Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Closing the Book On Our Incredible Adventure

When I started this blog over seven years ago, I always said I’d write about the good times as well as the bad times.  I’ve been pretty true to my word with one very big exception.  What I have avoided is something we never saw coming back in 2009.  While we all knew that our run with In Over My Head would eventually come to an end, we had no idea just how difficult it would be.  After about four months, I think it is finally time to finish the story and share the part that was not talked about.

I’ll summarize as simply as I can:

On October 23, 2015 we sold In Over My Head.

On November 4, 2015 Greg Carey passed away.

This entire endeavor has been about In Over My Head, our relationships with the horses and the experience we shared, but I was intentionally leaving out a big piece of the narrative.  It wasn’t my place to discuss Greg’s battle with cancer. 

The last time I spoke with Greg on the phone was just after we made official arrangements to sell In Over My Head.  Life was getting tough for him at that point, but he had somehow managed to maintain and almost unbelievably strong and upbeat attitude when we’d talk on the phone or get together.  I’d always tell people that if you talked to Greg on the phone, you’d never know he was sick. 

On the day we talked about In Over My Head he was extra upbeat.  We could all feel the combined relief that we had closed the book on a wonderful adventure in such a good way by giving Mo a chance to be a stallion.  Greg knew he would never personally see Mo’s offspring on the racetrack, but he did know the legacy would live on.  I think it brought him some peace.  That horse meant the world to him. 

I have always been drawn to the iconic speech that coach Jim Valvano gave at the ESPY’s in 1993.  It was something that I always wanted to watch, but at the same time thought about avoiding because it was so gut-wrenching.  His body was failing him when he gave that speech, but his spirit was so strong it was as if he was able to rise above the fray of his own fight.  The speech was truly inspiring with words that will always stick with me:

“Cancer can take my physical abilities.  It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul.  And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

Now imagine watching someone go through a similar challenge with one big difference.  The person bravely battling through cancer isn’t a famous coach talking on TV…it’s someone you love.  It is equal parts inspiring and sad.  The thought of it now still gives me a rush of sorrow, yet at the same time makes me want to jump out of my chair and go do something…anything…to enjoy all the blessings that I have in life.    

Despite the desire to continue to try and live life to the fullest, the slow march to the inevitable ending was a tough one.  As a part of those preparations we had to sell our horses.  It was an easy thing for us to talk about at first because we still had some time.  The sands in the hourglass were getting low, but we knew they weren’t running out just yet.  I do remember the day that John Butenschoen called me and gave me the news that we found a buyer for Don’t Tell Wayne.  Reality set in quickly and I was immediately nervous.  I asked him what price the buyers had offered.  When he told me I couldn’t hold it together very well.  The offer was exactly what we had been hoping for, but I knew what it meant.  We were one step closer to not owning horses together anymore.

The sale of In Over My Head was the last piece needed to complete the puzzle none of us wanted to finish.  Danny made it his personal mission to find Mo a good home.  He worked so hard to make it happen and found a way to pulled it off.  It is probably fitting that the last last conversation I had with Greg was about the horse that brought us even closer together and brought us so much joy.  It was even more fitting that Danny and I called Greg together that night.  While I will always regret not having one last time to talk, I am glad that our last conversation was such a positive one.

Owning horses with Greg was so rewarding and so much fun.  Now that it’s over I feel tired.  Horse racing is a family legacy thing with us.  We’ve carried the torch up and down a long path full of celebration, frustration and at the end sorrow.  It feels like it is over.  It feels like we should just set the torch down and step away.  I’ve asked myself the question more than few times, is now a good time to walk away from racing?  How can we top what has happened?  It feels empty without Greg and I’m not sure how that’s going to change.  We made a nice profit off our last couple horses…should we just take our chips off the table?

Well, taking chips off the table would probably be the smart thing to do, but it rarely leads to an adventure of a lifetime.  I went back to my first post of this blog from January of 2009 and was quickly reminded that I probably should have never bought In Over My Head in the first place, but look where that took us.  This last fall, Danny and I had a decision to make.  Do we continue to forge ahead with this incredibly unique passion of owning race horses or do we do the smart thing and just quit while we are ahead?

We decided to try and forge ahead, but ran into an issue that made us think that we made the wrong decision. We had scheduled a trip down to Lexington in October to try and find a yearling, but the night before were we suppose to leave we had to cancel the trip due to Greg’s condition.  We were really down, but decided to sent a few hip numbers down to John and said if he can could get any for less than $20,000, we’d take a piece.  As fate would have it, he was able to purchase one of the horses we had targeted and now we own 50% of a two year old colt out of Rocknroll Hanover.  Greg would certainly be proud. 

I’d be lying if I said I’m as excited about this colt as I was when we bought In Over My Head (or Showtime Shark or Don’t Tell Wayne), but that can change.  We are still trying to bounce back.  While, it feels empty without Greg, I know he’s’ smiling down on us giving us encouragement to just enjoy the ride. He loved being around horse racing and both Danny and I want to march forward not only for our own enjoyment, but for Greg too.

There is nothing like owning a racehorse.  No experience offers the same range of emotions, but as I’ve learned over the past six years there is REALLY nothing like owning a racehorse with people you care about.  You will go on a journey together.  There is no itinerary.  You just need to go with the flow and adjust on the fly. 

In order to really try and drive home the importance racing has had on our family, I leave you with this.  Grandpa was buried with a horse blanket that Speedy Rodney won in a big race out at Yonkers in 1965.   Greg was buried with the blanket that In Over My Head won in the Windy City Pace in 2009.  Danny and I don’t have any blankets, nor do we have the financial wherewithal to make too many more runs at this.  If we end up with a couple of duds, the flame will burn out.  That’s just the harsh reality.

Then again who knows…maybe we will get lucky again.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

The End and the Beginning All Rolled Into One

Owning horses will cause your hands to shake sometimes.  I can distinctly remember when In Over My Head first made my hands shake.  It was right after we bought him at an auction.  The excitement got the best of me and I couldn’t even sign my name on the sales slip.  From that day on, he caused my hands to shake many times.  Normally this was after a big race and once text messaging became more prevalent (can you believe that Mo’s career goes back to the early stages of sending text messages???) the hand shaking phenomenon become more noticeable.  Today, Mo made my hands shake one last time…and for a very unique reason.

He passed his fertility test.

Let me take a step back since I haven’t had an updated since June.

This season marked Mo’s 8th as a racehorse.  At times, he looked like his old self.  Other times, he was starting to look his age.  He had three wins in six starts and going into his seventh start there was no reason to think he wouldn’t get his fourth win on the season.  We had no idea that July 25, 2015 was about to mark the end of one of the most exciting, gratifying, humbling and memorable experiences in our lives. 

When the gate folded that night, Mo make an uncharacteristic break.  After he got back on stride, his driver, Kyle Wilfong, urged him to pick up the pace.  He made another break.  This went on again and finally Kyle just let Mo do his thing.  What Mo did was pace around the Balmoral oval in about two minutes, some 30 lengths from the leader.  He was trying to communicate something very simple to us.  He was trying to tell us that he didn’t want to race anymore.   

In his previous 87 starts, Mo had never given anything less than a 100%, run through a wall effort.  Even through injury…hell, even when he got hurt IN THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE.  Nothing stopped him.  He was a runaway freight train.  Suddenly, he flipped the switch and ended things on his own terms.  It took us about 2 minutes to come to the conclusion that there was be no more races.  While he was sore, the great thing was that he did not have any major injuries.  Even though he was about to be retired, we had him checked out anyway.  No minor breaks or tears could be found.  We were always worried he would end his career with some sort of injury, but he made sure to pull the plug before that happened.  He was healthy enough to easily transition to the next stage of his career…but what was that going to be?

We needed to find him a good home.  Preferably a home that allowed him to, you know, be a stallion.  We knew it wouldn’t be easy.  The stallion game is a tough one and while Mo has shown many of the traits needed to become a successful stallion, the competition is fierce.  We would need to find the right niche.  So we went to work.

Danny took the lead and he reached out to numerous small farms in California, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana among others.  We had a nice package of information with a letter explaining why he would be a good fit.  For a while, it was silence, then we got a call back from someone in Iowa.  She had about 5 mares and knew of others that might want to breed to him.  Perfect.
We were thrilled at the thought that our boy was going to get a chance to live the life of a stallion.  We started having visions of his babies at racetracks.  We thought that maybe one day we could have one of our own.  However, there was one important obstacle that needed to be hurdled.  He needed to prove his ability to be a stallion.  He was…well…not experienced when it came to the ladies.

So, we set up an appointment at a clinic in Cedar Rapids, near the farm of the prospective owners.  The deal was clear.  If he passed his test, she’d take him.  If not, we’d have to come up with a new plan and the dream of stallion life for Mo would be over.  That’s a lot of pressure.

Luckily, our plan ended up working.  Mo passed!  Not only did he pass, but apparently he is considered “extremely fertile”.  This is a great sign for his new owners and will allow him to move smoothly to his next career.  When we got the news, I was actually supposed how excited I was.  It was like he just won a race! 

We shouldn’t have been surprised at our excitement.  Mo has given us so much over the past eight years.  I’ll likely do one more post that is a final summary of this story, but it is hard to describe how gratifying it is for us to be able to give Mo this second career he deserves.  He should be a stallion on some level.  His stats don’t to him justice.  He’s a million dollar horse and hopefully he can pass along all those wonderful traits to his future offspring.  We can’t wait to see that little colt one day with the dark coat, star in the middle of his forehead and white left front leg.  When we do, I think we may just have to make the owner an offer they can’t refuse.

It’s also nice knowing that it isn’t over for Mo.  There is more to his story.  He won’t just be ours anymore, but Mo was meant to be shared.  He can make more people happy and find a special place in their heart just like he has with us.

So from now on, we don’t need to say “Let’s Go Mo” anymore.  I think “Go Get Em Mo” is a little more appropriate.    

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I remember listening to a podcast (It think it was the TED Radio Hour) and they were interviewing Mike Row.  Mike became pretty well known for his time hosting “Dirty Jobs” and he was talking about how virtually every one of the people he worked with on that show were happy.  They may not have loved their dirty job each and every day, but were generally happy. When the host asked Mike what he thought the key to happiness was, his answer made me think (and laugh):

Set low expectations

If only I could apply that to the world of horse racing and horse ownership.

This was a big weekend for our little stable and a huge weekend if you take into account American Pharoah’s run for the Triple Crown. 

Here were my expectations for the weekend:
American Pharoah – Win
Mo – Win
Don’t Tell Wayne – Struggle

Here is what actually happened:
American Pharoah – Win!   What an awesome thing to watch!  It made me misty eyed…so cool.
Mo – Fifth.  Hugely disappointed…more on that later
Don’t Tell Wayne – Second!  Big pick me up to end the weekend.

For Mo, my expectations were out of line.  This isn’t’ the first time it’s happened…I’ve written about it before, but it can have an enormous impact on the aftermath of the race.  If you stop and think about my expectation for Mo, it was to win under the following conditions:  He was off 22 days after scratching sick the week before, this was only his 3rd start of the season, he had yet to race this year on the big mile track at Balmoral, he didn’t have his normal driver (although Kyle Wilfong has driven him in the past), he was coming off an minor injury and he was stepping up against a better bunch of horses.

Why the hell did I think he was going to win?

You know why?  Because it’s Mo and that’s what he does.  But even the best lose once in awhile (the Cleveland Lebron’s dropped the first game of the NBA Finals).  I need to remember that.  As I type this out, he is entered for this Saturday, which takes some sting off.  I’m ready to see him race again and as much as I will try to set my expectations in the right place, I won’t be able to do it.  The good news is that he has a lifetime win percentage of about 35%.  If I was wrong last time, odds are I’ll be right this time.

Let’s go Mo!

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Working Retirement" Nearly Becomes Retirement (Again)

After spending 13 hours in the car together driving from Atlanta to Madison on May 9th and 10th, you might think that Danny and I would run out of things to talk about.  This would be especially true as we hopped in the car to head down to Maywood Park on May 15th to watch In Over My Head make his second start of the season.  We didn't.  Not even close.  It even took until Rockford to revisit the often discussed "Top 5 Maywood Park Experiences" list.  Given the giant uncertainty surrounding Maywood Park (and Chicago racing in general), we spent extra time analyzing the memories.  Not just the wins, but the regular nights that turned out to be great.  Little did we know that we were driving head on into a new top 5 experience....

In recent years, Mo hasn't raced much at Maywood Park.  The extra turns on the half mile are a bit tougher on his old legs and Maywood hasn't written an Invite in a number of years.  I the past, Mo might get a start (or two) at Maywood and then it was off to Balmoral.  I've always loved Maywood Park and after moving back to Wisconsin after three years down south, I wasn't' going to miss this race.

We headed straight to the barn to see the star of the show, who I hadn't seen since a trip home last July.  Same old Mo.  Draw a picture of a perfect harness horse, hold the picture next to Mo and you'll be looking at the same animal.  He had a normal pre race game face on (sleepy) so we let him be and headed to the buffet.

Anyone that knows Chicago racing knows that is has fallen on hard times.  To be more specific, the hard times started years ago.  At this point the hard times are reaching very sad levels.  As we sat down, the clubhouse had the same look it did the first time I saw it over fifteen years ago when we watched my brother Kirk's filly Patricia Per win a nw2 and we stormed the winners circle like we just won the Derby.  The place was worn, but still strangely proud and had a feel that it was going to battle to the bitter end.  You hear people say it's just an old dump and that it should be torn down.  Maybe it is, but it's my old dump and I still love watching races there.  Maybe some of it just nostalgia, but I pray it survives.

Time flies when you are having fun and the night went by fast for Danny and I.  We paid our bill and headed outside to watch the race.  Living in Atlanta for the last three years, I haven't been to many races.  I've said this before and I will say it again, there is watching your horse race live. After spending all week brazenly looking at the program and proclaiming that no opponent has a sliver of a chance of beating Mo, it all changes in the minutes before the race.  All that confidence...shattered.

What if he's sick...this is only his second start, he won't be ready...those other horses are far better than I gave them credit for...they look sharp Mo lame (he looks half lame every time he warms up and has been that way his entire career)...did you hear that?  What if that noise spooked him...what the...why is Casey out of the bike?  

I thought Danny was joking with that one, but sure enough, Casey was standing on the track holding the lines while Mo stood motionless.  At that point, it wasn't IF he was hurt.  The only question was how bad.  We stood there in silence expecting the worst.  Then, Casey hopped back in the bike and off they went (he was adjusting his new harness).

The race was its normal thrill.  I admittedly spent about 20% of the time looking down at the ground because I couldn't bear to watch...keep in mind this was about his 90th start and we were racing for $7,100.  This was not really a race to be nervous about.  It unfolded like we expected back in our early week analysis...he made his move at the half, drew even in the last turn and put them away in the stretch.  My heart is racing now two weeks later just thinking about it.

I was fortunate enough to be at the Final Four this year when Wisconsin beat Kentucky.  I love Wisconsin basketball and everything about it.  That was probably the best sporting event I've ever been to.  That Friday night at Maywood was better.  I'm not kidding.  I wish I could bottle that feeling up and share it with others...I try, but it just tends to fall on deaf ears.  If it didn't, there would be a stampede of people trying to purchase race horses.

You can only get so close to your favorite sports team, but it is never "yours".   "Yours" only applies to current coaches, players, trainers, staff, etc who are putting on the show.  You can feel a deep connection when you grow up 20 minutes from campus, spend your youth going to the current coach's basketball camps, get your degree from the university, try out for the team as a senior and later watch some players you've coached in high school play for your school.  That's my relationship to Wisconsin basketball.  That's pretty deep....probably deeper than a lot of fans.  It doesn't hold a candle to the connection you feel to a horse that you've owned his whole life that has taken you on the ride of a lifetime with family and friends in tow.  That is my (and our) connection with Mo.  

And now, let me talk for a second about the title of this post.  Two days after the race, Mo's leg blew up.  We didn't know why, but we were worried...very worried.  As the days went by the swelling lingered.  It was in a bad spot on his left front leg (his "good" leg for those keeping score).  Then, he took a turn for the better.  Swelling was gone.  They tried jogging him and he jogged sound.  Finally, we get a text on Wednesday:  "I entered Mo for Saturday.  Vet couldn't find anything wrong with him."

Yep, that sounds about right.  

Forward we march....hope it never ends.

Let's go Mo!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2014 and into 2015

No one wants to read a blog with no new content.  I haven't had any new content here for months. That's the bad news.  The good news?

In Over My Head will be coming back for the 2015 racing season.

My last post back in September mentioned the bone bruise Mo suffered after an equipment break and a subsequent gutty victory a few weeks later.  Now that we have the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that what Mo did at the end of last season was even more impressive than we originally thought.  He didn't go on a win streak, but he showed us once again he is made of hearty stock.  The injury he suffered from that equipment break lingered, eventually got worse and he somehow managed to hide it from us for the most least until his last start in the late fall.

His last start wasn't suppose to be his last start...we planned on going into December with him.  Up until that point, he was like that old boxer who was despite a laundry list of issues finds a way to pop up from that little stool in the corner of the ring when he hears the bell and after a vicious 12 round fight he takes off his gloves and heads home.  He shows up at the gym the next morning and goes back to work, much to the astonishment of almost everyone around him.

That was Mo...until that last start.

Danny was at the track that night and for the first time in what was an incredible season for an old battle worn eight year old, he showed his age.  His personality was muted.  He made it from the bath stall and back, but did so with less spring than normal.  He was worn out.  We all put our heads together the next day and took about 5 seconds to decide to quit for the year.  The thing is, when you quit for the year with an eight year old, you may be quitting for good.   You just can't predict how they will come out of the time off in the winter.  As always, we were going to let Mo tell us if he wanted to put on the horseshoes and jump back into the fray.

While we are still only in February, I'm happy to report that after a couple months of being turned out, Mo got bored.  Greg can attest to what it is like when Mo gets bored.  He spent a couple off- seasons up in Mineral Point and for awhile he loves the life of no equipment, no training miles, no schedule other than to walk out into the field in the morning and run around for awhile.  In the past that was good for about two months.  Then he got bored.  He'd start to get more studdy, be a little less attentive and just generally hard to handle.  That was his way of saying, enough vacation...let's get back to work.  It worked out the same way this off-season.

Mo went back to work a couple weeks ago.  Starting the swimming pool, but the fact that he's ready to get back to the grind tells me that there are more than a few races left in the old boy.  And why not?  We can limit his schedule, pick our spots and quit at any time.  As you've learned in this post (and many more if you've followed this six year marathon), Mo has some pretty good communication skills.  He will let us know when it is time to stop.

I don't think he will ever let injury end his career...barring something major...he will just fight though it.  Eventually, what will give will be his will to go through the grind of being a racehorse, but we aren't there yet.  His spirit still burns as bright as ever.  Even though he has some challenging days ahead of him to get back into race shape in the twilight of his career, the reward of walking into the winners circle at the end of a tough race is too much to pass up.  He may be old, but he's not done yet.

More to come.  Let's go Mo!

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.


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.