by Chris Lomon
Whether he’s in uniform or his racing colors, Steven Fedokovitz always answers the call.
The majority of his days can be a question mark in terms of how they will play out, but for the 19-year-old standardbred driver/trainer and volunteer fireman, not knowing what to expect when he wakes up each morning isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“It definitely makes life interesting. I think with both jobs, although they are much different, there is an adrenaline rush that you find. They both keep you on your toes and they prepare you to handle whatever comes your way.”
Hailing from Slippery Rock, a borough in Butler County, PA, Fedokovitz has embraced his unique lifestyle, one that can include a little bit of everything from the time the sun rises until it sets.
His harness career, in its early stages, is keeping him busy as he learns the ropes.
Fedokovitz’s affinity for standardbreds and standardbred racing was picked up from hours spent in the barn of his grandfather, Dennis Youshock.
“I got into racing through my family. My great-grandfather, he was the one who started out working with the horses, then my grandpa started doing it as well. My mom was going to get involved, but her allergies bothered her too much, so she wasn’t able to do it. I was at the barn with my grandpa since the time I was three. And it just stuck with me ever since. I enjoyed it right from the start and it’s stayed with me over the years.”
That love of all things racing eventually led him to the barn of driver and trainer Aaron Johnston. Working for the horseman who has compiled a combined 500-plus wins has been an ideal learning resource for the teenager, who had started out as a groom.
The same can also be said of Fedokovitz’s time spent with Johnston’s band of trotters and pacers, a group that includes Bigly.
A 3-year-old trotting son of Cantab Hall—Miss Fidget, Bigly, an original $8,000 purchase (Hip No. 494) at the 2020 Lexington Select Sale, has become a favorite of the young horseman.
The consistent brown gelding, sporting a mark of 7-2-5 from 19 races, along with over $60,000 in purse earnings, has helped Fedokovitz develop his confidence level and skill set since they were paired together.
“I started helping Aaron do some training, and I started jogging some horses. Bigly is probably my favorite horse. He’s an incredible horse and Aaron has done well with him. This is a trotter who definitely knows what he’s doing. It’s kind of cool getting to sit behind a horse like that, a consistent horse who always shows up. When Aaron brought him back from being turned out in the winter, I was doing a lot of the training with him and I would get to go a training mile with Bigly. I learned a lot.”
Bigly also holds special significance for Johnston. On April 29 the duo crossed the wire four lengths ahead of the nearest rival in 1:55.4. The victory marked the 200th lifetime driving win for Johnston.
Another horse who has had a major influence on Fedokovitz is a trotter by the name of Dakota Dawne.
Owned by his grandfather, the 6-year-old daughter of Triumphant Caviar—Cant Get Over You has made nearly 70 career starts, and recorded nearly $50,000 in earnings.
“I started out with her, and she helped me a lot. I was able to learn a lot of different things about horses from her.”
These days, Fedokovitz isn’t grooming as much as in times past, focusing instead on ramping up the driving and training aspects of his career.
“I help out Aaron and work in his barn every day, then go to the races with him every day, and help him with whatever he needs. I haven’t had my first drive yet. I feel the best part of driving is the thought of getting out there, having fun and competing as hard as you can. The most challenging part is just worrying about how you are going to do and trying to make everyone happy and have those good results.”
He sports a familiar familial look whenever he’s in the race bike.
Fedokovitz didn’t have to mull over any options when it came to his racing colors.
“I went with red and black. My initials are in red and there are red horseshoes. Those were my grandfather’s colors. The only difference was that he had different initials and his don’t have the horseshoes. I wanted to keep the colors as close as I could to his, but I wanted to add some of the stuff I liked on them. I want to keep those colors in the family as long as I can. I’m the first grandson, so it’s almost like I’m the son he never had. I got my love of racing from my him and I also learned a lot from him too.”
Fedokovitz doesn’t look to any particular piece of advice he’s received along the way to spur him on. Simply having the opportunity to work with the horses is motivation enough.
“I just wake up every day, go to the barn, have fun, enjoy it, and make sure everything gets done and done right. My goal is to keep the horses in the best shape possible, make sure they are healthy and ready to give their best effort every time.”
Putting forth a top effort is what Fedokovitz does whenever he’s called upon as a member of the Harrisville Volunteer Fire Company.
A job, like his harness racing career, thar he takes great pride in.
“It definitely keeps me busy. Whenever you get a call, your heart’s definitely pumping through your chest. You never know what that call is going to be and when you do get it, the adrenaline kicks in and you get yourself prepared quickly to deal with whatever comes your way. It’s always something different every time, but it’s always that same feeling. It gets your heart going.”
Having not one, but two things in his life that he is passionate about isn’t lost on Fedokovitz.
The common bond between both callings, he noted, is perhaps an obvious one.
“I think, whatever you do, you have to give everything of yourself, to make sure the job is done right and to the very best of your ability. I have to say I really enjoy doing both. With racing, I just want to learn as much as I can and become a pretty good driver. I have bunch of friends and family in the business, who have all done well, so I have some pretty big shoes to fill.”
Chasing and achieving success, it seems, appears to be a perfect fit for Fedokovitz, who points to his grandfather, Johnston, Shawn Johnston and Brady Brown as all having a significant impact on his career.
“There’s a lot to look forward to and I can’t wait to see how everything turns out.”