The charmed life of Eddie Lohmeyer… led to the Hall of Fame

by Murray Brown

(Editor’s note: When we began considering how best to honor Eddie Lohmeyer on tonight’s (July 7) induction into the Harness Racing Living Hall of Fame, we soon discovered we likely couldn’t come up with a better tribute than republishing this conversation Lohmeyer had with our Murray Brown that was originally featured in our Jan. 16, 2022 issue. So, here it is again.)

How many trainers have you heard of who have kept the same owner for over 30 years? I would guess not too many. Think of this: Eddie Lohmeyer has had two such owners.

Bob Tucker had horses in Lohmeyer’s stable for 43 years and John Stoddard had them with him for 33.

If nothing else, that speaks volumes for the incredible performance, outstanding horsemanship, honorable nature and perhaps, most of all, incredible loyalty that this life-long horseman has inspired.

The tale of Ed Lohmeyer traces to Monticello, NY where he was born and raised into a family of life-long horsemen. He credits his uncles, the three Manzi brothers, most specifically Al, the father of the renowned Catello Manzi and his dad Ed, Sr. for inspiring his start in harness racing.

In 1960, then a senior in high school and shepherded by Uncle Al, Lohmeyer attended the Harrisburg sale. While there he made his first horse purchase. He bought a yearling colt named Sam Mac, a son of the stallion Meade Mac for the price of $300.

That winter Lohmeyer rationed his time between going to school and getting up early to prepare his protege for that summers racing on the New York fair circuit. The training was done on the back roads where he lived.

“Sam Mac and me traveled the circuit from fair to fair,” Lohmeyer said. “I had my truck and trailer. I would sleep in the trailer. It wasn’t near as difficult as it might sound. It was actually a great deal of fun. The memories of that summer will last with me forever.”

He graduated from high school in 1961 and started racing at Monticello Raceway in 1962.

He began training and racing at Monticello. Shortly thereafter he moved his training activities to Honedale, PA, a 30 minute drive from Monticello. He raced with decent success, mostly at Monticello, for the next three years.

The Vietnam War was at its height. They were drafting 65,000 men a month at the time. Lohmeyer was drafted in 1965, but received a one-year deferment because he was training five head of horses and needed to find new homes for them.

Upon entering the service, he was told that the Marines were short of their allotment. He figured that if he was destined to be a soldier, he might as well be one of the best — the Few, the Proud. Thus, Lohmeyer became a member of the United State Marine Corps.

Shortly thereafter he was shipped to Vietnam where he served for 13 months. On reflection, he said “It was a terrible war and we had no business being there. As with most wars of recent American vintage, it was one manufactured by the politicians for their own benefit. We would probably be best if we tended to our own challenges at home and let other countries take care of theirs.”

He returned to America landing at the marine base in Quantico Virginia.

No sooner had he been mustered out of the Marine Corps, than he was asked to drive at the then functioning Georgetown Raceway in Delaware. He didn’t even have his colors and had to borrow a set.

He started training and driving at Green Mountain Park, where Joe DeFrank was racing secretary. Back then, Lohmeyer was mostly noted as a catch driver, but is quick to point out that he always had a stable that he trained. He felt then and still feels that DeFrank was the best and fairest of all race secretaries. He soon hitched himself to Joe DeFrank’s bandwagon. Wherever Joe became the race secretary, Lohmeyer followed. From Green Mountain, Lohmeyer raced at The Meadows, Freehold, Suffolk Downs and of course The Meadowlands where he was among the invited guests at the track’s ground breaking.

He has now entered a new phase of his life, where together with his wife, the noted equine surgeon, Dr. Patty Hogan, they have established Pheasant Hill Farms, one of the foremost equine surgery clinics in all of horsedom at the former Perretti Farms.

It was there, after Lohmeyer spent a year away from training horses, that this scribe caught up with him.

You’ve undergone a big change in your lifestyle, from training and driving horses to managing a 305-acre farm and surgical clinic, considered to be one of the best of its kind anywhere. How has this affected you?

“If I said, ‘It has been easy,’ I’d be lying. Prior to spending last winter at the clinic, I’d spent 50 consecutive years training horses in Florida every off season. Most of all, I miss the people and the camaraderie of the racetrack. The warm weather was also nice.

“If you’ve experienced it, you would know what I was saying. If you haven’t, then it would be next to impossible to describe. Not having my horsemen friends around, combined with not being able to sit behind one in a cart has constituted a big change in my life.

“But, this new life has lots of plusses as well. I live together with the love of my life in a gorgeous home on one of the most beautiful horse farms anywhere. I’m still around horses on a daily basis. At any given time there are anywhere from 60-70 horses, mostly equally divided between thoroughbreds and standardbreds turned out at the farm, most of them are patients of Patty’s at the clinic. Patty and I still own nine trotting broodmares, together with their foals. As Mr. Churchill is often quoted as having said, ‘There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.’”

Let’s talk about your racing career. I started this story by mentioning the amazing fact that you’ve had relatively few owners, but those you’ve had have stayed with you virtually forever. To what do you attribute this?

“Firstly, probably the good luck to have as great a gentleman as Bob Tucker enter my life. Bob was a great man — strong willed, but brilliant and extremely loyal and understanding. To my knowledge, from the first time I had a horse with him, he never had one trained by anybody else. From Bob, I got to know and train horses for John Stoddard. Through Mr. Stoddard, I got to know and train horses for and in partnership with the former Secretary of the Treasury, William E. Simon. I did my best for all of them and they repaid me by sticking with me. They also increased my owner base with a few stock market people who came in on some of our high-priced yearling acquisitions.”

You mention high-priced yearling acquisitions. Two that stand out were Landslide at $290,000 and Vanston Hanover at $325,000. We both know that most high-priced yearlings do not usually work out to the best advantage. These were two that did.

“It’s interesting that we bought each of them by making only one bid — the final one. With Landslide we were at Stoner Creek Stud, Bob Tucker, Mr. Stoddard and a few of their Wall Street associates who I jokingly refer to as the Irish Mafia. They brought him out. He was gorgeous. When asked if I liked him I replied in the affirmative. I said that he was the best colt being sold anywhere that year. One of them said, ‘Then, let’s buy him.’ So we did. He tried to bow a tendon at 2. I told them that if we didn’t stop with him, we would cause him irreparable damage. They were alright with that. At 3, he was a monster. He won 10 in a row including the Adios. He was then syndicated for $3.6 million.

“Vanston Hanover was an absolutely beautiful colt. He sold at The Meadowlands for $325,000 one of the years when Hanover sold a bunch of their yearlings there. He had talent and raced well, but didn’t turn out quite as good as we thought he might become. Nevertheless, between what he earned here and what we sold him for to stand stud Down Under, he earned himself out.

“Landslide was just a moderately successful stallion here. I’ve been told that Vanston Hanover was very successful Down Under.”

You’ve been around through several generations of horsefolk, who were the best?

“I would have to say through my formative times in the business and to some degree beyond, two names would stand out. It would not be a surprise to know that those names are Stanley Dancer and Billy Haughton.

“I like to reserve the word great to describe people or horses who were actually that. I find the word to sometimes be overused, especially today. But those two men fit that description to a tee.

“Strangely enough, though, they were generally quite different in both their training and driving methods. Billy was as great an all-around horseman as ever lived. His speciality was in never giving up on horses. If you had a problem young horse, there was nobody better at making a good horse out of it than was WRH. As a driver, I would describe him as more of a finesse type.

“Stanley’s speciality was in either developing young horses from their yearling stage or getting a good horse and then developing it into a great one. He especially excelled at managing a top horse. The number of horses he had as Horse of the Year leads the list. He was also an extremely astute businessman.

“As a driver, he totally revolutionized the sport. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that hard a thing to discover, but he figured out that the quickest and shortest way around a racetrack was from the top, sitting at the rail.

“In recent years, for some reason those from Europe and Down Under seem to lead the list. Names like Jimmy and Nancy Takter, Brett Pelling, Ake Svanstedt, Nifty Norman, Marcus Melander, Noel Daley are always found at or near the top. That’s not to say that we don’t have our share of top homegrown horseman such as Ronnie Burke and Tony Alagna.

“I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention my mentor Al Manzi and some names such as Delvin Miller, Ronnie Waples and Erv Miller.”

You were particularly close to not only Stanley Dancer and Billy Haughton, but also to members of both their families.

“Yes indeed. The Dancers lived just down the road from us. When I was starting out, I bought a bunch of used equipment from Vernon to help outfit my horses. I need to add they were priced so reasonably, that I might have thought I was stealing. I remember one of the halters had the nameplate of Lyss Hanover, a top Adios colt that Vernon trained and raced.

“Ronnie Dancer, Stanley’s son, was and remains not only a good friend of mine, but also the best friend that harness racing in New Jersey has in that state’s legislature. I’ve always thought that if harness racing ever got a much needed commissioner, that Ronnie would make a perfect candidate for that job.

“Billy and his wife Dottie were wonderful friends and teachers, but the one Haughton closest to my heart was their son Peter. Peter was a great friend and a wonderful horseman. When The Meadowlands opened, I bought a home in nearby Harmon Cove. Peter stayed with me when he raced at The Meadowlands in the winter. He was living in my guest bedroom at the time of that fateful crash that took his life. That was probably the worst day of my life. The evening of Peter’s funeral, I drove his horse Cold Comfort to a win in the free-for-all trot at The Meadowlands. I was so distraught, that I couldn’t even stay for the winner’s circle picture presentation.”

Let’s talk about drivers. Who were the best?

“John Campbell — He undoubtedly would be the best. He dominated for so long. He was great for the sport both on and off the racetrack. He is now taking it to another level as the president of the Hambletonian Society.

“Herve Filion — He has to be my all-time favorite. I learned so much from watching and listening to him. He was part, maybe even mostly horse. He had so much innate wisdom about horses and was such a pleasure to be around. I’ve never known anybody quite like him.

“Cat Manzi — Not because he is my cousin. He is my uncle Al’s son, seven years younger than me. But because he was a genuinely great driver. He had soft hands and was very kind to horses. Even though his numbers are astounding, I feel he sometimes gets lost in discussing the all-time greats.

“Bill O’Donnell — Another of the very greatest. As similar to Herve as anybody that I’ve seen or known — complete to the wisecracks and great personality both on and off the track. For a period of time, maybe the best there ever was to sit behind a horse.

“Ronnie Waples — He’s another who sometimes gets overlooked. Not only a great driver, but a great all around horseman, a hard worker and a great friend.

“Ronnie Pierce — A great driver and a great friend. You could never discount him, especially when the big money was up.

“Then, of course, there are the modern wonders and they are just that — wonderful drivers. Guys like Tim Tetrick, David Miller, Yannick Gingras, Brian Sears, George Brennan, Dexter Dunn, the McCarthy brothers, George Napolitano, Jr, Aaron Merriman and Dave Palone would have been great any time and in any era.

“Two things I firmly believe: 1. Great drivers are born, not made. The same applies to horses. 2. Weight plays a big part in determining greatness in the bike. It is especially a factor in present times when speed is such a factor. Even back then, guys like the first great catch driver Hughie Bell and Tic Wilcutts had an edge because of their tiny size. Today’s great drivers are more conscious of their size and conditioning than ever before. They watch their weight. It might not get them a huge edge. But every little edge counts.”

Probably the least known fact about you and the one that perhaps you might take the most pride in is that you have been a moderately successful breeder from having only raised a relatively small number of foals.

“I still own a home and a small 38-acre farm on it in Cream Ridge, NJ that we have just put on the market. From that little place and owning just a handful of mares, we bred and raised such horses as Pacific Rocket, Pacific Fella, NYSS champion and the highest money winning 2-year-old of 1972, Eddie Jeff. At the 2020 Harrisburg sale, held at Timonium, we sold the trotting filly Adair Castle for $12,000. She was the highest money winning 2-year-old trotting filly in Ontario winning over $396,000.

“Patty and I presently own nine broodmares, all of them trotters. We breed them mostly in Pennsylvania at Hanover and also breed a few in Ohio where the stud fees are fairly reasonable. We play at the middle to lower end of the marketplace and try to watch our dollars as best we can.”

How about the future for Eddie Lohmeyer?

“I consider myself to have been one of the luckiest guys on the face of this earth. I have the best wife in the world. I live in a beautiful home and manage one of the nicest farms anywhere, surrounded by horses. What else could a guy wish for?

“PS — We are also privileged to share our lives with two of the world’s greatest dogs, our Golden Retriever Eli and our black Labrador retriever Jack.”