Ohio racing fans have one last chance to see the “wonder horse” race here in the state when Foiled Again runs Saturday night at Hollywood Dayton Raceway.
“He’s an absolute wonder horse,” Gregg Keidel, Dayton’s race secretary once told me. “He’s a once-in-a-generation type horse.”
And if you know the story of the 14-year old bay gelding — whose Farewell Tour ends on New Year’s Eve at The Meadows in Washington, Pa. — you know that’s no exaggeration.
He’s the richest harness horse in history. He’s won 105 races and over $7.6 million in purses.
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But that’s not why fans love him. Not why they flock to his races, celebrate him with a fan club and follow his Twitter account.
And it’s not why he recently was featured on CBS news and in July was part of the SportsCenter Top Ten plays of the day on ESPN, a designation no harness horse gets against all the two-legged athletes and their exploits with a ball and a puck.
“We’ve had other horses who are superstars, but none who have captured imaginations like Foiled Again,” trainer Ron Burke told me when we last talked. “If he wins, Twitter blows up.”
Foiled Again doesn’t have royal blood pedigree. He’s average size and not the fastest horse. But his heart and determination are unparalleled.
At 14 – ancient in a sport when most Standardbreds fizzle out by eight or nine – he still sometimes beats four and five year olds.
When he was eight he became the oldest pacer to win $1 million in a season and he did it three years in a row.
At nine – in 2013 – he became the oldest horse to win a Breeders Crown race.
A year later he turned in the fastest mile of his life – a 1:47.1 – when he became the oldest winner ever of the Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono Downs.
He and Rambling Willie are the only horses to win three consecutive Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer.
Over the years he’s won the Canadian Pacing Derby, the TVG Free For All Series, the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series twice, the Bobby Quillen Memorial a record three times and the Molson Pace twice.
The list goes on and on and it becomes more remarkable when you consider the uncelebrated start to his career.
He was bought as a yearling for $20,000 by Patrick Lacey and trained by Herman Heitman. An unruly and rambunctious colt, he ended up gelded and won just eight times in his first 46 races.
Lacey and Heitman sold him to Burke for $62,400.
“No one had any idea he’d turn out like this,” Burke said. “You don’t buy a horse for $60,000 and think he’s going to turn into the greatest horse of all time. He’s just been as complete and wonderful surprise.”
Because Foiled Again faces mandatory retirement at the end of the year, his owners – Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi and JJK Stables – decided to take him on a Farewell Tour this year through the United State and into Canada before letting him settle into old age on Mickey Burke Sr.’s farm.
Foiled Again picked up victory 105 on Oct. 22 at Harrington Raceway.
Over the years he’s raced 21 times in Ohio and won often here – including three Battle of Lake Erie titles at Northfield Park.
He’s raced twice before at Dayton Raceway, finishing second by a nose in the Dayton Pacing Derby in 2014 and fifth in 2015.
Although a lukewarm 5-2 favorite Saturday night, he’s drawn the outer-most No 9 post, a spot from which few horses win. He’s facing a field of conditioned pacers who have 201 wins among them and have banked a combined $2 million.
Race patrons Saturday night will have a random drawing opportunity to win a ride in a two-seater jogging cart behind Foiled Again as he warms up for his last Ohio race. There will also be a drawing to win a large Breyer replica of the famed horse and throughout the night smaller Breyer replica versions will be awarded as random pop-up prizes for those using self-betting machines.
Post time Saturday is 6:15 p.m.