When many people enter this sport, they have dreams of shiny trophies, prodigious purses and a plethora of win photos, but not Ken Terpenning; he holds no illusions of grandeur. Neither does his partner and conditioner Rob Zink. Just three months ago, however, the duo procured a horse in Earndawg that fulfills any yearning they may possess to occupy the most prolific stages of harness racing.
“Most of our horses are older, like age 10 or so,” Terpenning said. “When we buy them we look for a horse with back class, but most of them have issues or some kind of problem. I know I will never have a stakes horse, but I feel like having a horse like this one is as close as I will ever come to that.”
Although his last two campaigns have not been quite as successful as when he was a young horse, Earndawg, a multiple stakes victor, appears at Scioto Downs on Saturday (May 13) where he is the 3-1 favorite in a $12,500 claiming contest.
“I’ve already told everyone there will be hell to pay if anyone claims him,” Terpenning said. “I wish I could put him in another race where there would never be any risk of that, but that is where he belongs right now. We are just excited to have him and watch him, especially since he went a nice mile last week (second in 1:55.2 at Miami Valley Raceway from post eight). We feel like he is coming around being with us for a little bit now.”
Purchased by Zink and Terpenning last February, Earndawg was the 2014 Orange and Blue winner and an Illinois champion. The now 5-year-old son of Sportsmaster-Pacific Sister K has amassed $352,975 from a resume of 84-16-21-7. The gelding was second in the 2014 American-National Stake and also triumphed in the Abe Lincoln, Cardinal and Madison County stakes that same season. As a sophomore, Earndawg still displayed top form as he captured the Maywood Pace, the Illinois State Fair Stakes and the Incredible Finale while setting his lifetime mark of 1:51.
In his first two years of racing, Earndawg who is a half-sibling to Sunshine Sister (Real Artist, $147,217), and Doubleshotascotch (Dragon Again, $792,893) and a full brother to Mystical MJ ($317,139) was put through his paces by Roger Welch.
He was sold for $50,000 toward the end of his 3-year-old season at the Standardbred Mixed Sale and during his 4-year-old season the horse changed barns multiple times as he resided in the shedrows of James Ellison, Brian Brown and Jim King Jr. prior to Zink and Terpenning bringing him to Miami Valley Raceway earlier this year.
He has already faced the starter on 17 occasions this season, with 12 of those for Zink and Terpenning, and his record stands at 1-5-1 with $19,595 in the bank.
While Earndawg’s statistics may not be incredibly flashy, the gelding has been struggling with some health issues his owners think they may now have a handle on.
“I talked to everyone I could that had him before, like Brian Brown, Ryan Welch and Jim King,” Terpenning said. “I do that with all my horses before I buy them and they all told me he was a very nice horse. His last trainer at Dover Downs (King) said he was a little off behind and like I said, I knew we would have some work to do on him, like we do with all our horses.
“So we started on his feet and that didn’t seem to help. In fact, he seemed off in front and behind. That’s when we worked our way up to his knees and then worked on his hocks and stifles. Brian (Brown) and Ryan (Welch) said they had worked on those with him too and it seemed to help.
“Unfortunately, after that, he got some kind of fungus and although he looks a lot better now you can still see the spots where his hair fell out.
“I sometimes call Rob Houdini because it’s as if he waves a magic wand with our horses. I admire him so much for all the time he spends on them and all the TLC he gives them. He makes sure their legs are done up right every day, that they are shiny and happy. Like I said, our horses have some health problems, but Rob takes all the time in the world to work on them every day.”
There was also another issue Earndawg was contending with that most certainly limited his performance.
“It was a night Jeremy Smith drove him, I think it was April 2,” Terpenning said. “He went to hand the lines over and when he touched his back, the horse almost went down. That’s when Jeremy told us he thought Earndawg had EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis) and we better get him on some medicine for it. We started with a powder for his food right away and then added a liquid medication to that. He has been much, much better since we started that and got his first win of the season on April 22. Who knows how long he had it for.”
Zink, who until the last several years only trained horses as a hobby, explained Earndawg paced in a curious fashion, but he thought maybe it was just the horse, as when he was younger he wore an extensive amount of equipment.
“He goes out there like a trotter,” Zink said. “By that I mean he moves his head from side-to-side. It’s not like he is nodding because he is lame, it’s just something he does, but it is unusual. Since we have been treating him for EPM, he has definitely improved. You could not even touch his back before and now it does not bother him at all, plus he is holding his head higher than he was.”
Despite his current form not being as strong as it once was, Earndawg is coveted and respected by his new owners for they feel he is an incredibly special horse no matter where he competes or in what class he wins.
“He is such a nice horse,” Terpenning said. “I know so many people say that, but anyone you talk to that ever had this horse say it over and over again. He is a pleasure around the barn and is so well-mannered. He loves attention and puts his head right on your shoulder. He’s just a kind, classy horse.”
Zink affirms Terpenning’s description of the gelding.
“He is an extremely nice horse in the barn and on the track,” he said. “He does anything you ask of him willingly and he sure does love his treats, which he gets a lot of.”
Earndawg’s owners are not only extremely proud of this horse they adore and dote upon, but fortunate he came into their lives.
“Horses like him don’t come along to people like us very often,” Terpenning said. “He’s on pace this year to make more than $40,000 and he’s already made more this year than he did last year ($18,065). That may not mean very much to most people, but it means the world to us and so does he.”
by Kimberly French