Yet the third-generation driver, trainer and owner, based in New York, still has an unshakeable passion for the game.
by Chris Lomon
Whether it’s in the sulky or in the entries, Shane Darish admits it’s not always easy to find the right spot.
There’s certainly no questioning the 27-year-old New Yorker’s unabashed affinity for standardbred racing.
A third generation horseman, the affable Darish, recipient of the 2018 Rising Star Award from the Monticello-Goshen Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, has a seemingly endless string of superlatives when it comes to harness racing.
That said, the driver/trainer/owner, who enjoyed several successes on the New York fair circuit ranks, readily acknowledges the challenges that come with being a smaller operation.
“One of the hardest things for me is finding places to race my horses,” said Darish, who operates a small racing stable that sees its horses compete at a variety of venues, including Yonkers, Monticello, Tioga, Plainridge, and the Meadowlands. “I only have a barn of six to seven horses at a time, but when you realize you have horses to race at three different tracks on the same day… it’s just me and my family. The best-case scenario is that we can get to two of those tracks, but there’s no way we’re going to be racing in three places at once.”
Planning out the best odds for success isn’t easy.
It can, on occasion, lead to more questions than answers.
“I find myself dealing with things like, ‘Who do you leave out? What horse to do you take to a certain track?’ said Darish. “Sometimes finding the best spot to race is really tough. If you have Monticello, Yonkers and Plainridge all on the same day, if you go to Plainridge, you’ll have to leave out Monticello and Yonkers.”
Being a jack-of-all-trades isn’t always a plus.
“For some people, they can race at Meadowlands and Yonkers. They can race at one and drive across town to the other. When you’re shipping, driving and doing a bunch of other things yourself, you can’t do that. My biggest challenge is trying to find spots to race all my horses without being in conflict. You have to make tough decisions. That’s my most difficult thing.”
Yet, it’s hardly enough to deter Darish from doing what he enjoys.
His love for the sport comes naturally.
Frank Darish, his grandfather, won the first race ever held on the re-configured half-mile track at Yonkers Raceway, when it converted from the mile track formerly known as Empire City. He headed a public racing stable starting in 1940 and ran it until he passed away.
Shane’s father, John, a standardbred trainer and driver, launched the conditioning side of his career in 1977, winning three races from 27 starts in his rookie season.
Over the years, Shane, who won a New York Sires Stakes Fair Series Race for 3-year-old colts & geldings with Precious Bluechip in a memorial race named after his grandparents (Frank and Dotty Reilly), has been privy to plenty of helpful advice.
Many of those words still resonate with him.
“The way my family has always done it is that you just have to start by doing right by the horse, and then the business comes later,” said Darish, who is stabled in Crawford NY, about halfway between Goshen and Monticello. “If the horses are happy, healthy and sound, you’ll do well. You have to do what’s right by them for the long-term.”
That approach was no doubt a factor in his Rising Star honor two years ago.
Delighted with the award, Darish took a self-deprecating tone when he was given the good news.
“It was really cool and I joked to Chris Tully when he told me about it. I said, ‘Well, they must have had no one else.’ There are a lot of young people they could have given it to. It was very nice and it was much appreciated. I’ve grown up doing it and I know how tough it is to get recognition. It’s nice, even though I think there were other people that were more deserving. But, obviously, I’m very happy to have received it.”
And even on the toughest of days, challenges and all, Darish is content in doing what he does.
When his alarm goes off each morning, he’s reminded of where he’s headed to and what’s waiting there for him.
“What makes me happy to get up each day is that I get to go to the barn and see my horses. I have four I own myself and just going out to see them is more than enough incentive to get up. You get up and you get moving.”
But not always the first time he hears the alarm.
“It doesn’t stop me from hitting the snooze button five times,” deadpanned Darish.
And nothing, not even the times he’s faced with having to choose which racetrack he’ll take his horses to, is enough to diminish his passion for the sport.
“You’re optimistic every time you draw in and get the rail… that’s a good spot be in. All kidding aside, it’s one of those things where you have to be optimistic about the sport because otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it. Obviously, there are a lot of other ways that take a lot less hours to make the same money, but I do this because I love this sport and I love the horses.”