Things going swimmingly at Saratoga for trainer/owner Meg Reynolds

by Chris Lomon

Trainer/owner Meg Reynolds certainly felt the love at Saratoga Raceway this Valentine’s Day.

It was only fitting that the neck victory in the fourth race at the half-mile New York oval came on the hooves of 9-year-old Ocean Colony.

The gelding, who has paced 145 career miles, rallied for the win as the even-money choice, coming home in :29.3.

“Right now, the biggest highlight is this horse, who I own myself,” Reynolds said. “I had a chance to claim this horse, Ocean Colony, two years ago at The Meadowlands. He’s a classy, classy horse. He has almost $500,000 on his card. He’s raced in all of the big races, the North America Cup and Breeders Crown. He’s just one of those horses you dream of training. He’s not the horse that he once was, but he loves his job and he’s done really well for me. I claimed him with a partner for $10,000 in the winter.

“We moved him up off the claimers at The Meadowlands. And then I moved him over to Plainridge. I took him over there, but I didn’t want to put him in for a tag because I liked him. I raced him in the open and he missed winning by literally a nostril. It was so exciting because I’ve never won an open. It was huge. He just tries so hard.”

And on occasion, he also outraces his odds.

Last November at Plainridge, Ocean Colony was saddled with the eight-hole, the tote board showing 99-1 odds beside his number.

With Matthew Ahearn in the race bike, the bay rallied for a one-length score at 106-1.

“I almost fell over,” Reynolds said.

Born in New York, the horsewoman has worked diligently to earn status as a rising star trainer.

Her longstanding association with horses, dates back to her early childhood years.

“My dad was in the business a while back,” Reynolds said. “He mostly had county fair horses and one or two raceway horses. He raced in Canada and around the fairs in northern New York. I was really young. They ended up selling their horses before I really got into it, so I showed riding horses for years.”

It was through that channel that Reynolds got to know the standardbreds.

The more she learned about pacers and trotters, the more it piqued her curiosity.

“I showed the riding horses out of county fairs and racehorses were always around,” Reynolds said. “I was always so interested in them. I actually got an opportunity to work for Harold Smith, a trainer in northern New York. He gave me a job cleaning stalls. His help quit and I started being a groom for him and it kind of took off from there. I worked for him for six years and ended up training with him. I moved on to other tracks and worked for other trainers.”

Things would soon go swimmingly, pun intended, for Reynolds’ racing career.

A pair of opportunities opened the door for a full-time gig.

“I worked for a trainer here at Saratoga and one winter, he left to go work in Florida and left the horses with me,” Reynolds said. “I had one or two of my own and it was really nice to have that chance to do my own thing, to try things and run my own barn. I remember thinking then that this was what I wanted to do. So, I kept the horses for him over the winter and then I went out on my own.

“I started with about four or five racehorses and I was at a farm that had an equine swimming pool,” Reynolds said. “I started doing some rehab work for trainers at Saratoga. I ended up with a full barn of 20 for a time, half rehabbing and half training. I ended up getting an opportunity from an owner who had horses on the list for swimming. I ended up training those horses and that led to me eventually buying some other horses and growing my barn. I’ve been on my own for about six years.”

Although she’s her own boss, Reynolds remains eager to learn from others at the racetrack and stable.

Each day presents the possibility of acquiring helpful advice, something she can introduce into her own approach.

“I still find you learn something new in this business every day,” Reynolds said. “I still talk to other trainers, drivers and grooms to learn more. I respect what they all do. You can learn something from everybody. Horses are individuals and have likes, dislikes, and issues, so the best thing you can do is be open to learning.”

Which is why Reynolds also keeps an open mind when it comes to her operation, which currently stands at nine horses.

One of those horses comes in the form of No Ordinary Man, a now 7-year-old son of Betterthancheddar.

The bay gelding has 19 wins and over $201,000 in lifetime earnings.

Despite his lackluster aesthetics at the 2015 Harrisburg Sale, No Ordinary Man caught Reynolds’ eye.

“My owner sent me to Harrisburg with $70,000 and put a lot of trust in me,” Reynolds said. “That was a huge thing for me. I researched and studied. He wasn’t a nice-looking animal in the sale and even my owner was a little hesitant. But he looked like a horse that wanted to work for somebody and maybe he needed some individual attention. He got me my first Yonkers’ win and had a four-race win streak and paced in 1:52 at Saratoga, so we’ve had some nice luck with him. I just bonded with him. It took me a long time to figure him out, but we had a great connection.”

Reynolds is hoping to add a talented sort to her barn this year.

If that does come to fruition, it could provide her with one of the goals she has set out to achieve in 2023.

“I would like to maybe acquire a top-level pacer again that can do well,” Reynolds said. “I’d love to win an open, that’s been on the radar for a couple of years. Hopefully, we can get that done. I have nine in the barn right now. I’m hands-on, so nine or 10 would be the ideal number.”

When she’s not at the racetrack or with her horses, Reynolds appreciated any chance to spend time with her family.

Admittedly, it’s not always easy to get away from the demands of her career.

“I like to spend time with my family,” Reynolds said. “My family is three hours north of Saratoga, so it’s tough. I don’t take a lot of time from my barn, but when I do, I head north to be with my family. My sister and I recently caught a concert. I miss a lot of birthdays and other events, but they understand. I have a hard time leaving my barn, but that’s not a complaint.”