Archdeacon: As Dayton Raceway sets to open, good times for Dan Noble

Dan Noble winning the $300,000 Ohio Sires Stakes Championship at Scioto Downs last Sunday with Ocean Rock.  Brad Conrad/CONRAD PHOTOGRAPHS
Dan Noble winning the $300,000 Ohio Sires Stakes Championship at Scioto Downs last Sunday with Ocean Rock. Brad Conrad/CONRAD PHOTOGRAPHS

Although several COVID-19 regulations are still in place in the harness racing world as Hollywood Dayton Raceway prepares to open for its seventh season Monday, Dan Noble – the well-known fourth-generation horseman from Xenia – couldn’t be much happier:

  • Going into Friday night’s racing at Scioto Downs -- which will be ending its summer racing season Saturday – he was the track’s leading driver with 147 wins and $1,847,291 in earnings. He was the 13th leading driver in the nation. And he and wife Christi also were fifth in the Scioto Downs trainer standings.
  • He’s currently conditioning and driving a special horse – the three-year-old gelding pacer Ocean Rock – who won the $300,000 Ohio Sires Stakes Championship last Sunday at Scioto.

On July 18, Ocean Rock trounced Elver Hanover, the previously unbeaten world champ, by 7 ¾ lengths to win a leg of the Ohio Sire Stakes. On Aug. 1, he won at the Ohio State Fair.

The pacer is owned by Sandra Burnett, the longtime Wilmington horsewoman, who Dan said gave his late father, Hall of Fame driver Chip Noble, his start when he was just 20. Chip trained Ocean Rock’s mother, Ocean Pearl.

  • Now Dan’s two oldest children, 16-year-old son Koltin and 15-year-old daughter Sophie are both showing interest in the family business.

Sophie lives in Grove City with her mom – who’s also in the racing business – and helps in the barns there on weekends. During part of the summer she joins her dad at the Noble family stable at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia.

The fairgrounds track is named in Chip Noble’s honor and the top race there each year is the Chip Noble Memorial.

Koltin, who lives with his dad and is a junior at the Greene County Career Center, has been working in the barns and is ready to take his USTA driving test with hopes of launching his sulky career on the Ohio fair circuit next year.

  • And last week Dan and Christi had a baby son, 6-pound, 11-ounce Nash Samuel Noble.

“Everything’s been going really good here lately,” Noble admitted. “The race season at Scioto started off a little slow for me, but it’s really taken off.”

‘Dummy foal’

Harness racing was stopped in Ohio on March 19 because of the COVID 19 outbreak. That meant Miami Valley Raceway just west of Lebanon had its season cut short at the midway point.

After that racing was dark in Ohio for 63 days, a period of inactivity that jeopardized many stables and the careers of several drivers.

During the hiatus Noble worked on developing the young horses in his stable and further prepping Ocean Rock, who had a real tug-at-your heart start in life.

When he was born on the farm of Scott and Cindy Hagemeyer in Clarksville, he was what they call a “dummy foal.”

The official term is neonatal maladjustment syndrome. It’s a situation where foals often don’t want to get up and appear disoriented, detached and unresponsive to their mothers.

According to Kimberly Rinker in a story for the U.S. Trotting Association, the Hagemeyers, aided by daughter Lyndsay, then an Ohio State veterinary student, performed what is known as the Madigan Foal Squeeze, a procedure where the newborn is wrapped in soft ropes, like a mini harness, and then light pressure is applied to simulate the time spent in the birthing canal. The idea is to further awaken them from their time in the womb.

The Hagemeyers tended to the newborn every hour and gave him extra, antibody-loaded colostrum and a plasma infusion to get him vibrant and responsive.

It worked.

As a two year old, Ocean Rock set the gelding pacer world record on a half-mile track when he went 1:51.1 in the Ohio Sire Stakes at Northfield Park in August 2019. This past July he broke the Scioto Downs track record for three-year-old gelding pacers with a 1:48.4 clocking.

And the fact that the horse is linked to his dad made him all the more special to Dan. Family ties are strong among the Nobles.

Sam O. Noble, Dan’s great grandfather, began the family’s equine business and built the pole barn on the Greene County Fairgrounds that still houses the Noble racing operation. Dan’s grandfather Sam Jr. and his dad, Chip, then etched the family name in the sport and set the stage for him to follow suit.

He grew up in the barns, jogged his first horse at age eight and, when he was 16 won his first pari-mutuel race as a driver at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Although he tried going to college in Nashville after graduation, Dan lasted two weeks and returned to Greene County to take up the family business.

He ended the 2011 racing season as North America’s leading dash winner with 773 victories.

Montgomery County Fair Race Day

Racing actually begins at Dayton Raceway on Sunday with the Montgomery Country Fair Race Day. The card includes nine races with pari-mutuel wagering. Post time is 1p.m.

The fair has no harness track at its new fairgrounds on Infirmary Road, so it uses the 5/8th mile oval at Dayton Raceway.

The start of the regular fall season at Dayton – pushed back a week because of COVID rescheduling in the state -- begins Monday with a 1:30 p.m. post.

Weekly racing will be held every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon beginning at 1:30 and Friday and Saturday evenings at 6:15 p.m. The meet ends Dec. 30. Fans practicing safety precautions are permitted.

Dayton race secretary Gregg Keidel said various COVID regulations have been added by the state. That includes no more than 70 people in the paddock (the track’s massive barn) at any one time. Trainers and other necessary personnel must wait to enter until just a few races before their horses are to take to the track.

Noble said drivers like himself now put on their driving suits in the parking lot rather than in the track’s dressing quarters. He said they wear masks between races.

While the purses may be more substantial at Scioto Downs, Noble sees Dayton Raceway as “my home track.”

It’s just under 16 miles from his Xenia stables to Dayton Raceway

“It’s nice to only have a 25-minute drive to go to work,” he said.

While that enables him to be around more for his new son, he admitted Christi – who also comes from four generations of horsemen – is handling the bulk of the baby chores.

“I’m handling the racing business,” he said. “She’s being a stay-at-home mom at the start.”

Meaning?

“Well,” he said with a quiet laugh, “She’s got the diapers.”

Like he said, things have been going really good lately.