Customer Support delivers the fun for White-Engel partnership

by James Platz

Trainer Dave White will turn 79 in August, and while he may not be as spry as he once was, his interest in developing horses is as strong as ever. His current project is Customer Support, a Dover Dan—Talkin Tootsie sophomore competing in the Expression Series at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. To date, the gelding has hit the board in each of his five seasonal starts, winning twice.

“He’s just a fun horse to have in the barn,” said White. “He just acts like one of those that wants to be a racehorse. He’s just a fun horse to race.”

As a 2-year-old, Customer Support picked up two wins over the course of 11 starts at Hoosier Park. While the trotter wasn’t a frequent visitor to the winner’s circle for White and owner Ted Engel, he returned to the paddock only twice without earning a check. On a couple of occasions untimely breaks prevented him from finishing higher in the order. Steered by Indiana Hall of Famer Jay Cross, the trotter managed to bank just shy of $30,000 to close out the campaign.

“His brain wasn’t keeping up with his ability to go forward,” said White with a laugh. “A couple of those breaks were colt breaks. I changed a couple of things, and Jay has such steady hands, things just progressed from there.”

Customer Support is the second foal from Cantab Hall mare Talkin Tootsie. White, who is stabled at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, watched his full-brother, Talk Show Host, train down and race for fellow fairgrounds-based conditioner Jeff Edwards. That played a factor when looking at yearlings during the 2022 Hoosier Classic sale.

“When Mr. Engel and I went to look at this colt, he was a sharp colt,” White said of the $22,000 yearling purchase. “He’s turned out to be fun for everybody.”

The fun isn’t derived purely from his performance on the track. The veteran horseman also cites the precocious trotter’s personality in and around the barn.

“This colt, he just loves having that front door open and watching the horses on the track,” White said. “He’s very alert. He’ll get fired up in the stall on his own, and sometimes I have to put kicking chains on him. It’s not as bad as last year. He’s matured a little bit to that extent. I don’t like putting anything on his hocks, but I didn’t have a choice.”

When racing at Hoosier Park, horses are required to arrive in detention several hours in advance. Those conditions can be trying for Customer Support.

“He has trouble at the track, especially with a couple of hours of detention,” White said. “He’ll get fired up. I usually sit with him most of the night just in case he does get fired up, then I’ll put him in a cross tie, just to try to keep him calm.”

This winter, Customer Support grew up, filled out, and he made great strides in maturity. With Cross in Florida early in the Hoosier Park meet, trainer and catch-driver Robert Taylor picked up the drive behind the sophomore. Steering the gelding four times, Taylor won twice to go along with a runner-up and third-place effort. In the most recent start Wednesday (May 8), one of Taylor’s horses drew into the same race. Cross took the reins and piloted Customer Support to a third-place performance in the second leg of the Expression.

“I put Spence down first and Jay second,” White said of choosing between the two. “You’re talking about two accomplished horsemen and fine gentlemen. They don’t have any attitude problems.”

This season, Customer Support, bred by Black Creek Farm and Hickory Hollow Stables, has collected $19,340 while raising his career tally to $49,205. Through the years, White and Engel have teamed to campaign top horses in the Hoosier State, including 2009 Indiana Sires Stakes final winner Solvent. The then-freshman trotter, owned by Engel and Frank McCurdy, went on to earn over $350,000 for his connections.

“I’ve had him in the barn 35 years,” White said of the partnership with Engel. “I’ve been so fortunate. We’ve had some good ones and we’ve had some others.”

White currently has three horses in training. Besides Customer Support, the conditioner is working with a pair of freshman trotters. One, a Don’t Let’em colt named Machado, was purchased last fall by Engel and Tom Kindell.

“I said I was going to go until I was 80,” White said, adding with a chuckle. “Mr. Engel called me before the sale this year and said, ‘I’m going on 90, want to go another year?’ When Ted pulls the plug, I’m going to have a big sale.”

Until then, both men are enjoying the exploits of their latest winner, Customer Support. The sophomore will compete in next week’s Expression final before getting a short break and launching into Indiana Sires Stakes action, where White knows anything is possible.

“We’re just letting him tell us what to do,” White said. “You’d like to hit a lick and get a leg or two of it, but the main thing is soundness and being able to maintain where he is at. He’s usually in the race and he gives you a shot. If we can stay together, we’ll have a lot of enjoyable races this year.”