Rockin Hot Lady was slowed by issues at ages 2 and 3, but with three wins in her past four starts, the 4-year-old female pacer is starting to reward trainer Ernie Gaskin's confidence in her. On Friday, the mare will attempt to extend her hot streak in the Dr. Don Mossbarger Memorial Series championship at Ohio's Miami Valley Raceway before possibly being sent to compete on the East Coast.
Purchased as a yearling for $23,000 at the 2015 Hoosier Sale, Rockin Hot Lady is owned by Gaskin's wife, Darla, and daughter Emily, the race marketing manager and a race commentator at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Also a member of the ownership group is Shelby Ratcliff, the daughter of Centaur Gaming chairman and CEO Rod Ratcliff.
Rockin Hot Lady, by Rockin Image out of Deferred Comp, is a full sister to Rockin Rum Springa, a multiple winner on the Indiana-bred stakes circuit, and half-sister to successful invite-level gelding Nitro.
"She came from a proven family and was a nice big filly, so we stepped out for her," Gaskin said. "She trained down great as a 2 year old, but she later had the start of a (fracture) so we shut her down. She came back at 3 and things went OK, but then she kind of fell off the edge of the earth.
"It took us a little while to get it figured out. She wasn't physically lame, so we were looking for bleeding and ulcers and stuff like that and it turned out to be EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, a neurological disease). Once we got it figured out, it's been a lot better."
Rockin Hot Lady has won seven of 37 career races, with six of those victories coming in her past 12 starts, and earned $54,900. She enters Friday's Mossbarger Memorial final off a 1:54.3 win by a nose over Turnitdownforwatt in a second-round division of the series. It was her first start of the season.
"She's coming around," Gaskin said. "We like her. We got a little messed up with the weather (coming back this year); I'd love to have one more race in her. We'll see.
"She is beautifully gaited. She's one of those that fools you a little bit. You look down at your watch and you're surprised how fast you've gone. She's a fluid mover that way."
Rockin Hot Lady will start from post No. 1 on Friday with driver Trevor Smith, the 22-year-old brother of driver Tyler Smith. Trevor also drove Rockin Hot Lady last week.
"Trevor is just another good, young, athletic horse kid coming up," Gaskin said. "I'm happy to have him."
The $25,000 Dr. Don Mossbarger Memorial -- named to honor the founder of renowned breeding facility Midland Acres and a member of the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame -- is the ninth race on Miami Valley's 13-race card Friday. Post time is 6:05 p.m. for the first race.
Other winners in the Mossbarger's two preliminary rounds were Won For Gigi, Desire One, and Turnitdownforwatt.
Friday's Miami Valley card also features the $25,000 open for pacing fillies and mares, which includes Darla Gaskin co-owned American Girl.
American Girl's presence is one reason Gaskin is considering sending Rockin Hot Lady east to trainer Julie Miller. Another is Rockin Hot Lady's early speed and versatility.
"She can leave in quarters of :25.4 and get around any sized track," Gaskin said. "We'll decide what to do after the final. We already have American Girl and I don't really want to race them against each other. We've had great luck with Julie. Her and (husband) Andy are great." (Ken Weingartner/USTA)