The conquering hero returns home. St Elmo Hero, the winner of all 23 of his career starts, will race Saturday night at Balmoral Park in a $10,900 free-for-all pace
against four rivals.
St Elmo Hero began his career in a claiming race at Balmoral and won his first eight starts at the Chicago track.
The five-year-old gelding is coming off a stakes-record 1:49.1 win on January 29 in the $65,000 Complex at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey. The triumph increased his career bankroll to $197,500 for owner John Barnard, who claimed St Elmo Hero in his first race. He is trained by Charles Eustis III.
“We’ve had a lot of people in Illinois ask me if I would race the horse in Illinois because there’s been a lot of local interest in him,” said Barnard, who lives in Orland Park, Illinois. “I’ve been looking around for different prep races, and the way it worked out, it kind of make sense to race local and then we’ll ship him to Canada next week.”
St Elmo Hero is scheduled to head to Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack for the Cam Fella Series, which begins March 5.
“I really felt he needs some kind of tightener and I thought this [race at Balmoral] might be appropriate,” Barnard said.
“He came out of the last race real good,” he added. “It was a tough test. But Elmo’s Elmo. He’s a tough horse. I thought he raced great. The horse does anything we ask him to do. He’s been real good. Hopefully, everything will go good Saturday and we’ll ship him up to Canada.”
Barnard, who became involved in owning standardbreds in 2003, says he has always been a horse racing fan.
“When I was in college I was a big thoroughbred fan. I used to go to Arlington all the time. My father took me to harness racing at the old Washington Park when I was kid. I think that track burned down back in the seventies. I also used to own Arabians with my brother and sister-in-law. They were show horses and we had one stallion we stood for awhile. There was a strong market for it, but then I just drifted away from it.
“I started to stick my foot back in the water with standardbreds. I’ve had about five at different times. Basically, they were claimers. Every year we were buying one or two yearlings. My first yearling I paid $1,500 for made over $100,000. Her name was Apache Trick, and I raced her a few times at the Meadowlands. She won one and hit the board."
Barnard is currently up to 14 horses having bought four two-year-olds in Indiana. "That’s a lot for me," he said.
“This horse [St Elmo Hero] is a symbol of hope for the little guy. I’ve been fortunate to do well in my business, and I don’t need to sell this horse," said Barnard, who services and operates ATM machines in northern Illinois. "I’m also in a great situation where I can drop everything, travel with the horse and enjoy the ride. People wait for this kind of experience their whole life, and they never get a horse like this. I got lucky. I just turned 61. We’ve known this horse was good for a long time, and I just didn’t want to miss this.
“Chuck Eustis and I are the road team, and St Elmo Hero is happiest when he has company, so we’ve been bringing other horses with him. Obviously, it takes a lot to race a horse at a high level, and that’s why we want to keep a close eye on him. Chuck gives him special attention. We just make sure if anything comes up we treat it right away. It’s not like he just has one groom watching him in a large stable. Chuck has been a roofer all his life, and he’s been training horses for the past 30 years."
(With files from HRC and Meadowlands Racetrack)