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Racing for more than money

August 22, 2008

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When the 8-year-old trotter Cello Hanover scored by three-quarters of a length in a $21,000 trot at Yonkers earlier this month, he and his owner-driver Steve Markoff did not get his driver\'s fee:  more than 160 other horses did. That’s because Markoff has pledged all of his 2008 driving earnings of his stable of five horses to benefit the Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF).
Although his real job is as a money manager at Kimstarr Equity Management, Markoff has been a fan of racing, and Standardbreds, for years. He is committed to caring for his horses when they’re done racing and has placed them with SRF when their racing days are over. Last year, he found out that fellow owner Tom Trezza donated to SRF every time one of his group’s horses won.

“That’s where I got the idea of doing something on a performance basis,” he said. Markoff decided to donate all driving fees earned with his veteran campaigner 12-year-old KW’s Champion in 2008 to SRF. Soon after he added amounts for first, second and third-place finishes for his other two horses, CR Mr. Bean and Cello Hanover.

\"It was always a lifelong dream to drive horses, ever since the day that my father took me to Yonkers Raceway when I was eight,” he said.  “Finally in 2001 I decided to give it a try. After many trials, tribulations and spills (from where I got the nickname “Cannonball”) I started driving in Billings races. In March of 2002, I was looking for a Billings trotter and acquired KW’S Champion in a private sale.\"

The two have had an interesting journey in the ensuing years. “Now K-dub, as we call him, has 320 starts with 30 wins, and has won 26 of his next 189 for me, all but one achieved with me in the bike,” he said. \"At age 12, now he’s first starting to show some signs of age and actually sustained the first real injury of his career. He qualified back well. I’m giving him a lighter schedule, particularly for the summer since he really hates the heat.  I’m looking forward to maybe taking him to a couple of different racetracks where he hasn’t raced – perhaps a couple of county fairs.  Kind of a “farewell tour”–at his age, you never know and at this point, if he sustains any other injury, my responsibility will be first and foremost to act for his welfare and give him the kind of life he deserves.\"

Markoff hopes his champion doesn’t have to retire anytime soon, but he knows the day will eventually come for every horse in his stable. That’s why he supports SRF. \"I’ve always felt it was my responsibility to find homes for horses that I race if they were injured or who are getting up there in age and had raced there hearts out.  I tend to keep horses for a while, and they become like members of the family. Driving for the SRF is consistent with this responsibility.\" (SRF)




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