By Dave Briggs
May 7, 2021 – If last week is any indication, the “million dollar experiment” is starting to pay off for Ohio-based trainer Todd Luther.
Last Saturday, he made his first start at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey in more than five years with Chief Mate, a horse that topped this year’s January Tattersalls Winter Mixed Sale with a bid of $220,000 (U.S.). The 4-year-old pacing horse was purchased by Luther’s brother, Greg, under the stable name Black Magic Racing LLC. Greg is a successful real estate coach based in Ohio who decided in 2020 to spend at least $1 million to stock Todd’s stable with potential stars.
Earlier Saturday, Todd raced Water Sports Teen in a $76,728 Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) division for 3-year-old pacing colts at The Meadows racetrack near Pittsburgh. Water Sports Teen finished third and will race at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this Saturday (May 8) in the fourth of four $30,000 Pennsylvania All-Stars divisions (Race 12, first race post of 12:30 p.m.).
Water Sports Teen was acquired by Greg Luther as part of a package of three horses purchased from the estate of noted Pennsylvania owner and breeder Bob Key, who died on Jan. 27 of this year.
“We kind of liked his lines and we saw him as a 3-year-old,” Todd said. “We raced him the first start and he went :52 / :28 for me and won by, like, 10 lengths, and Brett (Miller) got off the bike and said, ‘Man, this is a nice horse.’ Then, he won again and, before we knew it, it was four in a row and was showing real good miles.”
Brett Miller gets his 9,000th driving victory with Water Sports Teen for Todd Luther in 1:53 at Miami Valley Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/B4m51Mfux0
— Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association (@HarnessRacingOH) April 24, 2021
Racing in high-level PASS events has been great, Todd said, but racing Chief Mate at the Meadowlands was the bigger thrill.
“It was huge. I was waiting all day. I was at The Meadows, racing in the Sires Stakes and flew out with the drivers there to get to the Meadowlands and I couldn’t wait all day. He raced really sharp Monday at Yonkers and it was a little scary racing him five days back, but we would’ve had to train him fast anyways. I was very excited to be on the big stage and nervous at the same time,” Todd said, adding he’s only raced one other horse at the Meadowlands.
“I had a horse that was out east a long time ago, I think five or six years, and we needed a start and just raced him there and he was just in a non-winners of one, but this is the first time on the big stage like that and it was very exciting.”
Chief Mate finished third on May 1 in his $50,000 Graduate division won by Ruthless Hanover. It was the first strong start for the son of Captaintreacherous out of Heaven Forbid who had battled sickness earlier in the year.
“I would say three weeks ago, right after the Borgata (Series at Yonkers), his blood wasn’t 100 per cent and we had a little tie up. So, we’ve been working on that,” Todd said.
“Last Saturday, he paced a huge back half with Dexter (Dunn) driving. He was really happy with him and said he had plenty of pace on the end and he steers straight and everything, so I think we’ve got him right back on the right track with his blood… I think he paced his last half in 52:2 or something the other night and came a huge last quarter, so we’re very, very happy with him.”
Todd said Chief Mate will race again at the Meadowlands on May 15 in the next leg of the series. Before that, he will start A Fancy Face in Friday’s (May 7) $30,000 Miss Versatility stakes race at the Meadowlands (race 12, first post 6:20 p.m.).
Greg Luther’s million-dollar experiment to purchase better stock has now exceeded $4 million, by his own accounting. Todd said he’s thrilled to be given the opportunity, but admits it’s brought some added pressure to try to return some of his brother’s investment.
“It’s tough because I want to do my best,” Todd said. “My biggest fear is failing, and I do not want to fail. I don’t want to be the laughingstock for the money that he’s spent, but every day, everybody in the barn comes to work hard. The pressure, I think, will mount up later in the year once they all get racing, but so far so good, I think.
“We’ve come a long way from the claimers. It’s a totally new ball game. From prepping horses other than claimers that you race every week, to now prepping horses for the races we want to be in, I’ve been very fortunate this year… that Greg said, ‘We’re going to be put on the map.’”