BY JIM WELLS
There are horse races and there are HORSE RACES. This one was a HORSE RACE.
Three noses at the wire, followed by close inspection of the obligatory photo, and then the wait that kept all involved on edge.
Sunday’s $54,400 North Central Quarter Horse Racing Association Futurity lived up to all the hoopla and expectations, validating the guessing game that preceded the race and the difficulty it imposed on handicappers of even the highest order.
“Pick out the five horses you like best in this one and then throw a dart,’’ went one piece of advice. “Can’t separate this bunch with a calipers,’’ went another.
The discussion included the chances of one barn, that of Jason Olmstead, dominating the action just as it did the lineup. Before One Famous Sign was scratched from that lineup, the Olmstead barn accounted for six of the 10 starters.
As it was, Olmstead’s wife, Amber Blair, left the paddock with five halters draped over an arm shortly after giving a leg up to the first two riders in the race and then a shout out of “good luck” to a third rider. Olmstead himself took care of the other two.
The storylines multiplied after the race. The principals involved watched two or three replays, still not certain of a winner. They had to await the official proclamation, which placed Heza Prospect out of the Olmstead barn, Faster than Hasta out of the Bob Johnson barn, and Bold Ruller out of the Ed Ross Hardy barn first, second and third in that order. The winning time was 18:074.
A final viewing convinced Olmstead. “Wasn’t even close,’’ he bellowed, holding his forefinger and thumb three inches apart.
“Whew,’’ he had said more than once only minutes earlier after the official result was announced.
The breeder and principle owner of the winner was naturally pleased with the outcome. Leon Glasser of Mandan, N.D., has a small, personal operation: two broodmares. He has been in the business since 1976 but races largely at tracks in his own immediate geography.
He won a small stakes race in Fargo last week but was deprived of the win after it was declared no contest. Sunday’s triumph in a race worth more than fifty grand surely made up the difference.
“Oh, yes,’’ Glasser said. “That other one was worth about $13,000.’’
Just as noteworthy perhaps is the narrative surrounding the ownership of the winner. Glasser originally intended to sell the gelding even though he had developed a certain fondness for him.
His daughters, Holly and Gayle, aware of that factor enlisted the support of their spouses and some friends to form an ownership group, seven in all, or the Magnificent Seven as it is registered.
Great name, with a memorable storyline but also a footnote.
“One of the investors backed out so there are only six of us,’’ Glasser added. “But we kept the name anyway.’’
There are other connections to Sunday’s race.
The owner of the second place horse, John Johnson, once trained for Glasser some thirty years ago or more.
“I took a horse of his to Assiniboia Downs,’’ Johnson recalled, “and he set a record for 400 yards.’’
None of that mattered as Johnson considered “second place” on Sunday. His son, Bob, trains Faster Than Hasta and has a saying for such occasions. “Second place sucks.’’
Maybe more so when there’s only a sliver’s difference between that and a stakes trophy.