Thursday, April 10, 2014

Drivers, Drivers Everywhere...

“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

 That is a rather famous quote I’ve heard a number of times over my life.  If I told you it was taken from Hemmingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” would you believe me?  That seems reasonable given that the book was about someone out on a boat trying to reel in a huge fish with his bare hands.  He was probably thirsty.  Can’t drink seawater.  Makes sense.  However, just because it makes sense on the surface, it doesn’t make it real.   We will get back to that later.  For now, onto horse racing.

 I’m going to spend a little time talking about drivers.  It is always a hot topic from those that ask me about our horses, but I’ve always been somewhat reluctant to write about drivers.  Getting a good drive is a huge part of winning a race, but if the race doesn’t meet expectations the blame usually starts with the driver.  He didn’t try hard enough, he was too passive, too aggressive and so on. 

While there have certainly been times that I’ve been frustrated with a drive, I’ve usually kept it to myself. These are my own personal feelings regarding drivers.

1.       You can’t race without one, so show respect and encourage more than criticize.

2.       Like most things in life, results tend to even out over time.  Don’t get too high off a great race or too low off a bad one.

3.       These guys are sitting in a two wheel bike going ~35 mph.  When the gate folds, they have to make quick decisions.  Sometimes they make mistakes, just as any professional would.   Be reasonable in your analysis of the race.

4.       Horses aren’t race cars and you can’t accelerate and brake whenever you want. 

5.       If a driver is able to consistently drive your horse he will become more familiar with its strengths and weaknesses.  That knowledge leads to familiarity with your horse.  Familiarity builds a driver’s confidence in your horse.  Confidence often leads to maximum results.

6.       If a certain driver’s actions bother you enough, just move on and try someone else.  There are better fits for your horse that others.

The reason I’m bringing up drivers today is that last Saturday night In Over My Head had his third different driver in as many starts.  That lack of consistency can be a challenge, but like many things, you need to dig deeper to understand how we ended up here.

The expectation was that there would be two high level events on Saturday night.  The first would be an Illinois bred only race, in which Fort Silky (Mo’s barn mate at the Leonard farm) would enter.  The second would be for the rest of the higher level horses in Chicago (Mo would enter this one).  Assuming there were two races, we didn’t have an issue.  Casey Leonard could drive both horses and all would be good.  If they ended up combining the classes, we would request Todd Warren, who did a great job driving Mo last race.  Unfortunately, neither happened.

Wires got crossed and the end result was a combined race with Casey listed to drive both.  Casey is good, but barring a “Multiplicity” like cloning event, he couldn’t drive both.  Todd Warren was listed to drive Ice Scraper, so we were left scrambling.  That is always a tough place to end up because most of the top drivers have already been accounted for at that point.  You just have to look to see who’s left.  Chicago’s driving colony is pretty thin at this point, but we saw one name we knew well:  Dale Hiteman.

That happens to be the same Dale Hiteman who drove Mo to the biggest victory in his life in the Windy City Pace.  However, that was four and a half years ago.  When Mo was three, Hitemen had some familiarity with him.  At age eight, not so much.

In the end, Mo finished the race a hard charging third.  It was another solid race for him and another defeat at the hands of Al’s Hammered (Ice Scraper was second).  There is no doubt in my mind at this point that Mo is as good as anyone in Chicago, but he has yet to put up that elusive win.  That begs the obvious question:  Was it the driver’s fault?

My personal take is that and it comes back to my #5 above.  Put yourself in Dale’s shoes.  His last drive on Mo was four and a half years ago.  He’s known that Mo has suffered multiple major injures between then and now.  How would you choose to driver a horse like that?  Probably more conservative than if you had sat behind him or the last 5 starts.  That is basically what happened.  I have no doubt that if Dale drove Mo more often, he would feel comfortable taking a few more chances.  Do I wish that Mo was a little more forwardly placed with a chance at a better finish?  Sure.  I can tell you that right after the race was over, I was kind of worked up about it.  However after spending some time thinking about it, my attitude has not surprisingly mellowed.  Am I mad at Dale for what he did?  Not in the least.  It’s part of racing.  The best thing to do is take our third place check and move forward to the next race.

Unfortunately, that next race won’t be this week.  Mo banged a knee at some point during the race (very rare for him) and he going to have to miss his next start.  Everyone thinks this will be just a one week setback and he’ll be ready to go on the 19th.  That is also part of racing.

What I’ve tried to do in this post is get you to think beyond what is right on the surface.  In almost every situation (race related or not), there is often a deeper story and you can find it if you just dig a little bit.  It will help you understand reasons why races end up the way they do and will keep you from spending so much time complaining about drivers for no good reason.

Let’s go back to the original ‘famous’ quote.  Want to know the truth about that quote?  It isn’t from “The Old Man and the Sea”.  It is from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, a written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798.  Here is the actual passage from the poem:

“Water, water, every where

And all the boards did shrink

Water, water every where

Nor any drop to drink.”

Lack of knowledge can be an albatross around your neck (take some time to study the poem to understand that reference).  Don’t settle for surface level information and you will usually understand why drivers do what they do.  It will make the races much more enjoyable as an owner or as a fan.

And one more thing…

Let’s go Mo!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mo Madness Continues

If you are a fan of college basketball and your team is playing for the right to go to the Sweet 16, you are in for a fun day.  The buildup to the game.  Pregame excitement.  Nerves.  It all adds to the experience.  Just imagine that being overshadowed by a large degree.  What could possibly overshadow such a fun sports experience?

A horse race.  A sport where you are the owner, not just a fan.

That is what we were treated to on Saturday night when Wisconsin played Oregon at about 8 o’clock and Mo was scheduled to race at about 11.  Since this isn’t a blog about college basketball, we won’t spend too much time on the game other than to say that the Badgers put in a show in the second half and knocked off a tough Oregon squad.  It was a great start to the sporting night, but it only got better from there.

Given the fact that the Carey-Swenson stable continues to operate out of two regional offices (Mineral Point, WI and Dunwoody, GA), we had two viewing parties for In Over My Head’s first battle at the Invite level in 2014.  He was facing a full field of ten horses that included powerhouse Al’s Hammered along with Fort Silky (Illinois horse of the year last season), Firstclassalltheway (speed demon we know well) and Best Man Hanover (winner last week).  It would be a great early test for him.

While Mo faced a full field, we had full fan bases ready to offer support.  Greg and Danny were in Mineral Point with Kacy, Kim and Jamie.  I was flanked with some first timers who, to my knowledge, had never watched a live harness race.  After lending their support to the Badgers, they immediately became In Over My Head fans.  It's always fun to bring in some new folks to the game, even if its just to watch a race here or there.  It certainly made watching the race a lot of fun for me.

While Mo’s first race back last week was lacking a certain amount of stretch drive excitement, this one was just the opposite.  Todd Warren moved him off the gate quickly and at the quarter he was sitting 3rd behind Fort Silky and Best Man Hanvoer.  That’s where he stayed until the stretch.  As with most races, it is much more fun to watch and if you are so inclined, follow the link and instructions below to see for yourself:

-          Mo has the green #4 and is wearing a red hood
-          Saturday, March 22nd, race 9 

The stretch drive was, obviously, just awesome.  Just like last week, Mo was searching for a seam and didn’t find one until it was pretty late.  When he did, however, he busted through and had the race won until the very end.  That’s where it gets a little confusing.  I know Al’s Hammered is good…darn good, but the result defied a basic principal of In Over My Head’s career:

Mo doesn’t lose photo finishes.  Literally.  I don’t think he has ever lost a photo.  I know that sounds almost impossible, but it’s true.  So what the heck happened?  Here is my theory:

Look familiar?  Well, you have to let your imagination work a little bit.  Add a couple sulkies, fast forward about 80 years, set the race at night…I’m sure you get the picture.

No, Mo is not blind in one eye, that although this clip refers to a driver/ jockey, I want to make it very clear this has nothing to do with Todd Warren.  We thought he did an excellent job with Mo in his first time as his driver and were happy to have him.  When you have an eight year old horse and have watched every race of his (probably 5-20 times each…except for the Windy City Pace which we’ve watched 100+) you notice certain traits.  His ability to win photo finishes is one of them.  This situation, however, highlighted another trait.

Mo usually only goes as much as he needs to in order to win the race.  In this one, he thought he had won it.  Al’s Hammered was nowhere to be seen until it was too late since he was far outside.  I’m guessing after they cruised past the wire, Mo was wondering why the heck Todd Warren wasn’t stopping in the winner’s circle.  Picture or no picture, he raced so well it actually felt like a win for us.

Win or lose, the race served notice that In Over My Head is a force to be reckoned with.  This is the first time that Al didn’t “Hammer” the field at Balmoral in quite some time.  Sure he was handicapped the 10 hole, but he also had smooth sailing down the entire stretch and if you look where the horses are coming out of the final turn, he is only a length off of Mo…and Mo had to go hunting for a seam on the inside. 

The king’s crown still belongs to Al’s Hammered and will until he gets beat, but after Saturday’s race, it is clear that there is a new enemy at the gate who wants the crown for himself.  Stay tuned, this could be a fun battle to watch this season.

Let’s go Mo!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mo Madness

I was driving to work today, thinking about last week’s race and the today’s draw when it hit me.  Last weekend’s start was only the second time that Mo has ever raced in March.  Too young as a 2 year old.  On a break at three.  Injured at four and five.  At six he made one start on March 24th…and suffered an injury that knocked him out until May 18th.  At seven he was still on the shelf.  This year, he’s back and looking great.

The race on Saturday was perfect in many ways except one.  It was perfect from a standpoint that the pacesetter put up some soft fractions (59.2 to the half) as Mo sat a comfortably in third.  It was the first start of the year for most of the seven horses and unlike Mo’s other March start two years ago when he chased a 1.49.4 mile right out of the gate, this one was must softer.  When the horses turned for home, Mo looked awesome.  It was clear that he had plenty of go…but nowhere TO go.  That was the exception to perfection.  He was buried behind horses hunting inside and out for a seam that didn’t materialize until just yards from the wire.  By then Al’s Hammered was long gone and Firstclassalltheway had a head of steam from the outside that allowed him to sneak past Mo.  In the end he took a strong 3rd.  He’ll be sharper this week and have his sights on a bigger prize, but all in all, it was a great first start.  Mo Madness is in full effect.

The madness has apparently caught the attention of our one year old son Jordan too.  Each morning when he wakes up, he points to the picture of Mo on his wall.  This started, oddly enough, on Saturday morning (Mo’s first start of the year was that day).  When it first happened, I mentioned it to Danny and we thought that maybe Jordan pointing to the picture meant that Mo would win.  That prompted this potential exchange on a race day when Danny and Kacy come down to visit in Atlanta this April.

Shawn:  Jordan, it isn’t hard.  You do almost every morning.  Point to Mo.  Right up there.
Laura:  Shawn, he isn't going to point...just forget about it.
Shawn:  Give him another second.
Danny:  Look!  He's pointing...actually he's pointing at the rocking horse.  What does that mean?
Shawn:  Can't be anything good
Kacy:  Come on guys...he's just a baby
Danny:  A baby who can apparently pick winners!
Shawn:  Forget it...we're not winning tonight.

At which point Jordan will smile and point to Mo just as everyone turns their back.

Look for In Over My Head to be back in on Saturday night at Balmoral Park.  Al’s Hammered continues to crush, but Mo wants that crown.  Go ahead and doubt him if you want.  He has a tendency of proving people wrong.

Let’s Go Mo!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Back By Popular Demand: Another Interview with Mo

For the last two years, we have been lucky enough to kick off In Over My Head’s racing season with an interview from a couple of random reporters.  Some of you have said, “How do you interview a horse?” to which I reply:  “Stop asking so many questions.”  This year, as our favorite horse is about to embark on his 7th racing season, I’d hoped that someone would come and interview him again.  The previous interviews have been pretty popular in this blog.  Unfortunately, no one has called so instead of telling people to stop asking questions, I decided to start asking them myself.  To make sure I didn’t miss anything, I picked up another uber-Mo fan and we headed down to the farm. 

Below is the result of a wonderful conversation between In Over My Head, Danny and myself.

February 27, 2014

In Over My Head (“Mo”):  Is this thing on? (looking at the recorder and laughing)
Shawn:  How long have you planned on saying that?
Mo:  Ever since you guys said you were going to come down and interview me.
Danny:  You seem to be in a good mood today.
Mo:  Everyday my friend.  I won a qualifier yesterday into the teeth of the Polar Vortex.  How many horses can say that? 
Danny:  Not too many!
Mo:  In Over My Head:  1.  Polar Vortex:  0. 
Shawn:  That is a pretty impressive feat.  Let’s get down to business.  The first question is a rather obvious one:  What are your goals for this year?
Mo:  I know last year we all talked about setting a goal based on the number of starts, not necessarily the number of wins.  We had talked about double digit starts, and we knocked that goal out of the park.  I think I had about a dozen starts.
Danny:  You had 14
Mo:  Thanks Danny.  Anyway, I’m thinking about really setting the bar high this year.  I’m gunning for 20 starts.
Shawn:  Wow, that’s a big number!
Mo:  Sure is, it will give you guys lots of opportunities to come and watch me race.  I know Danny will be there, right?
Danny:  If you race 20 times, I bet I’ll be there for at least 15 of them.
Mo:  That’s dedication right there.   Do you plan on making a race this year (looking at me)?
Shawn:  Atlanta is about 750 miles from Balmoral you know.  I’d love to be there, but it’s tough.
Mo:  Air travel, maybe?  I can hop on…try and find you a reasonable flight…
Shawn:  I promise you that I’ll make it to a race or two this year.  If it makes you feel any better, I usually talk to Danny until he gets to the Illinois/ Wisconsin boarder after each race.
Mo:  Really?  What the heck do you guys talk about for that whole time?
Danny:  If you did well, we just talk about how great you are. If you did poorly, we find a way to justify it and then end up talking about how great you are.
Mo:  I need to get on THAT call!  Sounds like fun!
Shawn:  It’s a labor of love sometimes.  Particularly when you make a break going into the first turn and get beat by 50.  You had us worried sick in your last start last year.
Mo:  I got run into! 
Danny:  We’re just saying that sometimes the conversations are really a lot of work.  That was one of them.  It’s even harder when I’m not at the track to get the report on the ground.
Mo:  I see.  Well, I appreciate the support.  It’s always good to know people are watching.
Shawn:  Speaking of people watching and paying attention to you we wanted to ask you about your Twitter account.  You’ve mentioned in the past that it is something you have a lot of fun with.
Mo:  I don’t have any sort of hard data in front of me, but I’m guessing I am the only Chicago based, non-stakes, overnight horse to have a Twitter page in the history of the entire platform.  And I have like 100 followers!  How cool is that?  I mean, A Rocknroll Dance gets to talk about big races and entertaining all these high class mares.  Arch Madness is traveling the world.  I’m grinding away in the freezing cold going for $10,000 in a place that is really down on its luck and people still want to know what I have to say.  It’s really pretty incredible.
Shawn:  Assuming that the Chicago circuit can get their issues resolved, we all think that it’s the best spot for you.  Having that said, is there a part of you that still get the itch to battle horses out east?
Mo:  I get pinged by Tyler (Butenschoen) all the time.  He thinks I should make the trip out, but he understands I have a good situation here too.  I think he just misses me.  To answer your question, yeah, I still get that competitive edge going sometimes that makes me want to head out.  I’d love to race at the new Meadowlands.  It would be beyond sweet, but I can also admit that those days may have already passed me by.  I’m not sad about it.  Heck, I’m just happy to be racing at age eight.  I have plenty of competition to deal with here.  The funny thing is that the longer you go from your last injury, the less you think about it.  The reality is that the going out there is tough and I’m not sure if I could would up or not.
Danny:  You’re in great shape and 8 isn’t really that old.  You’ve had injuries, but you only have 62 lifetime starts.  How about this scenario:  Chicago gets things worked out and you race there all year.  If they find a fix for next year, you stay here until you are done racing at 10.  If not, you can make a run out east at age 9. 
Mo:  Um, do you have some sort of contract to sign so I can lock that scenario down?  I think you just nailed the perfect option.  Three more seasons of racing?  That would be like winning the lottery.  If that happened I’d be as happy as a pig in mud.
Shawn:  How happy is that exactly?
Mo:  Ahhh…I guess I’ve never actually seen a pig in mud.  I’m guessing they are pretty happy though.  Assuming the mud isn’t half frozen.  It’s probably been a pretty sad winter for the local pigs.
Shawn:  Agreed.  You mentioned local competition.  Who is the toughest you will see this season?
Mo:  Well one is right there (nodding over toward Fort Silky).  That dude is tough, but he knows I’m way faster (looking for a reaction from Silky who appears to be sleeping).  We get along great to be honest.  There is a great group of horses in this barn.  Another tough hombre is obviously Al’s Hammered.  I’ve out-paced him in the past, but that didn’t happen last year.  That guy flew by like he hit the nitrous button on his souped up Honda Civic.
Danny:  Was that a Fast and Furious reference?
Mo:  It was!  Did you guys hear that Paul Walker died?  Very sad.  I liked him the best.  Anyway, I need to be sharper to beat Drunken Al, but I think I’ll pull it off this year.
Shawn:  Drunken Al?
Mo:  Not bad, huh?
Shawn:  Nice work bud.  OK, is there anything else you’d like to say before you kick off this season?
Mo:  Yeah, I wanted to congratulate Marcus and Sara Miller on getting married.  I wanted to thank them for the wedding invite and am sorry I couldn’t make it.  I did send a gift.
Danny:  What did you send them?

Mo:  A couple horse shoes and some hay cubes.  My options were pretty limited around the stall.

Shawn:  I’m sure they will appreciate them.  It’s the thought that counts.

Well, there you have it.  Our interview with In Over My Head.  Look for him to start racing as soon as a contract is signed in Illinois.  We are looking forward to another fun season.

Let’s Go Mo!

Friday, February 21, 2014


As the days drag on with no contract between the Illinois horsemen and track management, I’ll keep this very short because there isn’t a whole lot to report.  Mo did head down to Balmoral this week for a training mile.  It was originally going to be a qualifying mile, but they were cancelled due to some track issues.  Regardless, he needed the training mile and will need a qualifier anyway to get closer to race ready.
Assuming that an agreement is worked out in the next week or so, Mo should qualify next week and then be entered to race the following Saturday, March 8th. 

Stay tuned and Let’s Go Mo!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mo's Surprise Trip

Everyone tends to take time off over the holidays and while we have all been at work for the past couple weeks, I’ve decided to take a little extended vacation from the In Over My Head blog. The primary reason was that Mo himself is on break, so we didn’t have a whole lot to talk about. One idea I had was to get another interview with Mo (a feature in this blog that has been rather popular). In the past, local newspaper reports have done the interviewing, but I thought that I’d go ahead and interview Mo myself for once. So I bought a ticket to O’Hare and headed out to Harvard, IL…but Mo wasn’t there.
My plan had been perfect. I was going to go up when the Leonard family was on vacation skiing out West and thought that Mo would just be bored. However, I got talking to the other horses and it turns out that Mo had somehow snuck out of his stall (he never reveals his secrets) and hitchhiked his way down to St. Louis to hang out with the Budweiser Clydesdales. Just my luck, I thought.
On the way back to Atlanta, I sent Mo a text message and asked about his trip. He said something about connecting to the Clydesdales on some horse version of Linkedin, they became friends and he went down to see them. When I asked how it was to hang around such huge horses, he said they “made me feel small…but also made me feel fast.” Sounds about right.
We will attempt to facilitate a Mo interview for the next blog entry, which will be good timing because we are actually only about 3 weeks away from racing. The plan is to have him ready to go in early February. Assuming that Illinois starts racing again (the goings on of the Illinois legislature are harder to handicap than a 10 mile rabbit race) that’s where he will be. If for some reason they don’t race, we’ll have to decide what to do next. One step at a time.
Until then…let’s to Mo!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I admit, I’ve been hiding for the past week or so.
Early last week, I couldn’t find time to put together an entry after Mo finished a respectable 4th in the Invite.  I was going to talk about how he had a good showing off of a two week break and how he just missed 2nd place.  I was going to talk about how Al’s Hammered made everyone look slow, but that I was confident that Mo could return the favor.  I also had an interesting story to tell (which I’ve included in this entry).

Then the week got away from me.  I had some time on Friday, but there was a problem.  I couldn’t put a blog post up on a Friday before a race for one simple reason.  Superstition. 
I can distinctly remember putting up a post late in the week both times Mo suffered major injuries (in 2010 and 2012).  While I’d be the first to admit that it is just plain coincidence that those events happened, I just wasn’t going to risk it.  Taking that risk, my friend, would just be plain stupid. 

Horse racing, like any other sport people watch, is a potential breeding ground for superstitions.  I don’t think that any of us at Team In Over My Head have any superstitions that stick out.  However, we do look at patterns and follow our gut instincts sometimes when it comes to what might happen in a race or a career arc.  This is kind of an offshoot of superstitious behavior.  Sometimes we prove to be correct…other times we get ourselves all worked up for absolutely nothing. 
This exact situation played out for Mo’s race last Saturday (December 7th).  What is most interesting is that Danny and I both had the same feelings of potential calamity, but didn’t admit it to each other until after the race.   

The night that Mo finished 4th was a very cold night.  The temperature at post time was about 11 degrees and I’m assuming the wind chill made it feel closer to zero.  Mo had been off two weeks and he always loses a bit of conditioning during that time because it is just hard to train him this time of year with tracks being less than 100%.  He was stepping up in class and facing some very tough horses including Time To Roll, Al’s Hammered, etc.  Fast competitors means that Mo will try and up his game to beat them.  In the freezing cold.  With less than perfect conditioning.  If you put all this together, what you had was two extremely worried people named Danny and Shawn.
As I sat at my computer screen in our living room in Atlanta, I watched the horses turn and go to the gate.  The knot in my stomach was so tight it was as if each end of the rope was tied to an elephant walking in opposite directions.  Something bad was going to happen.  I just knew it. 

When anyone asks me why I’m involved in horse racing, the first two answers that come out of my mouth are that (i) my family has been involved since the 1950s and (ii) it is an absolute blast.  I say that if you take the excitement generated by being a fan of any team (pro, college, whatever) put a multiple of 100 on it and you have horse ownership.  People refer to ‘my’ team all the time, but it isn’t really ‘yours’ (Packer fans may disagree), but if you own horses it is ‘yours’.  You are Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban, or Mark Attanasio!  This is why you apply a multiple to being a fan…and it can be so fun.  However, at that moment when In Over My Head’s nose got to the gate, it wasn’t fun.  It was a million miles from fun.  The only word I can use to describe it was agonizing. 
“Why do I do this to myself?”

“I don’t even want to watch this.  Should I just turn it off?  I can’t control what happens anyway.”
And then the haymaker

“I think I’m going to stop owning horses.”

I’m not kidding.  That thought ACTUALLY when through my head.  I was beside myself.  And for the record, I really hadn’t had that feeling in a long time.  This whole Mo comeback version 2.0 has really been much more fun for us.  We are in ‘we have nothing to lose’ territory.  Don’t get me wrong, the butterflies are always going crazy in my stomach before races, but that is the precise reason why I own horses.  That’s the fun part!  This was something else.  It wasn’t fun at all.

Now take what I just talked about and double it (or triple it).  That’s what Danny was dealing with at Balmoral Park.  It is so much more fun to be at the track.  Everything is just amped up…but when something is amiss, that gets ratcheted up too. 

Regardless of how we were feeling, the show must go on and at about the half mile marker everything that we worried about was still in play.  Mo wasn’t looking all that good.  He was gapping quite a bit.  My eyes were telling me that he might be a bit off.  Luckily a horse race only lasts about 2 minutes because about 30 seconds later, the horses turned for home and good old Mo came charging down the lane to finish a respectable 4th, just missing 2nd by about a half-length.  He came out of the race fine and all was well.  We were all worried for nothing.  Well, kind of.

When Danny got a chance to talk to Casey after the race, Casey said that Mo was feeling a little bit off.  He was struggling a bit on the backstretch, like he just couldn’t shift gears for some reason.  It was because of that Casey kept him on the rail and waited until the homestretch to let Mo open up and even then he didn’t have the rocket fuel finish that he usually has.  It was, in my opinion, a very professional drive.  He put In Over My Head in the best position to finish as close to 1st as possible, but also didn’t do anything overreaching that, quite frankly, could have led to injury.  So am I saying that Casey saved Mo from injury that night?  No, I can’t say that with any certainty, but something felt off that night and it was kind of confirmed that we were not totally crazy to be worried.  For whatever reason we came out of it just fine.  Sometimes it’s best to not ask too many questions why. 

Once the whole thing was over, I let out a big exhale and basked in the satisfaction of a solid 4th place finish for our old boy.  This was followed by an hour + conversation with Danny as he drove back to Madison where we rehashed all of it over and over again.

I’m so glad that I own race horses.

Onto Mo’s race this past Saturday.

Much like the week before, we were in tough.  Al’s Hammered was back and ready to hammer everyone again.  Time To Roll was replaced by Fort Silky, the current king of the city.  We were once again picked for 3rd, which made a lot of sense considering those top two.  Because Casey is Fort Silky’s regular driver, we were in a strange position:  we needed a driver for Mo.  Luckily, Casey’s brother Ross is back in Illinois (he usually drives down at Hoosier, but they are closed for the year).  While you never like to have to switch drivers, picking up a brother is about the best you can do.

Unlike the race before where I was mired in feelings of impending doom, this was a fun one.  It was a race where the competitive juices were flowing.  We had escaped the race before without anything bad happening so this was different.  Mo would be sharper with just a week off instead of two.  It wasn’t bitterly cold.  It was a week that I thought Mo might be able to surprise.  After seeing Al’s Hammered blow by in a sick mile the prior week, I had another thought on my mind.

It was time to be the hammer instead of the nail.

There was some chatter before the race about it being an Al’s Hammered vs. Fort Silky duel.  No one was talking about Mo, which was exactly where we like to be.

Here is a piece that talked about the showdown:

The way the race shook out, Mo was in prime position second over with Al’s Hammered on his back.  For the record, the last time this happened was in the summer of 2012.  Really the exact same situation.  The result was that Mo won the race and the speedy Al’s Hammered never got any closer.  This time, however, Al was just too sharp.  He went by to win by a length + and Mo came up just short of 2nd to a gutty Kanaris.

This is where I can give you a little more insight into the mind of a horse owner.  Where you finish is relative to your expectations going into the race.  I was listening to this interesting podcast this week and one of the speakers was talking about the key to happiness.  His suggestion:  set low expectations.  It made me laugh when I heard it partially because it is 100% true.  To apply that lesson to this race, if I had expected Mo to finish 5th, I would have been thrilled with 3rd.  For a horse like Mo, that’s just setting the bar too low.

When the race was over, my 100% honest reaction was that I was ticked off.  Not because of anything anyone did or did not do.  His trip was perfect and he raced hard.  I wasn’t mad at Mo.  I was mad because Al’s Hammered just buzzed by In Over My Head for the second week in a row.  I was watching the race with Laura and I told her that “yeah, 3rd place is good…Mo raced well..” but I didn’t mean it.  The competitor in me couldn’t’ accept it.  As I sit here 3 days later, I still feel the same way.  I know that Mo is just as fast as Al’s Hammered. 

The fact of the matter is that we may not get a chance to prove that until 2014.  There is a chance that we may race Mo next week (we usually don’t go 3 in a row), but if we don’t, he’ll be done until February.  Mo may just need a little break to sharpen up.  Heck, he’s gone 13 races.  He hasn’t gone more than 7 since he was 3 years old!  He might just need a little time to work out some soreness in his muscles and joints.  Regardless of any competitive fire burning, we will do what is right for him.  I’m pretty sure he’ll come back his blazing fast self next year.  So unless we line up next week, enjoy it Mr. Al, because we’ll be gunning for you in February.

One other little tidbit.

Mo now sits right on the cusp of $300,000 in career earnings, which is quite an accomplishment and something that certainly makes his owners happy.  Not only has he been a source of excitement, fun and inspiration, he has been the economic engine to our little stable for over four years now.  The old boy just keeps on going.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  We are so lucky to have him.

Look for a recap of a race (if we race this weekend) or a year in review coming soon.
Let’s go Mo!


Many people have asked me what it's like to own a racehorse. This blog is a play by play of one horse in particular. A three year old colt named In Over My Head that I own with my uncle...and although he doesn't have any dollars invested, my cousin is about as emotionally invested as humanly possible. It could end up being a story of success or failure, but if he's like all the others I've owned, it will no doubt be a roller coaster ride.