Mother and son hope for Hambo hurrah with Back Of The Neck
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Judy Taylor has spent decades in the harness racing game, first with her husband Jerry and then also with her son Howard after he followed in his dad’s footsteps, and she says her horse buying days are drawing to an end.
So, if her partnership with Howard on Hambletonian finalist Back Of The Neck represents something of a last hurrah, it also has presented ample reason for Judy to exclaim hurray.
Back Of The Neck is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line in Saturday’s $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters at the Meadowlands. The colt has two wins and two seconds in four races this year, with his first setback coming by a nose in his seasonal debut and the other by a half-length to Ramona Hill in last weekend’s Hambletonian eliminations.
Sandwiched between those races were two 1:52 wins, first in a division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial and the second in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. The Taylors share ownership of Back Of The Neck, a son of French star Ready Cash out of Big Barb, with breeder Stefan Balazsi’s Order By Stable.
For his career, Back Of The Neck has won five of 13 races and $216,320. He will start the Hambletonian from post two with Scott Zeron driving for trainer Ake Svanstedt. Ramona Hill, one of two fillies in the race, is the 5-2 favorite from post five for driver Andy McCarthy and trainer Tony Alagna.
“I’ve been in the business for a lot of years, but I’ve never had anything quite like this,” Judy said. “It’s very, very exciting. We’ll just hope for the best. I’ve experienced enough of this to know that sometimes you’re disappointed. Hopefully, this time I won’t be, and we’ll be in the winner’s circle.”
This not Judy’s first Hambletonian horse. She and Howard were among the owners of Jacksons Minion, who finished fifth in the 2015 Hambletonian. Jacksons Minion was 58-1.
“This is definitely a little different caliber,” Judy said.
Jerome “Jerry” Taylor, a Philadelphia-based attorney who passed away in 2013, got the family started in racing when he decided in the early 1970s to buy a horse. The horse he purchased was Leander Lobell, who as a 3-year-old raced on the Grand Circuit against the likes of Most Happy Fella and Columbia George. Except, Jerry bought the horse at age 4.
“My husband wanted to be in the horse business, which was rather alien to someone like him,” Judy said with a laugh. “But, anyway, he decided he wanted a horse because he had gone out to Brandywine and Liberty Bell for many years.
“He went with a friend to a horse sale, and he knew as much about horses as you know about moon walks. They bought a horse in the sale that was the most expensive one because they thought that’s how you get a good one. They didn’t know anything, all they did was buy a horse. But that’s how it all started.”
Jerry, though, enjoyed his share of successes over the years, among the most notable New Jersey Sire Stakes and Grand Circuit champion Devil’s Adversary, and loved the sport.
“Horses mean a lot to me, but they meant even more to him,” Howard said. “He never, ever missed a race. He would go everywhere, and he absolutely loved them.
“I remember friends of his would get mad at him because he would never make plans to go anywhere until after the draw came out. You couldn’t call him up to see what he was doing next weekend because he wanted to see if his horse got in to race. He knew what he was doing if the horse got in.”
Howard developed his own passion for racing, getting licensed as a trainer and driver in addition to owning horses. Howard, also an attorney, was among the owners of 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta and his many other notable horses included three-time Dan Patch Award winning trotter Buck I St Pat.
“When kids went to camp in the summertime, he went to the track and learned how to rig a horse and all that,” Judy said. “He always loved it since he was a kid.
“He’s very knowledgeable. I listen to what he tells me. I told him this is my last hurrah; I’ll go with you (on a horse) if it’s OK and hopefully we’ll have a little luck. You buy what you think is good, the breeding is good, and then you hope for the best. He’s been very successful. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
Howard said as thrilled as he is for another chance to win the Hambletonian, he’s most happy for his mom.
“She’s nervous, but she is very excited,” Howard said. “She’s having a good time.” (Ken Weingartner/USTA)