Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lamb Chops

I was asked the other day why I haven't put up a blog post in awhile.  In Over My Head was racing consistently all summer long....didn't I plenty of stories to tell?  Actually, I really didn't.  The five + year history of this story has really written itself and for once I was stuck.  It wasn't until a discussion of lamb chops did I get the urge to get our the computer and start typing.

In Over My Head's races this summer has been pretty normal.  I don't mean Mo normal (which is the opposite of normal).  I mean normal like most very good horses  He finished in the top three in each of his first ten starts.  They were all exciting and usually involved Mo charging down the stretch and passing most (or all) of his fellow competitors.  Outside of a fun trip down to Balmoral with Danny when we were back in Wisconsin over the 4th of July, I didn't have too much to write about.  Normal doesn't help create interesting blog posts.

That's all started to change.

Three starts ago In Over My Head was in prime position to pick up his second Invitation win of the season when he had some equipment break.  Instead of charging to the finish line he was taken off the track and received the first DNF (Did Not Finish) of his career.  Because of the equipment break, he had to pull up and suffered a bone bruise.  Over vet described it to us as taking a guitar string, pulling it back and letting it snap down on the frame.  Mo's tendon was the string and his bone was the frame.  He wasn't able to strum a tune for five weeks.

His first start off that minor injury was typical Mo  Even though he wasn't not in 100% racing shape, he charged home in the slop and posted a last quarter a full second better than the rest of his competition.  He couldn't quite get to the winner, but finished a strong second. Things were getting back to normal...or so we thought.

On Saturday September 13th, Mo faced a field similar to the one he nearly mowed down two weeks before.  At the 3/4 pole, that exactly what I thought he would do...instead, he faded to ninth in what was one of the most uncharacteristic races of his career.   Luckily, Danny was at the track to check on him.  What happened explained the flat effort...he had cut off his airway.  This is not all that uncommon in horse racing.  Mo basically displaced a flap (for lack of a better word) in his throat and cut off his wind.  Luckily, this was treatable and the plan was to just enter him the next week.

That takes us to last night.

Mo had dropped down in class.  The pre race analysis at Balmoral said it best, "If In Over My Head races like his last start, he's vulnerable.  If he races like any of his starts before, he thrashes this field."

We were expecting a thrashing.  What we got was a win...but not a thrashing.  He won in by about neck after making his usual charge down the lane.  When I saw the race lines, it showed a last quarter of about 27 seconds.  We'd be happy with that kind of time for Don't Tell Wayne, but Mo...hmmm...something didn't feel quite right.

Luckily, Danny was at the track (a reoccurring part of the story) and he he sensed something wasn't quite right either.  He told the vet to scope him (check for sickness, bleeding or other issues in his airway/ lungs).  After a win and a solid stretch drive, why scope him?  Danny said it was a gut feeling...and he was right.  After getting checked by the vet, it turns out that In Over My Head had other issues in his airway on Saturday night.  It was probably related to what happened the week before.  It was not exactly the same situation and not as serious of the week before, but enough to knock most horses out.  Mo is not most horses...he won anyway.

I'm not sure I can stress this enough, but what he did last night was nothing short of incredible.  Yes, he beat a field of less than stellar horses, but to do so with limited air is a rare thing to see.  Think of going out to run a race with bronchitis.  That's about the best comparison I can give you.  Running through that can be done...but it takes a second level of toughness.  Something Mo has plenty of.

Back to the lamb chops.  Laura and I were walking home from a friend's house after the race.  It was late, but it hit me that I had to make good on my post Mo win ritual:  to open a bottle of La Crema and toast to victory.  Given the fact it was late, I said that maybe we could wait until tomorrow.  Laura responded that she already opened that bottle that night.  They used it in the lamb chop marinade.  La Crema in a lamb chop recipe???  That's kind of a bold move.  Laura's response:  I knew he was going to win, so I opened it.

This coming from the same person who once said we were going to be headed to the winners circle one night at Maywood Park.  The same night we were at odds of 55-1...the same night we won the Windy City Pace.  All I can say that is that I hope Laura sees a few more wins in the future.  If she does, we better stock up on La Crema because we will certainly be uncorking a few bottles.

Given the recent issues, Mo will take a week off.  That should be all he needs to get right.  Look for him at Balmoral on October 4th.

Let's go Mo!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Welcome to Act 3

Saturday was a horse racing kind of day.  The buzz in the air was obviously due to California Chrome’s run at the Triple Crown.  The movie qualify plot was all but written.  The only thing left was a proper ending.  Life does imitate art sometimes, but it didn’t on Saturday at the Belmont Stakes.  California Chrome raced gallantly (in my opinion anyway) and fell just short.   

Laura and I were certainly in the racing spirit and threw a little neighborhood party.  Many patrons had no experience with racing and their kids had probably never watched a race.  We all gathered around the TV and were treated to two and a half minutes of “Go Number 2!  Go Number 2!”  It was off the charts cute.  Especially since Jordan was clapping along while I held him.  I was excited that I was going to be able to tell Jordan that we watched Chrome win the Triple Crown when he was just 15 months old.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, but as I’ve said before horse racing isn’t always just about the wins and losses.  It’s about making memories.  While the race result was disappointing, I’ll always remember that little party we had while we all cheered on California Chrome. 

Hopefully for the connections of California Chrome, the run at the Triple Crown is just a single act in the script of his racing life.  While the owners were certainly disappointed (and angry), I’m here to offer them some good news.  With a horse like that, there are certainly more acts to come.  If he follows the path of another horse I know, acts two and three may lack some of the pizzazz of act one, but they will be as rewarding…and maybe even more so.

The Belmont Stakes captured the national headlines on Saturday, but for Team In Over My Head, the main event took place Saturday evening at Balmoral Park where our main character was about to provide some new plotlines of his own.

Before I get into what happened this week, I want to take a trip back to last week.  Mo won.  Not only did he win, but he set a new lifetime mark of 1.50.  He battled Holdingallthecards (also owned by a Wisconsinite) to the wire in a great finish.  It was honestly one my favorite Mo wins.  So why didn’t I write about it?  Admittedly, I was a little superstitious.

We are creeping up on the two year anniversary of Mo’s last great run.  When he rattled off five wins in a row from late May to late June of 2012.  On the night we went for win number six, he suffered an injury and was out for months.  We never knew for sure what caused the injury.  We speculated that it was because he got knocked a bit sideways in the first turn that night.  We also thought it could have been the speed of some big miles just catching up with him. 

While that lifetime mark of 1.50 was pretty cool, it also left me a little bit nervous.  Would it just prove to be too much for Mo?  Would something bad happen this week?  After the excitement of the win wore off, I really didn’t want to think about it.  And really didn’t want to write about it.  Apparently, I wasn’t alone.

For about the twentieth time in the racing history of In Over My Head, Danny and I were totally aligned in our thinking about Mo….and we didn’t tell each other.  Sometimes when this happens, our concerns aren’t revealed until after the next race.  This week was no different.  He was nervous too.  Can Mo handle back to back 1.50 miles?  The nice thing was we didn’t have the conversation until after In Over My Head answered the question.

The field this week was very similar to last week with one major addition of Fort Silky.  With Mo’s stablemate in the race, we needed to find a driver and were lucky Todd Warren was available.  Todd had experience with Mo and just got nipped at the wire by Al’s Hammered early in the season.  Those two clicked well their first time out and the proved to be the case again on Saturday.

With a small six horse field and plenty of speed on the inside, Warren just took Mo to the back of the field and waited for his time to go.  That came when Casey pulled Fort Silky first over and we followed him all the way into the stretch.  Both driver and horse patiently waited for the right time to move and when Mo’s head jerked to the right, we knew Todd had pulled the line.  It was time to see if he could mow the field down.

Last week Mo looked like he was going to blow by everyone, but Holdingallthecards locked on and fought gamely to the wire.  Mo won by a neck.  This week was different.  Once he got rolling, Mo looked like a machine.  He powered past everyone to win by almost two lengths and he was on absolute cruise control.  Warren sat comfortably in the bike, knowing there was no reason to ask any more of his drive.  Mo tied is lifetime mark of 1.50. 

After every race, there is almost always a very distinct feeling.  Last week it was purse exuberance.  Mo had elevated his game yet again in setting a lifetime mark.  The win gave him three wins in his last four starts and Balmoral handicapper Jeremy Day remarked that In Over My Head was in “career form” coming into this Saturday.  I couldn’t disagree, but when factoring in the concern we had about his durability going these high speed miles, my feeling after this most recent win was different.

I was very humbled.  Humbled by just how good this horse is.  Humbled by all of the work people have put into making this happen.  Humbled by just how lucky we are that he has somehow managed to find “career form” at age eight after all he’s been though. 

A couple years back, Greg stated that we will never own a horse as good as In Over My Head.  His wisdom battled my youthful exuberance (36 is still “youthful” in horse ownership circles by the way) and I thought I could find another Mo at some point.  Well, I’m here to tell you that Greg was right and I was wrong.  I am 100% convinced that I will NEVER EVER own another horse as good as Mo.  This is a million dollar + horse.  This is a 1.48+ horse.  Period.  There is no debate allowed.  He won’t get to those numbers because of his injury shorted career (he’s missed 32 prime racing months), but it’s a fact.  If you disagree, I will invoke the words of the great Ron Burgundy by saying “I will fight you.”

I was chatting with my good friend Brien Duroche this weekend.  He’s heard me tell the tale of In Over My Head for years now.  He’s as shocked as anyone that Mo is still racing.  Brien said a bunch of folks were talking about California Chrome this weekend at his country club near Minneapolis.  They were astonished by his story.  Brien broke in and cut them all off.  “You want to hear a story about a horse?  I’ve got one that will blow the California Chrome story away!”  For the next fifteen minutes, they were all hanging on a story about a horse none of them have ever seen on TV or read about in traditional media.  They loved it.  They were so fired up about the story that some of them went and placed a bet on Mo to win that night.  Mo delivered.  Again.  No one should be surprised.  The legend of Mo continues to grow.

Unlike California Chrome, there will never be a movie made about In Over My Head.  No big book deal.  But the fact that Mo’s story means so much to someone like Brien, makes writing this little blog worth every minute I’ve put into it.  Mo’s story needs to be told and it is an easy one to tell since Mo keeps delivering incredible content. 

Act 1 took place at the end of his three year old and early four year old season winning the Windy City Pace and briefly making a name for himself at the big track out east.  That was back in 2009/2010.  Act 2 was a summer win streak at age six in 2012.  Either one of those could make a career, but In Over My Head has decided that two acts are not enough.

 We find ourselves smack dab in the middle of Act 3.  A horse as hot as the impending summer sun has found a new and improved version of “career form.”  Where does it go from here?  Only Mo knows.  And in Mo I trust.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Carrying a Heavy Load

Is it possible to write a blog about one horse for over five years and still feel like you aren’t giving him enough credit?  I’ve created 130+ entries about In Over My Head.  Most of the time I write about how great he is, how much fun he has been for our family and his resiliency.  At times, I’ve touched on the additional fact that he’s been the horsepower (pun intended) behind our entire operation.  He IS the revenue generator.  I’m going to expand that line of thinking with a new analogy.  Try this on for size:

XYZ Company is lucky.  They have this old salesman (let’s call him Mort) that has been with the company or years.  Mort is not only experienced, but he’s a hell of a salesman.  When he working, he literally moves the needle for company revenue.  The only issue over the years is that Mort has had to deal with some health related issues and has taken a leave of absence on a couple of occasions.  The owners of the company originally thought it was no big deal…they’d just find another salesman.  Sounds easy right?  Well it wasn’t. 

The first new hire turned out to be a hothead who was a solid employee, but couldn’t close any big deals.  The second just didn’t pan out at all.  The third showed promise, but had issues of his own to deal with and didn’t make much money.  It all came back to Mort time and time again.  Despite numerous efforts to find Mort’s replacement, each effort has fallen flat on its face.  The company has reached a point where there is legitimate concern.  When Mort finally retires, do we even have a company left?

You can probably guess that Mort = Mo in this little analogy.  Just when I think I may have my hands on another horse that could move the revenue needle, something knocks it off its feet.  Who steps in to pick up the pieces?  In Over My Head.  Like clockwork, the old boy just keeps doing the heavy lifting.  It happened again last week.

Last fall, bought into a yearling (mainly due to Mo’s success) with John Butenschoen and a couple other partners.  As the winter went along our hopes for him continued to grow.  He was good.  Good enough to possibly add a decent amount to the revenue line of the horse business.  Unfortunately, he suffered an injury that will knock him out for the year.  News like that is never fun.  We were all disappointed. 

I heard the news of the young horse’s injury last Saturday afternoon.  Mo was scheduled to race on Saturday night at about 9:30pm.  He made sure that I wasn’t going to have to sulk for very long.

Mo had been off for three weeks and was again facing the ever powerful Al’s Hammered.  He also had a new driver, Hall of Famer Dave Magee, in the bike.  Things weren’t lining up to be a week were Mo was going to finally break through and get his first win over Al in 2014.   While we ended up being right, Mo still managed to put on a performance that made it feel like he won.

The field was small with only six horses and when the gate closed three horses shot to the front.  Dave took Mo to the fence with Al’s Hammered falling in behind us.  Just past the half, Bobby Smolin decided it was time to roll and Al took off.  We ended up following him and by mid-stretch Al had opened up three lengths on us and we were still in fourth.  That was when good old Mo finally hit his top speed (after he appeared to take a look at the tote board for some reason) and fired into 2nd place.  By the time they hit the wire he was just ¾ of a length behind Al’s Hammered.  We were thrilled with the performance until we saw his last quarter time.  25.2. The fastest of his life.  Off a three week break.  Wow.  Extra thrilled.

Once again, In Over My Head stepped up when he was most needed.  He never gets tired of carrying the load.  We wish he could do it forever, but obviously he can’t.  Finding a replacement is necessary.   If we fail to find a replacement the business could shrink or slowly fade away.  Luckily we don’t have to worry about that yet.  As of now we can just continue to recite one simple acronym:  TGFM.  Thanks goodness for Mo.   

Mo is getting another week off since the Invite didn’t fill at Balmoral Park.  I’m guessing he will be in next week.  Until then he can enjoy running around and eating grass.  He’s earned it.

Let’s go Mo!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hammer or the Nail

It almost feels like In Over My Head has been off for a couple months.  In reality, it’s only been three weeks.  I guess it shows how much we miss watching him race when he’s feeling good.

Mo will take to the track on Saturday night in the Balmoral Invitational.  The break was part our choice (we didn’t enter him after his two wins) and part not our choice.  We entered him last week, but Balmoral didn’t have enough horses to fill the Invite, so it was left off the card.  Hopefully as a few more horses get going it will be easier to fill going forward.

Saturday night will mark the reunion of In Over My Head and Hall of Fame driver Dave Magee, who last drove Mo in 2007 when he was a two year old.  Mo finished 2nd that night in 1.52.2, but broke at the wire and was placed 4th.  Either way, it served notice that the youngster had some serious talent (1.52.2 had quite a bit more meaning back then).

The question for the race this week is pretty simple:  Can anyone beat Al’s Hammered?  He’s continued to crush everyone he’s faced, including the dead game Fort Silky.  In a short field, Al’s raw speed is even more of a weapon since he will never be too far from the front turning for home.  His last quarter of 25.1 two weeks ago is freakish.  Last time we faced him, Mo get beat in a photo finish.  In Over My Head may be the only horse that can hang with Al, but I’m not sure this will be the week for him to prove it.  Three weeks off may be a bit too much.  He’ll have to be razor sharp if he’s going to turn the Hammer into the nail.

The In Over My Head vs. Al’s Hammered angle takes me to another very interesting duel that is set for this weekend.  One that is not only a national story (sorry Mo, not too many people pay attention outside of Chicago), but an international one.  Sweden’s Sebastian K vs. US based Market Share.  The ‘us vs. them’ angle is a marketers dream and something that has rarely presented itself in harness racing.  I think the Meadowlands has done a good job to get some promotion out there and my real hope is that these two lock horns more than once this season.  The only thing that could make it even better is if Ready Cash, the French phenomenon, makes good on their plans to race here later in the summer.  His connections have stated that he is a couple lengths better than Sebastian K.  While I find that statement nearly impossible to believe, I sincerely hope they repeat it and talk as much trash as they can.  Nothing gets people’s attention more than an antagonist and there aren’t too many of those in harness racing.  So head on over Ready Cash and tell everyone who will listen how good you are.  Win or lose, people will be paying attention.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Force with Issues

There is nothing better than heading into a week off after two straight wins and that’s exactly what In Over My Head has delivered in the past two weeks. 

His win at Maywood two weeks back was the typical dominating performance he has put up at that track.  After going winless in his previous five starts, he was able to drop down in class and fit the Maywood card.  He came in and took care of business.  Danny made a nice video of that win:

Last Saturday at Balmoral, he was assigned an outside post position (#9), but it didn’t do anything to slow him down.  As the horses turned for home, he showed his class and went right by.  We don’t have a youtube video of that one up yet, but if you’d like to see the race, just follow the link below:

Click the link, then April 26th and Race #8

Mo’s success has also earned some nice press coverage.  Take a look at the following links for more.

Going into the Maywood race:

Going into the Balmoral race (at the end of the article):

As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing those articles, I think it was this quote from Casey Leonard in the second link that was maybe the most important for me. 

“In Over My Head does have a lot of issues that we have to keep working on but when he’s right, he’s a force out there.”

It is very, very easy to forget that Mo’s success is somewhat fragile when he looks so darn good on the track.  If you just tuned in to watch him race, you’d probably never know.  Your only tip might be that we race him rather lightly (always giving him ample weeks off to stay healthy), but he doesn’t show it.  It is a testament to the Leonard’s, who like the Butenschoen’s before them, have done a great job keeping him fit, healthy and happy.  Let’s not forget that last one.  Mo deserves to be happy!

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. The key to this whole thing is to just really enjoy success when you have it.  We are having it yet again with In Over My Head.  He is such a special horse.  We truly are lucky to have him. 

Mo still has some dragons to slay, most notably Al’s Hammered.  He looked like a monster on Saturday night as well, closing in 25.4 (same last quarter as Mo).  Mo will have his chances to lock horns again soon.  Look for him be back next Saturday at Balmoral Park.

Let’s Go Mo! 


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!


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.