Profile: Center Attraction

Step Right Up

New York couple delighted with two-time fair champ

story by Ken Weingartner

 

One summer day in 2021, not long before Center Attraction began her New York county fair racing career, owner Pam Schieber looked out a window and saw the female pacer standing in a pasture beneath the arc of a rainbow.

Schieber took a photo of the scene, which, in the ensuing years, proved to contradict the notion about rainbows made famous in popular song. Somewhere under the rainbow is where the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

Center Attraction is the center of attention for Schieber and her husband, trainer Bob Anderson, who has spent years racing horses at the fairs in New York. Center Attraction was a state county fair champion in 2021 and 2022, during which time she won 12 of 13 fair starts with her only setback a second-place finish in her career debut on the circuit.

“It’s a lot of fun with her,” Schieber said. “She loves to race, and I love to spoil her. She’s very well cared for by both of us. We’re constantly going back and forth to the barn, putting her in, putting her out; we’re always near her. She gets a lot of brushing and loving.

“She’s a sweetheart. But once you put that harness on her, she knows what to do.”

 

Anderson and Schieber were drawn to Center Attraction, a daughter of American Ideal-Art Center purchased as a yearling for $8,000 at the 2020 Standardbred Horse Sale, because of the horse’s father. The couple had previously raced another American Ideal-sired filly, Make Mine Ideal, who was successful at the fairs in 2016. Make Mine Ideal, who was a $3,000 buy at the 2015 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, won six of seven starts that season and finished second in the New York County Fair final.

“We had good luck with her,” said the 79-year-old Anderson, a retired union bricklayer, mason and concrete finisher. “That was the main reason I was really kind of excited about [Center Attraction]. When she came into the ring, I asked Pam what she thought of her, and Pam liked her.

“When we went to visit her, she was lying down. She was very calm. I thought she might be a nice one for us.”

Center Attraction, it turned out, was a nice one from the start. Anderson and Schieber got acquainted with the filly in Florida, where they spent the winter prepping Center Attraction at the Burke Training Center, in Astor, before returning home to Frewsburg, N.Y., in the southwest corner of the Empire State.

“We liked her right off,” Anderson said. “She started to take a nice hold training and is excellent gaited. She seems to do everything right. She’s very easy to take care of.”

Added Schieber, “She’s very smart. I think she’s the smartest one we’ve ever had. She understands everything you tell her and ask her to do.”

 

Center Attraction’s first lifetime start came in a New York Sire Stakes Excelsior B event at Buffalo Raceway, which she won by a head. From there, she competed only on the county fair circuit that season, with her lone loss coming at Batavia Downs in her first fair event.

“Her stall was right in front of the track, and she got so excited,” Schieber said. “She wasted a lot of energy watching the races before she got out there.”

Any disappointment Schieber and Anderson felt was quickly erased. Four days later, Center Attraction won at the Chautauqua County Fair, in Dunkirk, less than an hour from their home.

“I think that’s the race we got the most excited about,” Anderson said. “We had the family, the grandkids, and friends there. There was a horse in there we didn’t think she could beat, but [Center Attraction] got it done in a photo finish. It was very exciting. It’s always an exciting thing to win because we developed her and train her and race her ourselves.”

Anderson’s grandchildren also contributed to the victory.

“Bob’s grandkids went into the stall when she was waiting to race, and she loves it,” Schieber said. “She’ll put her head down and they’ll just rub her all over and kiss her. Bob’s little grandson Erik kept rubbing her nose and telling her, ‘You’re gonna do it; you can do it.’ And she did. She went out and did it.

“He gave her a real good pep talk.”

From there, Center Attraction rolled to six straight wins, capping her campaign with a nose triumph over Pink Delight—the only horse to beat her that year—in the county fair final at Goshen Historic Track.

“She’s quite competitive,” Anderson said. “She doesn’t seem to want to let a horse go by her.”

Last season, Center Attraction started her campaign by racing once in the New York Sire Stakes Excelsior A series and in six conditioned events—winning two—at Buffalo Raceway. She then went 4-for-4 in preliminary rounds at the fairs before capturing her second circuit championship, claiming the 3-year-old filly title at Monticello Raceway.

“She was nominated to the [New York] Sire Stakes and Excelsiors and the county fairs,” Anderson said. “We like to race where we think we’re competitive. The county fair racing is exciting. We always get there a day ahead of time so the horse can get used to the surroundings. And it gave us a chance, too, to relax.”

 

Anderson, a New York native, has been involved in racing for four decades, mostly with one or two horses a year. He was introduced to the sport by his father, Joel, who was from Sweden. Joel owned horses, but Anderson wanted to be more actively involved.

“I always wanted to train my own,” said Anderson, whose previous successes include 2017 fair champion Casie’s Believer. “I used to read about the training centers in Florida, and I thought that when I retired there was a good chance I might want to do that. I never had a lot of time to spend with the horses when I was working, but since I’ve retired and since I met Pam, we’ve been a lot more successful.”

Schieber also had an equine background, with saddlehorses, and quickly took to racing.

“After my husband died, I met Bob in 2014,” she said. “He had a racehorse and he said, ‘I think you’re going to love this if you love horses.’ He taught me how to harness and jog them, and I got hooked. We get very excited about racing, and we enjoy the fairs. We know so many people, and we like them all, that we race against.”

Anderson and Schieber typically focus on 2- and 3-year-olds, but they will continue to race Center Attraction—who was driven mostly by Denny Bucceri at age 2 and James McNeight Jr. at 3—this season at 4.

“Pam wanted to keep her,” Anderson said, adding with a laugh, “She told me that if I got a new horse, I had to get a new wife.”

The couple hopes Center Attraction, who entered 2023 with 16 wins and $44,070 in earnings from 25 career races, will keep making dreams come true.

“From what I see, she looks great out there on the track coming back this year,” Schieber said. “We’re looking forward to seeing how she does. She loves to get out there and do it, and we love to see her win.” HB

 

Ken Weingartner is the USTA media relations manager. To comment on this story, email us at readerforum@ustrotting.com.

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