By Mike Paradise
Buying a yearling at a horse sale is often a roll of the dice. Trainers do their diligent homework regarding the bloodlines of a youngster and are there at sale time to check out the conformation of a horse going through the sale.
Financial considerations obviously play a big part on a decision to bid or not and at what cost nevertheless when it comes down to the bottom line in most cases that decision belongs to the potential horse owner.
After all it’s he or she who is plucking down the money with hopes the yearling will not only make it to the races but also will be good enough to eventually be a plus and not a minus in the new owner’s checkbook.
Back in 2016 at the Walker Yearling Sale trainer Gerry Hansen and his primary owner Shelley Steele eyed-balled the young ICF trotter Picky Picky Valor has a potential addition to Hansen’s Stable.
The son of Yankee Valor was out of the broodmare Heather Doreen, making him a half-brother to the successful trotter All About Cowboys (1:55.3).
Shelley had an effective Yankee Valor trotter a couple of years earlier in Cruisin Valor. He captured the 2-year-old Hanover stake at Balmoral in 2014 and was second in both the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fair finals, dropping neck decision both times to Captain Greedy.
Shelley liked what she saw with Picky Picky Valor, another son of Yankee Valor, in the sale’s ring and made up her mind she wanted the trotter. Gerry told her no way and that they would pass on the horse. Shelley eventually gave in and said “O.K.”
It appeared Hansen won the debate when “Picky” went through the auction unsold. Has it turned out it was Shelley who eventually got her way.
“The horse went through the sale unsold but when I told Gerry I was going to get something to drink I ran out of there and tracked down Kenny (Chupp, the horse’s owner and breeder) and asked how him much he wanted for Picky. We agreed on a price and I came back and told Gerry he has a new horse in his barn,” said the hands-on horse owner.
“When Gerry started working with ‘Picky’ he told me the horse was lazy and was looking around at everything. He said the horse had a bad attitude but all of a sudden that changed. He was different horse when we put him out there with another horse.
“Gerry came in and said to me: ‘You’ve got a horse.’
“Picky was behind the other horses but I don’t care if they make it as a 2-year-old or not, like most owners do. I rather have a good 3 or 4-year-old trotter.
“Picky didn’t a do lot as a 2-year-old. He got hurt early on and lost quite a bit of time. He was behind the other horses because we didn’t rush him back. We just let him do it his way”
Picky Picky Valor won one race in eight starts and made a little over $5,000 in his uneventful first racing season.
“He bled in a race early on as a 3-year-old so we put him on Lasix but he got a reaction to the medication and it just dried him out. It really knocked him down. The horse lost 100 pounds. He was so dehydrated that I was worried we were going to lose him.”
It became an up and down sophomore season for Picky Picky Valor and at times a very frustrating one for his trainer.
“It seemed that every time we thought we had it figured out with the horse something would happen on the race track, usually in a big race,” lamented Hansen.
“Picky” won his opening leg of the Busse Late Closer Series at Hawthorne in May and was third best in the final for open company trotters. He was fourth in his first Dygert ICF stake series leg and second in the next at 153-1 odds when never found racing room until it was much too late in the lane.
A week later the horse won the Cardinal prep however when the final came around the horse broke at the start was a non-threatening fifth. Two weeks later at the Springfield State Fair “Picky” drew off (1:56.4) in a prep easily
disposing of his “nemesis” Louscipher.
Nonetheless, the $50,000 Springfield Final turned out to another huge disappointment for Steele and Hansen.
“The horse would have won at Springfield if he didn’t get rushed to the gate and go off-stride,” said Shelley, the proprietor of the Tack Shop at Hawthorne. “He still came on to be second,”
In the Pronto Don at Du Quoin “Picky” trotted a 27.4 second quarter when he came out of fourth and powered to the front with driver Brian Carpenter. The horse was almost four lengths on top at the 56.4 half and six lengths on the lead mid-way down the stretch when he got leg weary and was passed by the winner Louscipher.
In the fourth leg of the Dygert Stake Series “Picky” ended up second best when got overtaken in the lane by, you guessed it, Louscipher.
“I still told Gerry that ‘Picky’ was going to win the final,” continued Shelley. “When he was second the previous week he wasn’t 100 per cent and came up short. I was confident he was going to win the championship.”
Hansen didn’t have his owner’s bubbling confidence going into the championship.
When asked in the winner’s circle on the Night of Champions what Gerry was thinking when his horse drew the 10-hole in the final, Hansen gave the interviewer an honest but somewhat unexpected reply:
“When I saw he got the 10-hole I thought I was going to puke.”
Gerry got past his nauseous feeling before the Night of Champions rolled around. Meanwhile his owner was a woman of a few words when she was viewing the championship trot that night.
“When I was watching all I kept on saying out loud was ‘Oh My God, Oh My God,” said Shelley. “When the race was over I was in a daze. I was still numb in the winner’s circle.”
With over $96,000 on his card as a 3-year-old Picky Picky Picky is currently getting a well-deserved rest at the Hansen farm where the top priority is fattening up the trotter.
“Now that Picky’s season is over we’re doing what we can to put more weight on him,” said Shelley, a resident of Monee, Illinois. “He’s coming along fine and we’ll be racing him, and his brother (Talk About Valor), at Hawthorne’s winter meet.”
Captain Crush: Last week’s column horse Captain Rhett, this year’s Carey champion, came up with am an impressive victory Thursday night at Northfield Park. The Jim Horvath trained ICF 3-year-old had the eight-hole on a nine-horse field on the Ohio half-miler, spotted the field 13 lengths at the half, and still crushed his opposition in a $6,800 conditioned pace.
The one-plus length win was in 1:53.2 (28.1 last quarter) for Illinois owners Harvey Grieff (Odell) and Robert Verdun (Pontiac). Ryan Stahl drove Captain Rhett ($16.00) to his latest victory.