
in her 2015 campaign. At that time, Tyler George, Gaskin’s nephew, took over the duties. George is stabled at Crimson Lane Farm, which the Gaskins manage, so the veteran trainer gets to see the accomplished pacer regularly.
“It was kind of a natural evolution for Darla and I to give her to Tyler, who had worked for us for several years,” Gaskin said. “It just worked out perfect. She’s here at the farm, only at his barn. She gets turned out every day. It’s been great for us and great for Tyler.”
Through the arrangement, American Girl often ships to the Buckeye State to compete in the top classes there. As the mare continues to age, and the competition in the open ranks at Hoosier Park only gets tougher, racing in Ohio has been a good option. Since George took over he has conditioned the mare to 24 victories, a majority of them coming in Ohio. In her latest triumph, American Girl and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. left from the outside post and took control after a :26.2 opening panel. Sent off as the fourth choice, the two would set the rest of the fractions on the way to holding off favorite U Doit B B by a length and a quarter.
“We like racing her in Ohio on those five-eighths mile tracks because she has tremendous gate speed and the stretches are a little shorter for her right now,” Gaskin said. “It’s just really, truthfully, all about the management on her the last few years. We pick our spots and that’s all part of it. We’re in Ohio for a specific reason. It’s just tougher and tougher here (Hoosier Park) every year. She just doesn’t need those kind of gut wrenching miles every week out here.”
And it is the management of her career that has proven the key to American Girl’s success. The mare has never registered more than 30 starts in a season, and if she is not 100 per cent, she doesn’t race. There have been conversations on when to retire the pacer to broodmare duties, but her resilience and ability to compete at the top levels keep her on the oval. Still, Gaskin knows the time will come when she will transition into a new career, the question is whether she will be a millionaire when that occurs. The partnership intends to breed her to Jammin Joshua, another horse Gaskin conditioned to an Indiana Sires Stakes final victory.
“I think we’re all of the same opinion that we’d like to get to a million. If we do, that would be fantastic. We’ve always loved to own a horse that made a million dollars. That’s in a whole different category. She can do it, but she’s getting close to the end,” he stated. “We want to breed her to Jammin Joshua. That’s where she’s going, so we’re kind of excited about that. It’s not far away.”