by Chris Lomon
Her winner’s circle look has changed over time, but the feeling of posing for a post-race photo is very much the same for Courtney Brooks.
When the bay pacer Redwood Again went postward on the night of Oct. 9, 2019, his trainer was battling butterflies as the field picked up speed and then was sent on their way in race eight at Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill, MD.
Brooks, in search of her first training win, felt her stress level climb as she watched intently as the son of Dragon Again, who she also owns, was sent to the front by Frank Milby.
Holding a half-length advantage at the stretch call, Redwood Again and Milby went to work, determined to hold sway.
At the wire, the pair was a half-length the best, stopping the teletimer in 1:54.4, including a final quarter paced in :28.4.
For Brooks, the milestone victory brought out a torrent of emotions.
The performance and the high praise helped make for an interesting look in the winner’s circle.
“In the picture, I look stunned. I could not believe I had gotten my first official training win. I wasn’t just an owner any more. I was a trainer. I was over the moon,” she said.
While she now manages to sport a look of sheer joy over stark surprise, the feeling of winning is the same as it’s ever been.
Brooks cherishes every victory she collects.
“You still get very excited for each one and I love that last quarter, when you see your horse in front or gaining. I still get butterflies every time. I still get nervous. But when you watch that horse cross the line first, it’s one of the most special feelings you can have. Just being around the horses, watching them give everything they have, they truly are amazing athletes.”
Brooks would certainly know.
The native of Price, MD, comes from a harness racing family. Her grandfather is Eddie Gannon, her uncle is Jay Gannon, and her father is Wayne Young.
Her love of racing and the horses came at an early age.
“My grandparents got into the business, so my whole family has been it. Growing up, I always did the stalls and the buckets during the summer or days off. In 2015, we purchased the family farm and one of our boarders had a horse, Philly Fanatic. He was going to turn her out for the summer because he was so busy painting. I asked if he would lease her out to myself and my cousin, MacKenzie Kiel. We leased her for the summer. We had a pretty good summer. And I thought, ‘You know what? I really would like to do this.’ So, in October of that same year, I bought Redwood Again, and it’s been great ever since. After that first night at the track, I came home, and I knew this was it for me.”
She quickly understood the nature of the business, that there would be highs and lows, long hours, big wins and tough defeats.
None of it fazed Brooks, who has found the perfect harmony between being a realist and an optimist.
“You know not to count on winning all the time because it just won’t happen. The next day is going to come and you’re still going to have to do the work whether you win or lose. But I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had good, well-mannered horses, so they’ve almost made it too easy for me. They’ve all had wonderful manners and they never give me any problems.”
Precision Blue Chip is an ideal example.
The stall next to Redwood Again at Windswept Farm where Brooks does her training was home to the pacing son of Bettors Delight.
Now 7, the lifetime winner of 28 races and nearly $200,000 in purse earnings came into Brooks’ barn after she reached out to the family of the owner who had passed away.
“He has been my one-in-a-million dream horse. I knew ‘Chip’ was easy-going and very relaxed, very well-mannered. I was able to get him and got a little bit of help from my dad and uncle in getting him straight. He’s been amazing for me. He’s been Horse of the Meet a couple of times at Rosecroft, and he always tries.”
Outside of her busy racing life, Brooks enjoys any opportunity to ride Credishire, a retired trotter she adopted from SRF in New Jersey.
Now 11, the son of Credit Winner had a brief racing career, posting a second from four lifetime starts, along with $2,115 in earnings.
“I really enjoy riding him. He is an absolute dream riding horse. Nothing fazes him. He’s nice and relaxed.”
Brooks and her family also have Belted Galloway cows on their farm, which her children show through the 4-H Youth Livestock Program.
One of her children, oldest son Benjamin, has picked up his mother’s passion for the horses.
“At the beginning of COVID – I think he was 14 at the time – he could get his schoolwork done in the morning and then come to the barn to help me. He started going to the track and he got his groom license. He would be the fifth generation tied to the sport. He goes to the track when he can, usually during the summer, too.”
For the person in charge of the two-horse operation, the feeling of being around the horses hasn’t changed much since the days when she helped out her father, grandfather and uncle.
Every moment spent with Redwood Again and Precision Blue Chip is a good one for Brooks.
“They get super excited when I go into the barn, making noise and ready to go out.”
It’s always a picture-perfect scene for both the horses and their proud owner/trainer.