Trainer Heidi Rohr has come a long way in a relatively short time, following a steady path of success from Maine to the Meadowlands Racetrack with an exemplary work ethic and a passion for horses.
On Saturday night, Rohr will send out Recent News, one of the major contenders in the $20,000 Dash for the “C” Notes Final [for C-1 class pacers], carded as race three on the 13-race program. The red-hot Corey Callahan will drive the five-year-old son of Riverboat King for Curran Racing LLC of Red Hook, NY, and Adam Michael of Passaic, NJ.
The abbreviated two-week series, created by Racing Secretary Peter Koch, will also feature a $17,500 Final for the C-2 class [race six].
Rohr learned the game hands on when her father bought his first horse in the eighties. She converted a college degree in finance and computer information systems and worked behind a desk for about six years before the horses eventually won her full attention.
In 2009, Rohr received the Peerless McGrath Award for up-and-coming trainer at Saratoga Raceway from the Saratoga Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. That year, she trained the track’s Claiming Pacer of the Year, Am I Next A.
Rohr finished second the 2012 trainer standings at Saratoga Raceway. She had her best year in 2010 when her stable won $1.1 million [113 wins].
The 33-year-old from Exeter, New Hampshire, now based at Saratoga Raceway, has recently made inroads at the Big M, something she modestly credits to an upgrade in her stable. She has five wins at the Meadowlands this meet.
“I started racing in Maine, and eventually made my way to Saratoga,” said Rohr. “Me and my partner, Jim Nickerson are stabled at Saratoga Harness, and we ship to the Meadowlands and New York area from here. We’ve got 28 horses right now. Things have steadily gone in the right direction for us. We’ve started to race more in the New York area. We’re lucky that we have better stock now that can compete. It’s a whole different ballgame when you have nice horses. They make you look good.”
While better horses are certainly a big key, Rohr understands it’s a process of figuring out what it takes to win at the Big M.
“It takes a little bit of everything to win a race at the Meadowlands,” she admitted. “The ABC classification is really working and Pete Koch (Racing Secretary) is doing an excellent job. I haven’t had the success I’ve had this past Winter before, and being in the right class is huge. You’ve got to start there. We do have stalls at a nearby farm where we can turn horses out. Keeping them happy is a big part of our program.”
Recent News heads into Saturday’s Final fresh from an eye-catching score in 1:51 from post 10 on March 30.
“Pat Berry had done a great job driving the horse, but last week he had to drive his own horse [Rocknroll Jewel], so we got Corey Callahan, and he’s driving him again on Saturday,” explained Rohr. “We didn’t get the best trip, but obviously it worked out. He was parked almost every step and went just an unbelievable mile. If he comes back to anything like that I feel we have a very good shot. He was a private purchase in January, and this was a horse we put a lot of TLC into. He just keeps getting better and doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s a great a horse to have around the barn.
“John Curran is one of our top owners, and he’s put some very nice horses in our barn. He owns Chief Karen, who racing in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series.”
Rohr also sends out Smuggler Hall from the rail in race four on Friday. Once again, Corey Callahan will drive.
“We just got Smuggler Hall about three weeks ago through a private purchase [for owner Stephen J. Andzel of Williamsville, NY],” she said. “It’s been a matter of freshening him up and getting a good foundation under him. He’s really coming around. Giving him a little TLC has really helped. He won his last start here at Saratoga with Shawn Gray driving. Shawn was the 2012 Western New York Driver of the Year.”
Being a female in a racing world dominated by men, Rohr appreciates the impact of Linda Toscano’s Trainer of the Year season in 2012, and she feels she can eventually write her own story of glory in major stakes give the right opportunity.
“I was obviously blown away by Linda Toscano’s year, and it’s great for a female to get that honor, but we work just as hard as the guys do,” said Rohr. “I don’t know about other women or men trainers, but I’m very close to my horses. I paddock them and get right down into it. I don’t stand around and delegate. I spoil them with love and that’s a big part of what we do. It makes sense a happy horse is going to race better. The temperament of a woman around a horse can make a difference. You look at Linda’s horses and they all look like a million dollars. That’s what we try to do. Hopefully, someday we’ll be blessed enough to get that horse of a lifetime.”
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