by Victoria M. Howard
The fact that her parents were both allergic to animals didn’t deter 7-year-old Jenny Melander from pursuing her love of horses.
“After a couple of pony rides at my cousin’s farm, I was hooked,” she said. “They also owned racehorses and that’s when my interest in the sport took off.”
Growing up in the northern part of Sweden, Melander worked for an old-time trainer named Gunnar Melander.
“Gunnar was no relation to me, for the name Melander is a common one in Sweden. In fact, one of the sport’s top trainers, Marcus Melander, is also not related.
“Working for Gunnar, I learned a lot for he was a great horseman.”
When she was 23, Melander ventured to the land of opportunity — America — and got a job working for trainer Per Eriksson and remained there for several years before he returned to Sweden.
“I married trainer Jonas Czernyson and for a few years we ran a stable together. After our divorce I returned to school to get my education as an educational teacher.
“After graduation I worked for trainers Erv Miller and Mark Harder as a second trainer, which ignited my interest in taking the lines and starting my own stable.
“Today, I run a stable of 23 horses with my husband, Marty Noonan. We are stabled at Wingate Farm located in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania.
“I train both trotters and pacers; however, there are a lot more trotters than pacers in my barn. Our stable consists of condition racehorses and 2- and 3-year-olds: one pacer and 22 trotters.
“Several are: Captain Krupnick, a 4-year-old son of Conway Hall who has won three of his last four starts, including a 10-length win at The Meadows in a personal best of 1:54; Bella Ava, a 4-year-old Conway Hall daughter who has won her last two starts at Pocono Downs; Bully Boy, an Ohio-bred 4-year-old who has won his first three starts after acquiring him last winter, and Beyond Ordinary, a Canadian-bred 3-year-old who posted a recent lifetime best at Pocono in 1:55.4.
“My all-time best horse was a Swan For All colt named All On Black, who won six out of eight races as a 2-year-old. He was Indiana’s 2-year-old champion for trotters and victorious in the final.
“We recently retired him on our farm where unfortunately he had a tragic paddock accident and succumbed to his injuries.
“My favorite horse is Wisenheimer. The old boy is now 11 years old, still racing and loves his job. He has had my back through the years and helped me develop my stable.
“Twice he broke down with two fractured coffin bones and this past winter he coliced and had to have surgery and is extremely lucky to have survived.
“My husband, Marty, came from Australia where he bred and raised racehorses. Although his passion lies there, in America the breeding costs are steep and so much can happen before the horse even makes it to the races.
“Thus, every year we go to the sale and buy a few yearlings hoping, like all horsemen, of one day winning a Breeders Crown or Hambletonian. But we rarely even stake to those races for stake payments are high and don’t usually buy that caliber of horses. But we keep hoping and dreaming like all horsemen.
“Our horses race mostly at Pocono and Harrah’s Philadelphia, but we also travel to the Meadowlands, Yonkers, Tioga and the Meadows. If we have any stake horses we go to all the New York tracks.
“Last year we raced a few times in Canada and for a couple of years we traveled to Indiana to the Sire Stakes.
“As far as which driver we use, it is hard to find one that will stick with our horses as we operate a fairly small operation, but generally we use Marcus Miller, Jim Morrill or George Napolitano, who do a super job.
“At one time we owned a broodmare and raised our own babies, but unfortunately, we didn’t have much success in that area. But training a baby and developing it into a nice horse is very rewarding and if it’s one you bred, of course it’s even a greater feeling. Maybe one day we’ll have a few mares again.”