Sometimes it's not about the quantity of racehorses but the quality of your barn. Tom Brinkerhoff only has four horses in his barn on the backside of Scioto Downs Racino but two of them qualified for the Ohio Sires Stakes final for 3-year-old colt pacers that will be held on Saturday night.
The horse he entered, Outdoor Fever, has had a rough go of late but his early season success warranted him a shot at the winner's share of $150,000. Leaving from post two, the pair is set at 8-1 morning line odds, not the favorite, but definitely in contention.
"He's a nice horse, but he's just about a second and a half away from being a good horse,” said Brinkerhoff. "He's good and sound, a nice horse to drive and good mannered. We just gotta have some luck before we can get any money.”
Mike Wilder will be the seventh driver of the season to sit behind the colt who was second-placed-first in his seasonal debut, the first leg of the OSS at Lebanon. He paced in 1:57 that day (May 4) and three weeks later in the second leg at Scioto he was third, pacing in 1:54.4. He skipped the third leg, but went to the fourth at Raceway Park on Aug. 25 and finished seventh.
"Well, that was at Toledo and they got down to the half real slow, and he was sitting back ninth,” explained Brinkerhoff. "He paced his last half in :55.1 but he was just back too far and couldn't reach. He raced good, it was just the circumstances.”
The ages of the human connections of Outdoor Fever are the opposite end of the age spectrum from their equine counterpart. Brinkerhoff will turn 76 just five days after Super Night, while his groom, Lenny Slygh, is 61 and breeder/owner Leonard Buckner is 80. The Brinkerhoff/Slygh pair have been working together for six years now and have the relationship of two long time friends that are enjoying their "retirement years” with some frisky young colts. But Brinkerhoff's relationship with Buckner has really stood the test of time.
"I've been training horses for him for 31 years,” said Brinkerhoff who first started training horses with his dad when he was nine years old. "And we've had about one argument in all those years. He doesn't come to the races (because of health reasons) but he watches all the races at home.”
Outdoor Fever is by Stand Forever out of the Ruffstuff Baker mare Bang The Door. Coincidentally, Brinkerhoff trained Ruffstuff Baker for Buckner and said he was one of the best horses he has ever trained in his 67-year training career.
The other horse that was eligible to the OSS finals this year, My Myster E, is also owned in part by Buckner and was in the dance for the finals as a 2 year old. Finishing third in that $100,000 final to Feelin Lika Winner, Brinkerhoff had high hopes for him this year but "he's been the biggest disappointment for me in 10 years.
"They (Outdoor Fever and My Myster E) were raised together and have been beside each other for two years now in training. They've always been together.” When you have a pair of nice colts, one can always make up for the shortcomings of the other. But both of them will now have faced Feelin Lika Winner in their shot in the finals."
Feelin Lika Winner is trained by Scott Mogan and installed as the 5-2 second favorite (behind 6-5 favorite That Friske Feelin).
"I trained with him (Feelin Lika Winner) the other day, and I couldn't get by him,” said Brinkerhoff. "It will all depend on how the race goes, you gotta have some luck. I'm hoping they will drag race down to the three-quarters and then maybe we'll be able to pick up some pieces on the end.”
When one-quarter of your stable is going for the rich $150,000 finals and you take care of the quality horses in your barn, sometimes age and experience will overcome the odds. For one 75 year old, he's hoping he has this great chance to be in the winner's circle. (Scioto Downs)