PARTNER OF THE MONTH - NIEL & CAROLE NEILSEN
Niel and Carole Neilsen are West Point Thoroughbred's "Spotlight Partner" for the month of October.
How did you and meet each other and how did you get interested in horses?
Niel and I have known each other since we were about twelve years old, going to school at Burnt Hill- Ballston Lake, a short 20 minutes south of Saratoga Springs. As a child I had little interest in horses: my family never went to the races. When our children, Julie and Matt, were very young we moved to Saratoga Springs and have lived here for more than 30 years. As our kids grew older, we started venturing to the Saratoga Race Course to watch, and, of course, bet on the thoroughbreds. We all enjoyed it and we each had our own particular (or peculiar) way of choosing a horse and betting on him. As the years went by, it seemed to get in our blood and we went to the track more frequently.
How / why did you want to become an owner?
A few years ago, our son, Matt introduced us to Terry Finley and the West Point Thoroughbred team. We had never owned horses before and thought it might be a fun venture. We were not only impressed with Terry and his knowledge of horses, but also with the way he ran his business and treated his partners.
Who was your first horse?
Our first two horses that we purchased were Anna's Girl and Derek Man. Anna was a sweet filly who only got to race once due to a problem with stress fractures. Anna is now owned by a WPT partner and is a broodmare and last year gave birth to her first colt. Derek also had some physical problems and ended up racing in West Virginia and was claimed.
We then purchased Diggy's Dream, Fortunate Storm, Afternoon Que, and Thunderprince. The list of horses continued to grow: RJ's Brigade, Casey's Joy, Critical Decision, High Finance, Sequoyah's Tears, Soldier Gal, Flashy Bull, Adopt a Cat and our latest, Lady Buckpasser
Who was your first winner?
Our third horse was a beautiful chestnut named Diggy's Dream. What this horse lacked in talent and speed, he made up for in heart and determination. He will always be one of my favorites. Diggy was also our very first horse to make it to the winner's circle. Unfortunately, his win occurred in Charlestown, West Virginia, and neither, Niel or I were there in person to see the race.
What was your first trip to the winner's circle?
My first time in the winner's circle was with Thunderprince in October of 2004. That was truly an exciting moment for me. Other members of my family have been lucky enough to be in the winner's circle with me a few times except for Niel, who FINALLY got his chance to join us with High Finance in the Saratoga Winner's Circle on Traver's Day, 2006.
Do you have any superstitions on race day or with your horses?
Neither Niel or I have any specific race day superstitions. I know this seems unusual in the horseracing game (or sports in general), but for now, no superstitions!
Who is your favorite all-time horse? Why?
Carole - If I had to choose my favorite horse, it would have to be Flashy Bull. We were lucky enough to get to name him and he has brought us so much joy and excitement in the past year. How can you possibly top having a horse run in the Kentucky Derby? The walkover at Churchill Downs before the Derby, walking with Flashy, and having the crowd yelling his name, was the most exciting moment for me in horse racing. I don't think anything can ever top that feeling.
Niel - My favorite all time horses are Secretariat, for obvious reasons, and Alydar. I loved Alydar because he never quit in a race. Even though he lost all three 1978 triple crown races to Affirmed, he only lost the races by a total of two lengths. He had a really big heart. I was at the 1978 Travers race and will never forget it. Alydar and Affirmed went at it once again with Affirmed crossing the finish line first. However, due to interference by Affirmed, Alydar was awarded the victory. A very exciting race!!
Niel - My favorite recent horse is High Finance. He is a very talented and competitive athlete. He hates to have another horse move in front of him down the stretch. He seems to be able to find another gear in that situation and demonstrates a very big heart (Just like Alydar).
Who is your favorite all time jockey?
Niel - My favorite jockey would be the one on my winning horse, whoever that may be.
Who is your favorite trainer?
Carole - My personal all time favorite trainer would have to be Kiaran McLaughlin and his whole "team". They have been so kind and so forthcoming with information on, not only my horses, but horses in general. They are everything a "partnership" trainer should be always willing to share their vast knowledge of horses and horse racing.
Niel - My personal favorite trainer would be the one who trained my most recent winning horse!
What is your favorite track?
Our favorite racetrack is Saratoga. Another track we are especially fond of visiting is Santa Anita, in Arcadia, CA. We haven't been to a lot of racetracks, but are looking forward to visiting as many as possible in our retirement years.
If you could win any race, which would it be?
One thing I think Niel and I would definitely agree on is the answer to the question, "If you could win any race, what would it be?" It would have to be the Travers!!!!!!!!!