The gelding has won nine starts in 2021 and now stands as the best horse Geesaman has had in 25 years.
by James Platz
Last fall, Doug Geesaman found himself frustrated and disappointed with homebred DD’s Big Joe. The then-freshman, bred and owned by the Pennville, IN resident and his wife, Donna, had managed a lone second-place finish on the fair circuit in 10 starts. Looking to sell the Rockin Image—Crown Lady gelding, the owner was talked into keeping him, and this season the sophomore has made a 180-degree turn for his connections, collecting nine wins in 28 starts.
“I would have sold him. I was very disappointed in him,” said Geesaman. “When I broke him I thought I had a really nice one.”
The owner/breeder/trainer went as far as sending the pacer to Marvin and Larry Wickey after the 2020 campaign. They jogged DD’s Big Joe and liked the horse, but instead of buying him, they encouraged the veteran horseman to keep the homebred.
“They told me, ‘Doug, I really think you’d be making a mistake selling him,’” he recalled. “They did me a favor because I was ready to get rid of him.”
DD’s Big Joe is the third foal from Pro Bono Best mare Crown Lady. Geesaman purchased the winner of $268,642 in an online auction. Campaigned by Ross Croghan, the mare took her mark of 1:51 at age 4. She suffered a suspensory injury, and while Geesaman tried to bring her back to the races, the previous injury hindered her success on the track.
“I brought her back here and I thought I would try to race her and see how she got along. She would get me some checks, but she wasn’t anything like she was earlier,” the conditioner said.
Crown Lady was bred to Sand Shooter in 2015, and her first foal, gelding Sand Sniper, is currently racing, a winner of $101,703 in his career with a mark of 1:51.4. Filly Rock N Roll Lady came next, but her career was abbreviated.
“She had some structural problems in her hips. They weren’t quite lined up correctly,” the breeder said. “She had the speed, but she just couldn’t carry a mile. I raced her the first year and ended up selling her.”
Then along came Joe, a foal named after the Geesaman’s grandson.
“When he was born, he was so tall and gangly he had trouble nursing the mare,” Geesaman said. “My grandson is a baseball player and his coach calls him Big Joe. That’s how he got his name.”
As the breeder began to break and train his latest pupil, he believed the pacer had talent. However, he would have to entrust the young horse to Ben Schwartz due to personal health issues and challenges with the developing pacer.
“Joe was a really nice colt. I jogged him for a couple months and he started to develop a mouth issue. He got to where I’d take him out and jog him and I couldn’t keep him on the track. That mouth was bothering him and I couldn’t quite figure it out,” Geesaman said of the colt. “Ben jogged him and finally got the issue resolved. He got him trained down and my health improved. I raced him on the fair circuit.”
In seven fair starts, DD’s Big Joe managed to earn two checks, finishing second at Portland and fifth at Indianapolis. Moving him to the big track, Geesaman hoped he might improve. In three starts he finished 10th, and twice raced eighth.
“For whatever reason he just was not ready. He would go out and try. You could tell he was trying. Overall, he just was not a promising colt. I knew he had it in him, but it just wasn’t showing,” he offered.
After being convinced to keep DD’s Big Joe, Geesaman sent the pacer to Justin White to race on the fair circuit this season, winning at Hoosier Park in April before the fairs began. The sophomore collected two victories, both at Portland, a trio of second-place efforts and a third-place performance, qualifying the gelding for the Governor’s Cup at the Indiana State Fair.
“I wanted to try to win the Governor’s Cup down at Indianapolis. We put him on the fair circuit and he won a couple times on the circuit. We went to the Governor’s Cup and I felt real good going in there,” Geesaman said. “They had a storm coming in so they postponed the races (Thursday evening). We came back Sunday and I don’t know, Joe just didn’t seem like he was ready to roll that day. I think we ended up getting fourth, which I was majorly disappointed in.”
With his fair season complete, DD’s Big Joe moved to Harrah’s Hoosier Park. Geesaman sent his charge to Tyler George based on a friend’s recommendation following two starts in the White barn. Since then, the sophomore’s fortunes have changed dramatically. Under the guidance of Hoosier Park’s defending leading trainer and driven by Trace Tetrick, the track’s leading driver, DD’s Big Joe has scored six wins in his last eight attempts, taking a mark of 1:50.2 in the process.
“He’s done a 180 degree turnaround. Tyler has done a good job with him. I give him all the credit. Trace has done a super job driving. Those two guys are tops,” Geesaman said.
In mid-November DD’s Big Joe was entered in the Richard Taylor Memorial, winning the $14,000 first leg by two and one-half lengths in 1:51.1. The favorite captured the second leg on November 26, this time the margin was a length and a half. Sent off as the favorite in the $27,000 final, DD’s Big Joe held the lead racing into the stretch before finishing third. The gelding was elevated to second by judges after the second-place horse was disqualified. DD’s Big Joe has banked just over $59,000 this year.
In late 2020, Geesaman looked to unload the homebred after a disappointing season. Now, he is anticipating the gelding’s 4-year-old campaign in 2022.
“I’m thrilled. This is just a hobby for me, and it’s taken me 25 years to come up with this colt. I started training horses in 1996. I’ve had some pretty decent horses, but nothing of this caliber. He’s the fastest that I’ve ever owned,” Geesaman said. “I’m excited to see what he can do as a 4-year-old. Hopefully he’ll just keep improving.”