Caretaker Robert Predmore proves sometimes you can choose your family

by Chris Lomon

He doesn’t share the same last name as the people he works for, but every morning he walks in the barn, it feels just like family for Robert Predmore.

“I’ve been doing this for over 15 years,” said Predmore, a 29-year-old Ohio horseman. “I started with [trainer] Herb LeVan when I was around 13 or 14. I ended up getting my groom’s license when I was 15. I took a break for two years and then I started for Herb’s son, Hank. And now, I’ve been there for three years. I’ve been with the family for a long time, and they are a great family. I can’t complain about any of them or any of the experiences. Herb taught me everything I know. He taught me about training, grooming, and anything that comes between the lines.”

It was just over two years ago when Predmore made a call that would lead to a new chapter in his standardbred career.

After a short hiatus from racing, he was motivated to return to the sport.

“I think it was around December 2020 and I asked Hank [LeVan] if he needed help,” Predmore said. “Eventually, I got the job and I’ve been here ever since. I’m pretty much Hank’s right-hand man. I help jog and train and do a lot of other things around the barn.”

The opportunity to work with the LeVan clan once again has been a rewarding experience.

These days, life in the barn is busier than ever, an operation that is enjoying great success, including with the stable’s younger pacers and trotters.

“Right now, we have about 24 horses we are going with, and 12 of them are babies,” Predmore said. “They are starting to come along pretty nicely, so that’s something we are all excited about. That’s the most babies we’ve had in a long time.”

There are times, more often than not, when the LeVan horses are competing at different venues on the same day.

On this weekend, Predmore is behind the wheel by himself.

“If I have to, I’ll warm up the horse,” Predmore said. “I don’t drive, Hank does about 95 per cent of our driving, but in case he can’t be there, I can get the horses ready for the race. There are times when we have to be at two places, meaning two different rigs, so we divide and conquer. Wherever he goes, I’ll go the other way. I know the horses like he does. I like when he drives them because like most trainers, he knows them better than anyone else does. It’s a busy life for all of us, but we are all on the same page and we get the job done right.”

Motivation, for Predmore, is never hard to come by.

Especially when he has plenty to look forward to.

“When I go to the barn in the morning and see the horses tip their heads out, I always feel happy,” Predmore said. “That’s a great feeling. [Trainer/driver] Louis [LeVan] is like my dad and Hank is like my brother. I’ve been in the business a long time with this family, so I’ve been very lucky. They treat me very well and I want to do my best job for them.”

Predmore has worked with several talented horses throughout his time, past and present, a list that included a horse that made nearly 500 starts and a current 3-year-old who wasn’t expected, at least at one point, to line up behind the starter car.

A bay son of Towners Big Guy—Spicy Dumpling, Caramel Dumpling competed in 489 races, winning 90 of them to go along with 248 top-three finishes and $276,108 in earnings.

“I’ve been lucky to have sat behind some nice horses over the years,” Predmore said. “The best horse I ever sat behind was probably Caramel Dumpling. When I was first working with Herb, we raced him, and he was just an amazing horse. We raced him up until he was 14 and then we retired him. He was a big, old war horse. If the purse money was as good as it is in Ohio right now, he would have tripled his earnings. Back then, he didn’t go for much, but he showed up all the time. That was the first horse I ever sat behind. He was probably around 6 or 7.”

Eddie L, a bay son of What The Hill—Great Idea Jane, has come a long way since a less-than-forgettable debut at Paulding in June 2022.

Breaking stride at the outset and distanced, the $6,000 purchase at the 2021 Ohio Select Sale (Hip 279) went 3-6-6 from 21 starts last year.

“Out of all the horses, I’d choose working with the babies and the 3-year-olds,” Predmore said. “I like starting out with them, seeing them progress, and working to get them to the races. We didn’t think Eddie L was going to make it. He couldn’t get around the turns very well, but we changed things up — people kind of laughed at the way we had him rigged up — but he did pretty well. We all worked hard together to make that happen.”

When he isn’t with his racing family, Predmore is spending time with his own family.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, horses and horse racing play a big role in their lives.

Even at the busiest points of the racing season, the Predmores find a way to take a road trip to various racetracks throughout the Buckeye State.

“Most of the time, when I’m not at the barn or at the races, I spend time with my wife and our two kids,” Predmore said. “It’s really hectic in the summertime, so there’s not a lot of time to be able to get out and do things. But we will go to fairs together. There are dozens of them in Ohio, and we go to quite a few of them. We don’t hit them all because that would be impossible, but we hit as many as we can. It’s always nice when you have time to be around your family.”

Something that Predmore is no doubt familiar with.