When Floyd Pratt headed to Frank Chick's Harness Horse Sale in December 2010, he had no intentions of buying a young horse. That was before a filly weanling with an easy-going demeanor caught his eye. Pratt plunked down $250 for the pacer.
On Tuesday night, Lookout Stokk Zone--as the horse was named by Pratt--starts from post three in the $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund final for 2-year-old filly pacers at Dover Downs.
"I'm not usually buying babies, but she really caught my eye,” said Pratt, a 68-year-old trainer-driver who lives in central New Jersey. "She allowed me to go into her stall, pick her feet up; do everything. She appealed to me because I like horses with sense and she just had sense.
"When I shipped her home I loaded her up without any help; she just walked on the trailer. She rode home like she was an aged horse. I just got lucky, that's all.”
Lookout Stokk Zone enters Tuesday's final off her first win of the season. On Dec. 4, she won her DSBF preliminary by a half-length over favorite Bags Of Stars in 1:54.4. For the year, she has earned $26,500 in 12 starts, hitting the board a total of five times.
"She's getting pretty sharp right now,” Pratt said. "She's getting pretty tough to handle her on the farm; she just feels good. From day one she's been one of the most intelligent fillies I've ever seen. I used to break a lot of horses years ago, but kind of got away from it lately to focus on racehorses. She's done everything right.”
Lookout Stokk Zone is a daughter of No Spin Zone out of the mare Brite Outlook. Her half-sister Brite Jet has been a standout on the Maryland Sires Stakes circuit, winning two finals last season and two again this year.
As for the "Stokk” part of the filly's name, Pratt used the first letter of each of his five grandchildren's names.
"That's why the name really doesn't make a whole lot of sense,” Pratt said, laughing. "I hadn't had a baby for a long time and I wanted to get the grandkids emotionally involved; they're in Florida. It's worked out good. It's kept them a little closer to me.”
Pratt brought Lookout Stokk Zone along slowly, with plans to race her in the Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund series at Harrington in October and Dover Downs in November/December. At Harrington, she finished second and third in her preliminaries and was fifth in the final.
Corey Callahan has been handling the driving since the filly's arrival in Delaware. Pratt handled the driving for six starts at Freehold leading up to the DSBF events.
"This kid (Callahan) is talented and he's got a lot of poise,” Pratt said. "He's a gentleman. He also hasn't done anything wrong. I can't say enough about him.”
Pratt hopes Lookout Stokk Zone is ready for a big performance in Tuesday's DSBF final. A win would be Pratt's largest in terms of purse earnings.
Lookout Stokk Zone is 8-1 on the morning line. Inittowinafortune, who starts from post five for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Daryl Bier, is the 4-5 favorite.
"It's really going to depend on what kind of trip she gets out of it,” Pratt said. "Somewhere along the line she's got to be tested. I think she's up to the test, but it depends if she can get out and be tested. I won't say a word to Corey because he's gotten the most out of her in all of her races.
"She's responsive. When you ask her, she's got it. She's not a hardhead where you've got to do certain things. She can leave pretty good, but she's so green she just waits for the horses. I'm very tickled with my driver, I'm tickled with my horse and I've got a not bad post position. It just depends how I get shuffled in the race.”
Pratt is originally from New Hampshire and was an equestrian champion in New England before ending up in New Jersey in the early 1960s. He operated a riding academy at the Trenton Fairgrounds, dabbled with Thoroughbreds, and eventually ran his own plumbing company. He turned to harness racing in the 1970s.
"I used to go to Liberty Bell and watched the races,” said Pratt, who has three horses racing at the moment. "I saw it was something I could get more involved with. My father (who was a lumberjack) had 44 teams of workhorses at one time. I've been around horses all my life. This is all I ever really wanted to do, be with the horses. I just had to figure out something I could get involved in myself.
"I've done everything with the horses that I could possibly do. I've been a very fortunate person as far as being happy with my life. It's not a job, it's a love.” (HRC)