Everyday stories about the racetrack are filled with the names of famous trainers like Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, and Graham Motion as they compete to win races in the Triple Crown or the Breeders’ Cup. But for every superstar trainer there are many others who devote their lives to racing because they love the horses. Their tireless work and struggles go unnoticed to the public. Here is a look at one race day for one of those trainers and her star horse.
It was a cool and cloudy Sunday at the Jersey Shore racetrack, which was a break for Pinelands Pete, who was running in the ninth race, an optional claiming second level allowance race for New Jersey breds. Pete’s owner and trainer, Linda Simon said, “That Pete doesn’t do well in the heat of Jersey summers because he doesn’t sweat enough.”
Pete looked really sharp, on his toes, as he walked through the tunnel to the saddling area. However Simon was a bit worried because, “He seemed a bit too keyed up on the walk over and when he’s like that he might have trouble at the starting gate.”
In the walking ring Simon gave Jockey CC “Chuck” Lopez a leg up. Lopez had ridden Pete to victory last November at Monmouth and asked Simon if he could ride him in this race. Small trainers don’t often get big name riders like Lopez on their horses. So, for Simon to get Lopez, who is know for his expertise on front running speed horses like Pete, this was a rare opportunity and a tremendous boost to his chances in this very difficult race. Simon said, “The race came up really tough, with a lot of very good horses.” In fact the full field of twelve runners had earnings ranging from $90,500 to 349,199.
Nearing post time, Pinelands Pete was being ignored by the betting public at 17-1. This kind of oversight tends to happen to the less known trainers. To avoid overheating Pete, Lopez just walked him to the starting gate where he loaded smoothly. Pete broke sharply from the gate, quickly got to the lead, and put away a few challenges. The official chart of the race from the Daily Racing Form said, “PINELANDS PETE dueled two wide, shook clear, dug in gamely and was caught nearing the finish.” At the finish Pete had been beaten at the wire by a neck. After the race rider Lopez was excited, “He ran so hard I hated to see him get beat.”
Pete’s second place finish, which earned Simon $10,400, was generating the most excitement around the television where owners and trainers congregate to watch the race replay. There were congratulations for Simon from fellow trainers, outriders, valets, and Pete’s fan club of 7 or 8, who were there to watch the race. Simon congratulated winning trainer Mario Serey, whose horse had 12 career wins and $349,000 in earnings going into the race. Serey told Simon, “Your horse ran great!”
Let’s follow Linda and Pete throughout the summer. We’ll spend a morning with them on the backside and chronicle any further races at the Jersey Shore.
ABC’s of the Monmouth Hall of Champions -Today Carry Back: Florida-bred Carry Back won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 1961. He had 61 career starts with 21-11-11 and earnings of $1,241,165. Carry Back ran 4 times at Monmouth with one victory in the 1962 Monmouth Handicap defeating Kelso. He entered the Racing Hall of Fame in 1975. Carry Back is ranked 48 in the Horse Racing Nation Top 250 of all-time with an 8.74/10 rating.