You just never know

Examples of incredible horses that had humble beginnings.

by Bob Heyden

Here’s some great examples of great horses that had humble beginnings:

Pinkman was catalogued to be sold at the Harrisburg Mixed Sale in 2014, but was ultimately retained by trainer Jimmy Takter. Twelve months later, he wrapped up the single biggest money season for any Takter trainee ($1.897 million) and won the Hambletonian, as well.

Stars Pride sold for $2,950 in 1948 and went on to be the most prolific trotting sire with a bushel full of Hambletonian and Triple Crown winners.

Fresh Yankee and Greyhound each sold for $900 initially and then wrote their own chapters in the sport’s history.

On The Road Again sold for $10,500 at the NJ Classic sale, and then at 3 and 4 was the Horse of the Year runnerup both times and briefly held the all-time earnings record.

Fight The Foe raced in $4,000 claimers at Liberty Bell in early 1979, then climbed the claiming ladder and made his way to the features and free-for-alls, banking around $800,000 lifetime the record at the time for a horse who never won a stakes event.

Mr. Muscleman was overlooked in 200, costing just $2,000 as a yearling. He was later resold for $155,000 and went on to a $3.5 million plus standout career.

In 20+ years, Tetrick stands alone

Strange how rare this fact is, but Tim Tetrick is the only driver in the 21st century to win the earnings title and the Hambletonian in the same year. He did it in 2012 with Market Share the same year he posted better than $18 million season.

Prior to the year 2000, it was far more common:

1946 — Thomas Berry won the Hambletonian with Chestertown and the earnings title with $121,933 (it was the first year the money records were kept)
1950 — Del Miller won the Hambletonian with Lusty Song and the earnings title with $306,813
1985 — Bill O’Donnell won the Hambletonian with Prakas and the earnings title with $10,207,372 (it was the first $10 million driving season)
1987 — John Campbell won the Hambletonian with Mack Lobell and the earnings title with $10,186,495
1988 — John Campbell won the Hambletonian with Armbro Goal and the earnings title with $11,148,565
1990 — John Campbell won the Hambletonian with Harmonious and the earnings title with $11,620,878
1995 — John Campbell won the Hambletonian with Tagliabue and the earnings title with $9,469,797
1998 — John Campbell won the Hambletonian with Muscles Yankee and the earnings title with $10,768,771

Campbell Grand Slam

This year marks the 25th anniversary of John Campbell’s Grand Slam

In 1995, Campbell won the Little Brown Jug, North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian with Nicks Fantasy, David Pass, Davids Pass and Tagliabue, respectively.


Try and think of a horse who made over $100,000 at both age 2 and age 8. Here’s one: Art Director. $117,880 at 2 and $171,670 at 8. He had six such seasons in his career.

Like father, like sons

Bettors Delight and his sons Tall Dark Stranger and Bettors Wish have similar histories.

In 2000 and 2001, Bettors Delight was voted the freshman and sophomore pacing colt of the year, respectively.

In 2019, he was the sire of both winners in those same categories.

Tall Dark Stranger was voted the top freshman with a record of: 9 8-1-0, $717,514

Bettors Wish was the top sophomore with a record of: 19 13-6-0, $1,643,745

Others, such as Caviart Ally $672,215 and Alicorn $405,569, added to Bettors Delight’s record season of better than $25 million.

Bettors Delight just turned 22.

Shartin N trying to match Rainbow Blue

Shartin N is trying to become the first female in 15 years to be both Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year since Rainbow Blue did it last in 2004.

Shartin N is set to become just the fifth female in 50 years to be named Pacer of the Year. On the trotting female side, a female has been named Trotter of the Year 17 times.

This record is safe

Here’s a record unlikely to be beaten: Ron Pierce’s mind-boggling five straight seasons of winning either the Meadowlands Pace or the Hambletonian (all for at least $1 million) and six straight years with at least one million-dollar race win. Check this out:

2006 — $1,360,000 North America Cup with Total Truth.
2007 — $1.5 million Hambletonian with Donato Hanover (Note: Pierce also won the Canadian Trotting Classic with Donato, but it fell a little shy of a $1 million with a purse of $970,000).
2008 — $1 million Meadowlands Pace with Art Official (over Somebeachsomewhere).
2009 — $1,305,000 North America Cup and $1 million Meadowlands Pace with Well Said.
2010 — $1.5 million Hambletonian with Muscle Massive (over Trotter of the Year Lucky Chucky).
2011 — $1,020,000 Metro with Simply Business and $1,000,000 Meadowlands Pace with Roll With Joe.

Pierce went into the Hall Of Fame in 2004 with two million-dollar race wins, the 1993 Hambletonian with American Winner and the 1997 Meadowlands Pace with Dream Away. He won eight million-dollar races after he was enshrined in the Hall.

Looking back on the first 1,000-win season

The first 1,000-win season by a driver was orchestrated in 1998 by driver Walter Case, Jr., who posted 979 of those victories at Yonkers alone where he posted a .511 UDRS and earnings of $4,165,854.

Case’s national totals that year were: 2,993 drives 1,077 wins, 566 seconds and 367 thirds for earnings of $4,458,228.

He was the HTA Driver of the Year for 1998.

Other notables about that accomplishment:

• Case did not race at all in 1997.
• He won nine races at Yonkers on June 16,1998.
• The 1998 crown was his second dash title. He won it prior in 1992 with 843 wins.
• He missed 60 race nights in 1998, yet still became the first to hit 1,000 win.
• He finished the year at #25 on the all-time money list at $32,655,632
• His UDRS for the entire year was .504.
• He won over 36 per cent of his starts.

Three decades on…

Can it really be three decades since trainer Gene Riegle’s historic run?

Yes, indeed, 30 years have passed since Gene Riegle brought out 2-year-olds in successive seasons named Artsplace 1990, Western Hanover 1991 and then Life Sign 1992. Stars every year they race and then impact stallions, it’ll be a long time until anyone does better than that.