Some think Todd Schadel could have the next Niatross

by Murray Brown

Roger Hammer is generally acknowledged as being the “King of the Fairs” when it comes to Pennsylvania racing. As long as he continues to race, Hammer still remains as the monarch. But there is a king in waiting. He is Todd Schadel.

“Roger is cutting down” said Schadel. “He only has two 3-year-olds in our first 3-year-old races at Butler. I’m racing five 3-year-olds on Wednesday, those in addition to the nine 2-year-olds I have in on Tuesday.

“Butler is the beginning of our fair season in Pennsylvania. I generally race the 2-year-olds that show promise a couple of times in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes or Stallion Series Stakes. If they do well there, I’ll continue for the season. If they don’t finish first or second, I will generally take them to the fairs. It’s a formula that has worked well for me. For example, last year, Showboat Hanover earned $43,058 racing mostly at the fairs. I’m a big believer in racing horses where they are competitive and where they can earn money and pay their way.”

It is still very early for 2- and 3-year-old stakes racing in general and Pennsylvania in particular. To this observer, Schadel has begun the year like the proverbial house afire.

Schadel’s 2-year-old PA fair season began at Butler where he raced seven freshmen at both gaits and sexes. He emerged with three wins with Wheelhouse Hanover, Sweet Ride Hanover, and Catwoman Hanover; two seconds and a third. His 3-year-olds racing the next day were not to be outdone by the freshmen. From five starters, he finished with four winners and a second. He continued racing his talented 2-year-old class on Sunday at Pocono Downs where he won the first Pennsylvania All-Stars event of the season for 2-year-old trotters with Set The Bar.

In addition to this plethora of 2-year-old talent, the freshman most consider to be his best, and maybe among the best in the country, has yet to make his stakes debut. His name is Dreamboat Hanover. More about him later.

When people speak of you, the name Roger Hammer often comes up, probably
mostly because you are two of the most well-known figures in Pennsylvania harness
racing. I mentioned that Hammer is undoubtedly the all-time king, but if there is a person
waiting to reach that throne it is undoubtedly you.

“That’s a huge compliment. When someone is compared to Roger, the best they can hope to become is next best. Roger and I have been best friends and later partners from the time I first started in the sport. Roger is first of all, a great horseman, maybe as good a horseman as ever sat behind a horse. He is also the hardest worker I have ever known. He does it all, buys, owns, breaks, trains, ships, takes care of and races them all. I’ve tried to pattern my stable and career after him. To some degree, I think I’ve been successful in reaching that goal.”

Your biggest success as a twosome with Roger was in the purchase of Vivid Photo as a yearling. He went on to become a Hambletonian winner and a great world champion. How did that partnership come about?

“It was actually quite simple. Roger and I went into the 2003 sale season intending to purchase several yearlings for our partnership. Each of us would train and race a few. Roger had purchased this S J’s Photo colt for $30,000. He asked me if I wanted in on him. I said ‘Sure, but you need to train him. I’ve trained a few SJ Photos and I just haven’t had any luck with them.’

“Sometime into the season, I suppose it was probably around the March 15 stakes payments. Roger said that he thought that this colt could be the real deal. He thought that we should make some important stakes payments on him, saying especially that we needed to keep him eligible for the ‘Classic’ races at 3. I told him he was the trainer and in charge. I was game for anything that he wanted to do. The rest is history.

“Roger did a masterful job of training, prepping and driving him, especially in the Hambletonian. His drive in the Hambo will probably go down as being one of the greatest in the history of the race. Roger drove him exactly as he told me he was going to do when I spoke with him a week before the race. He said, ‘I’m going to follow Ronnie Pierce. Wherever he goes, I’ll be right behind him. Then, if our horse is good enough, which I think he is, I’ll go by him in the stretch.’ That is exactly what happened.

“It was undoubtedly the greatest thrill of my career. It was and remains indescribable. What a wonderful horse he was. In addition to winning the Hambletonian, he also earned $3.3 million for our partnership. I was fortunate to have been able to drive him a few times including his winning last start. He is in his forever home at Roger’s place living a deserved good life.”

There are some who say that you have a 2-year-old named Dreamboat Hanover, who may with time become one of our greats. Greg Wasiluk posted on Facebook something to the effect of ‘I think I just saw the next Niatross’ after his last win at Pocono Downs.

“That’s a huge statement. To quote Yogi Berra ‘They haven’t done it, until they’ve done it.’ All he has done to this point is win a non-winner of a parimutuel race. But I think he could become a very special horse. He is without doubt the best horse that I’ve ever trained. He is in to race in the Pennsylvania All-Stars on July 8. We’ve already turned down some very serious money from people who want to buy him. I can’t say that he isn’t for sale, but if I and my partners, Tim Hayes and Dr. Megan Moschgat would even think of selling him, it would take some very significant money to get our attention.”

How did you come to acquire this budding phenom?

“He was selling on the first day at Harrisburg, when a lot of the highest-priced yearlings are generally offered. I had looked at him when I had visited Hanover to evaluate their yearlings. I thought he was a pretty nice colt, but he toed in somewhat. I wasn’t in love with him as an individual, but I thought he would certainly be worthwhile at a reasonable price.

“I had done alright previously with horses that toed in. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d get him for only $10,000. No sooner had I signed the ticket than Tim Hayes was at my side. ‘Megan and I want to buy a piece of him,’ he said. Tim and Dr. Megan had worked at Hanover and had a part in raising ‘Dreamboat.’ They knew him and his family better than I did. I looked upon them buying in as being a good omen.

“I think that his placement in the sale likely hurt his price.

“On Day 1, people are generally looking for perfection. He had a perceived flaw, but I thought it was a flaw I could live with. I think if he had sold on Day 2 or even on Day 3 where buyers are more tolerant of imperfection, he likely would have brought at least double or maybe triple what he brought.

“When I go to the sales my yearling budget is generally focused on horses that bring between $10,000 and $30,000. I of course prefer the $10,000 price to the $30,000. Through the years, I’ve made some of my best purchases this way. I just sit at Harrisburg in my regular spot. I’m there when all the yearlings sell. I’ve looked at most of them beforehand. When a yearling that I’ve looked at and liked brings less than I thought it would bring, I throw in a bid or more. I’m guessing that I’ve probably had more luck in buying horses with this kind than with the ones I’ve gone aggressively after.

“Almost without exception, we, the Schadels — myself, my wife Christine and our son Cody — own all or the majority of just about every horse in our stable. We pay the bills. We are not extremely wealthy people. We have to be careful as to how we spend and manage our money.

“From the first day I got Dreamboat Hanover home, he performed perfectly. I think I have a few decent 2-year-olds this year, but he is the best of the lot, by far. I’ve never had one that does it so well and so easily. In that mile at Pocono that excited so many people, I was just cruising. I never even turned the whip in my hand, let alone got after him.

“I have him staked to more than what I generally stake our horses to. This year his eligibility is mostly restricted to the Pennsylvania tracks where he is eligible to everything. Next year, the sky is the limit. He is eligible to just about all the top events. If one were using a template, one could say that it mirrors the way Roger staked Vivid Photo from 2 to 3. I only hope that he goes on to do what we think he might be able to. We should know more on July 8 and thereafter.”