After a successful 2-year-old season, the trotter was sidelined by a suspensory injury for much of the next three years, but now, at age 6, Count On Cody has earned a check in his last five starts at Miami Valley for the couple that manage Ohio’s Steiner Stock Farm.
by James Platz
Everyone loves a good comeback story. In the case of trotter Count On Cody, the once talented 2-year-old resurfaced at Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway in late 2020 after an extended absence from racing. Al Manke and his wife, Lori, now campaign the son of Full Count, and they share many connections to the gelding, who returned to the winner’s circle Friday (Feb. 5), at Miami Valley Raceway, the first time since 2018.
“He’s a fun horse to race because he gives you everything he’s got all the time,” said Al, manager of Steiner Stock Farm in Lima, OH. “We have 400 or so acres here that are dedicated to the horses and 30 broodmares. I have eight foals on the ground and 13 to go, so he’s just fun for us. I’m not going to break him down racing. If he gets off, he’s done.”
The Mankes’ connection to Count On Cody begins with both the trotter’s sire and dam. Prior to managing Steiner Stock Farm, Manke worked two decades for his father-in-law, Ohio Hall of Fame trainer Marty Wollam. Wollam conditioned Full Count and his sire, Striking Sahbra, as well as Count On Cody’s dam, the SJ’s Caviar mare Caviar Forthe Lady. During her career, the mare amassed 21 wins in 76 starts with $567,306 in earnings.
“His mother, shoot, we went all over with her. In one month, she won the Buckette and Pennsylvania Sires Stakes,” Al said. “Of all the horses, she was my wife’s favorite to take care of, and she was just a sweetheart. She was special, and we’ve always done well with the Full Counts.”
Manke and his wife transitioned to Steiner Stock Farm before Count On Cody debuted in 2017. That year, Count On Cody, the second homebred out of the dam from George and Brad Berlin’s Acadia Farms, hit the board in each of his eight seasonal starts, registering two wins and four runner-up performances, including a second-place effort in the $250,000 Ohio Sires Stakes Championship. He finished the season with just shy of $127,000 in purse earnings. Upon his return as a sophomore, Count On Cody won two of four starts, setting a Northfield Park track record in his third trip behind the gate. By mid-July, the colt was sidelined with suspensory issues.
“He was a really good 2-year-old and he had a suspensory injury. He came back at 3 and he only started a few times and hurt it again. They were going to try him back at 4 and he didn’t make it back,” said Al. “When he was 4 and trying to come back, George gave us his sister, Ladycallstheshots, as a broodmare since we were running the broodmare farm.”
When it was apparent Count On Cody would not return to racing, the Mankes were asked if they would take him as well. They agreed and the trotter was gelded and sent to them. In turn, they shipped their acquisition to The Meadows, where he was broke to ride. When Lori tried to ride Count On Cody upon his return, it was clear he had a different agenda.
“We brought him back home and she tried riding him,” Al said. “He didn’t have quite all of the race out of him. He would ride, but you weren’t going to throw the saddle on him and ride him through the drive thru at McDonald’s. He’s a little strung up.”
Spending his days in the field for what Al estimates was over a year, Count On Cody’s suspensory issues improved as did his soundness. Noting the change, the couple decided to put the 5-year-old back in training. Last fall after the harvest, Al began working with Count On Cody in a local wheat field.
“When they took the wheat off, I jogged him every day for about a month and a half,” he said. “I mowed a path through the stubble with the zero turn and jogged him about four miles out in the wheat field.”
The trotter responded well to the program, and soon Al was training his charge at the fairgrounds across the street from Steiner Stock Farm. He qualified Count On Cody at Dayton in mid-December, and the gelding raced second, timed in 1:58.4. On Dec. 29, he would make his first pari-mutuel start since August 4, 2018. He finished fourth, clocking a 1:57 mile and :28.3 last quarter with Al in the bike.
“We kind of had to race him into shape. If he had the opportunity, he would trot every ounce he could go every time and be more than happy to do it. That’s what he was born and bred to do,” the trainer said. “That’s why I drive him, just to take care of him a little bit.”
Now 6, Count On Cody has five starts under his belt at Miami Valley, earning a check each time out. In his last three trips behind the starting gate, he logged a 1:58.4 triumph and a pair of second-place finishes. His last time out he eclipsed $150,000 in career earnings. The trotter is back in to race today (Feb. 21) at Miami Valley.
“My wife and I both felt like he wanted to; he still had some race in him,” Al said. “I think she’s hoping that once he gets all the racing out of his system he’ll settle down and she can ride him around. I don’t know. He might be 25 or something.”
Other horsemen may have been quick to dispatch a project like Count On Cody. For Al and Lori Manke, the gelding is a connection back to a time when they spent each day in the shed row, caring for and developing horses alongside family for long-time partners such as Acadia Farms and others. He is a special horse for many reasons.
“It’s hard for people to understand. My wife and I have done it all our lives, and it’s fun for us to go race,” Al said. “With him being a nice horse makes it even more fun. He’s special to her because he’s out of her favorite mare. He’s special because our good friends bred and raised him. Just all the way around he’s fun, just a nice horse to be around and we’re having fun with him.”