Jennifer Brown — right-hand woman

by Victoria Howard

Jennifer Williams grew up surrounded by horses and a family who was involved in harness racing, so it is no surprise that one day she too would make a name for herself in the sport.

“I was born in Bellelfontaine, Ohio, and raised on a 40-acre farm owned by my grandfather and parents that included a racetrack and two speed barns which housed 24 horses.

“My granddad stood three studs: the most famous, if you call it that, was a horse named GT Skipper. We also owned numerous broodmares and at that time it was live cover so people would bring their mares over to breed.

“My two sisters (Amy Hollar and Stacy Beckley) and I had to clean stalls every morning before we showered and went to school. After school we helped with the farm chores and put the horses away, if needed. We also baled hay, fixed fences, worked the track and whatever else needed done.

“I rode my first a pony when I was 10 months old and granddad bought his first racehorse when I was around 5, so from a very, very young age I surrounded myself with horses.

“It was certainly a family affair, for my granddad, uncle, mom, and aunt all drove and trained racehorses on a small scale at Ohio’s county fairs and some sire stakes.

“Our family has always been very close and after watching my parents work hard on the farm, they were instrumental in teaching us that hard work pays off.

“I met my husband, Brian Brown, at a fair when our families raced against each other. We got to know one another and one day when I was a teenager and we were at the Putnam Fair in Ottawa, Brian winked at me.

“He was 5 years older than me— I won’t reveal my age, but you can say it was somewhat scandalous. I thought Brian was so handsome and to this day that’s my nickname for him.

“In 1988, Brian and I got married. At that time I didn’t want to work at the barn so I got a job at a bank and also worked for a CPA for seven years.

“When my children started school I went to work full time in the barn with my husband. He is the boss and I respect him. Although I’m stubborn on certain things, he has the final word and no matter how much we disagree on something, in the end we’re a team and want the same outcome.

“Throughout the years, I’ve been amazed and proud at how much we’ve accomplished and that we still remain honest and hard working.

“And by the way — all those rumors are true — Brian Brown is a good guy (and a great husband and father). He gives 100 per cent of himself every day. No task is beneath him, and he doesn’t have one selfish bone in his body.

“His only fault is that he takes everything straight to his heart, and if something bad happens, it ways very heavy on him.

“For 26 years we’ve made it work because we love the horse business and each other. Yep, I hit the jackpot.”

Brian Brown may be a great husband, but he is also one of the sport’s top trainers and his record speaks for itself.

The Browns have conditioned many champion horses, such as Prsntpretnperfect, Lost For Words, Blazin Britches, Color’s A Virgin, Candy’s A Virgin, Santa Fe Beach Boy, Special Forces, Beach Memories, Workin Ona Mystery, Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside.

The year 2017 was special for the Browns. They will always remember campaigning two superstars the took home harness racing’s top honors. Fear The Dragon won the North America Cup, Adios and Max Hempt; and stablemate Downbytheseaside won the Rooney, Messenger, Progress Matron and the Monument Circle.

Having had so many good horses it would be hard to pick a favorite, but Jennifer says hers is Prsntpretynperfect.

“I bought her on my own at the Ohio Sale and she was a baby doll. I gave a piece to each of my kids. At 2 years old, Prsntpretynperfect won six of seven starts and only made a break in the final because we discovered she had a chip in her knee the day after. She won her last start at the Delaware Fair and at 3-years-old won 4 of 7, before we discovered another chip.

“Prsntypretynperfect was as game as they come and the family favorite. My daughter, Jessica, groomed her and knew every pimple on her body.”

When talking about her daughter and son, Brown beams with joy.

“Jessica was a straight A student in high school then earned her degree from Ohio State University in animal science. She was my right hand in the barn when she was growing up. I worked her hard, but she didn’t mind for she loved the horses.

“A few years ago, Jessica decided to go on her own and started a stable in Delaware while her husband Cameron McCown drives for her (and also at the Ohio tracks).

“On the other hand, our son, Beau Brown hated the barn when he was young because it was too much work. He earned a degree in computer science and worked for us awhile before going out on his own this year.

“He is currently stabled in Delaware, but is heading to Canada with his girlfriend, Teesha Symes, to try his luck at driving at the smaller Canadian tracks.”

“I love having my son and son-in-law drive our horses. It makes me proud to watch them drive something I’ve bought and trained down. It makes it more personal — even if it’s just a fair race. I never thought I’d be watching my own kids drive and it’s been so much fun for Brian and I.”

Currently, the Browns are training 55 horses — of which 38 are 2-year-olds. From April to November the couple trains at Delaware County Fairgrounds and from December to March they are stabled at Spring Garden Ranch in Deland, FL.

Decades after growing up on her family farm, Jennifer said she still enjoys going to the barn every day.

“Unless a grandkid has a doctor appointment or something needs done at the house, you will find me at the stable. I do the bookkeeping, payroll, order supplies, make hotel reservations, stake horses and coordinate the rigs and who goes where.

“I’ve been a licensed clerk since the 1990s, was the NCOCC secretary after Mrs. Ruth Hornett retired, train and jog if needed, fill in for a groom, or give a hand when short.

“At Delaware I’m usually sitting in front of our barn, because that’s where Brian Brown expects me to shout an order,” Jennifer said, laughing.

As for whether the stable has any stars by Downbytheseaside of Fear The Dragon this year, Jennifer said, “I’m not sure about any superstars for we don’t use that term, but the Downbytheseasides and Fear The Dragons are looking mighty promising.

“It’s so exciting to be a part of their careers as stallions. I personally own two Downbytheseasides and one Always B Miki filly, so time will tell. But, if we never have another Seaside or Dragon, we were certainly blessed.

“To be successful takes a good team and we are lucky to have one. Our help is great and we have trusting, loyal owners who along with our horses have gotten us to this level.