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Thisbigdogwillfight's Illustrious Career Over (08/04/13)

Posted Sunday August 4, 2013

                                                   By Mike Paradise

  Sometimes a name fits a horse’s personality and that was the case with Thisbigdogwilfight, who has been retired from racing at the age of 10 after being one of the premier Illinois-conceived-and foaled pacers of this century.

  “It was time,” said his long-time trainer Jim Eaton. “He wasn’t able to overcome his problems anymore. These last couple of years the horse has had a lot of trouble with his front ankles and I think the arthritis just got so bad it was time to quit with him.”

  Thisbigdogwilfight is turned out to pasture with 56 career victories, the vast majority of them coming in the circuit’s highest level overnight events and ICF stakes, purse earnings of $978,789 and has a former world record holder.

  “If he wasn’t so close to earning a million dollars (only $21,215 shy) I might have not tried to come back with him a couple of months ago. I thought he deserved the chance to reach it. But it just didn’t work out.”

  Originally a $6,000 yearling purchase by Redbud Stable, of Frankfort, and Michael McNeely, of Normal, the son of The Big Dog was sold to Michigan owner Bob Silberberg in April of 2011.

  Thisbigdogwilfight got it done year after year on any size track showing grit and determination that made him one of most popular horses on the Chicagoland circuit for almost a decade.

  He’s one of only a handful of pacers in the country that ever won a race under 1 minute and 50 seconds five consecutive years, from 2006 through 2010. The gelding also holds the record for the most appearances on Super Night at Balmoral Park with eight and seven of those came in championships.

  Of Thisbigdogwilfight 56 lifetime victories, 38 came in a Free For All, Invitational, a stake elimination or a final.

  The horse came close to banking $1 million despite never winning a six-figure race. His 2007 victory in the $90,000 Carey at Hawthorne was the highest purse he ever won.

  Thisbigdogwilfight’s beginning didn’t start out on a promising note.

  “He was an orphan growing up,” said Eaton. “His mother actually killed one of her babies so he was taken away from her soon after he was born and given to a surrogate mare who nursed him.”

  Before he made his first 2-year-old start in late June of 2005, did Eaton see any indications from the bay horse that he might go on to be a star pacer?

  “Not my any stretch of the imagination,” replied the 56-year-old trainer who was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2011. “When he was in training he never showed any signs of being a good horse. In fact he didn’t show what’s so ever that he was going to be a horse who would even try.

  “I had another yearling that time. A horse called Third Day who went on to make $600,000. Every time they trained together he whipped “Dog.” He did it dozens of time. “Dog” had no interest in beating him or any other horse.

  “I remember when (owner) Phil Langley (Redbud Stable) came out one morning to watch the horse train. He came off the track shaking his head and telling me: ‘Well maybe we can make some money with him at the fairs.’ That’s how poorly he trained early on as a 2-year-old.

  “When it was time to qualify him I had Dave (Magee) up to drive. He was listed in the same race on another horse that was highly regarded by his trainer and Dave asked me if ‘does this Dog horse have any stock.’ I told him no and to go ahead and drive that other horse.

  “Pat Berry drove him that morning and left with him and ‘Dog” won his qualifier in 1:57 which surprised me. I didn’t think he could pace a quarter in 28 seconds.”

  When did Eaton think his ‘Dog’ might go on to have his day as a top-notch pacer?

  “He did have some decent races in his first season but it wasn’t until his last start that year that I thought he could end-up being a real good horse. He was in an Illinois-bred stake at Maywood and he drew off and won it in 1:53.1, a fast mile for a 2-year-old on a half.

  “Later on as a 6-year-old in 2007 he paced in 50 and 3 at Maywood, a world record for an aged gelding on a half-mile track that stood until last year.”

  Thisbigdogwilfight has always been a horse that preferred to be home in Illinois where he has had a special bond with his long-time caretaker Sondra Brown.

  “When the horse was out east for a couple of winter to compete he didn’t always do well,” said Eaton. “I think part of it was he missed Sondra and also his familiar surroundings. Each time he came back home he got real good again.

  “However the horse did have one of my very favorite races at The Meadowlands. It was back in 2009 when he won an ($35,000) Invitational there and did it going from last to first in 50 and 2. He beat some very good horses in it like Western Shore and Shark Gesture.”

  There’s is a happy ending for Thisbigdogwilfight.

  “Sondra and her husband (trainer) Mike Brown have a 10 acre place in Momence (IL) and they are going to take ‘Dog’ there to live out the rest of his life. They even have a broodmare there to keep him company.”

  This “Dog” deserves it, along with a future induction into the Illinois Harness Hall of Fame.

  To view Archived Notes and Quotes click here


            Illinois Harness Hall of Fame Trainer Jim Eaton poses with his "Dog."

                                                                                                 R.E.B. Photo

County Fair Report


    Saturday Afternoon August 1 Results

FIRST: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 1st Div, Purse $5,738:

Horse (Driver)                                                           Time (Track Fast)

Fox Valley Shiver (Freddie Patton Jr.)                             2:00

Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owners: Peter Karras, Thomas Spathies and William Tortoriello.

SECOND: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $5,738:

Kiss This Perch (J D Finn)                                                 2:02.1

Trainer: J D Finn.  Owner: Sharon Finn.

THIRD: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 1st Div, Purse $6,302:

Marty Rocker (Ronnie Gillespie)                                       2:00

Trainer: Ronnie Gillespie. Owners: Ron Phillips, John Carver and Jesse Ferge.

FOURTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $6,302:

Manny”s Z Tam (Rick Schrock)                                         2:02

Trainer: Dave Mc Caffrey. Owners: Z Tam Stables, Michael Polansky, Joseph McCaffrey and David McCaffrey.

FIFTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,630:

S V Spirit (Todd Warren)                                                     2:07.2

Trainer: Roger Welch, Owners: William De Long and Wm. Patrick De Long.

SIXTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 2nd Div, Purse $5,630:

Say No Mo (Dirk Simpson)                                                 2:06

Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Dr. Patrick Graham, Flacco Family Farms and Dirk Simpson Stable.

SEVENTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374:

Finnster (J D Finn)                                                              2:06

Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: J D Finn and Allison Finn.

EIGHTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374:

Gray N Cloudy (Dirk Simpson)

Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Sam Daddono, Dr. Patrick Graham, Dirk Simpson and Simpson Racing Stables.  


    Saturday Afternoon, August 3

FIRST: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Trot, Purse $3,373:

Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Good)

Fox Valley Yavonne (Tom T. Tetrick)                   2:11

Trainer: Curt Grummel. Owner: Dr. Patrick Graham.

SECOND: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Trot, Purse $3,441:

Bans Gold Band (Jerome Daniels)                       2:08

Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owner: Flacco Family Farms and Dr. Patrick Graham.

THIRD: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Pace, 1st Div, Purse $3,386:

Chicks C Me (Cornelius Cavett)                           2:14.1

Trainer: Cornelius Cavett. Owner: Randall Niebrugge.

FOURTH: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $3,386:

Back At Cha (Mark Walker)                                    2:07.3

Trainer: Mark Walker. Owners: Karen and Larry Walker.

FIFTH: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Trot, Purse $6,404:

Come And Tell Pap (Isaac Love)                          2:13.1

Trainer: Antonio Love. Owner: James Collier.

SIXTH: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace, Purse $3,429:

T E’s Ruffian (Darla Martin)                                   2:07.4

Trainer: Darla Martin. Owner: Thureal Harre Jr. 

SEVENTH: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Pace, Purse $3,407:

Majestic Edition (Antonio lobe)                             2:07.3

Trainer: Roshun Trigg. Owner: Mickey Bates.


Cafe Press


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