Day At The Track

'Meatball' & Matthews lead horses to Post

09:48 PM 14 Jul 2011 NZST
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Rachel Matthews on 'Meatball'
Rachel Matthews on 'Meatball' - real name 'Survive This'

Hoosier Park harness racing trainer Rachel Matthews will join Outrider Neil Stalhiem is presenting horses for the races this evening as the official Parade Marshall. Matthews will be aboard her retired Standardbred, Survive This, during the evening's activities.

A native of Michigan, Matthews followed family footsteps into harness racing. She is now teamed up with boyfriend Ross Leonard and they oversee a stable of 12 at Hoosier Park. Included in their stable is nine-year-old Survive This, affectionately known around the barn as “Meatball.”

“Meatball” was born and raised by Matthews and had a promising career as a racehorse. The son of Survivor Gold briefly raced at two but returned as a three-year-old to win six races. He took a career record of 1:54.4 at Indiana Downs in 2007 before an injury to his high suspensory in his left hind ended his career on the track.

Matthews worked hard to rehabilitate “Meatball” and transition him into a riding horse. The job has paid off in the end as he is now capable of several different jobs at the track. “I started out trail riding with him,” said Matthews. “It does take time from the track to the outriding duties. Trail riding was no problem, but we’ve spent a lot of time with him converting him over to outride.

Neil (Stalhiem) has been a great help.” In addition to getting used to being ridden, “Meatball” had to be taught the basics of a riding horse, including neck reining, leg signals, and properly cantering under saddle. Getting him to canter was the biggest obstacle for Matthews.

“Standardbreds are taught to carry their heads up, so Neil put a tie down on him and some running reins, teaching him to carry his head down and eventually canter.”

“Meatball” seems to be fully recovered from his injury, but wear and tear of traveling fast in his customary pace gait would most likely be out of the question.

He is a good representative of what most Standardbreds can do after they retire, giving them numerous options outside of the racetrack.

“It’s been fun to watch him (“Meatball”) be so versatile,” said Matthews. “He’s gone from being a racehorse to helping the racehorses.”

“Meatball” started last year assisting Stalhiem as an outriding pony a few nights a week.

This season, he has bumped up his time on the track for Stalhiem, working four nights per week during the Standardbred racing season.

Both Stalhiem and Matthews hope to possibly introduce “Meatball” to working as a Thoroughbred outriding pony when the 2011 Thoroughbred meet starts Tuesday, Aug. 2.

“Meatball” will come down to the paddock fence during races six and seven to meet and greet fans this evening.

He will join Dot Morgan from New Vocations Racehorse Adoption to show the versatility of the racehorse and provide racing fans with ways to assist the program or to adopt a retired racehorse.

Treats will be provided to fans for “Meatball” before he returns to work to escort the final races of 2011 to the post.

New Vocations will be on-hand throughout the evening to provide information about retired racehorses and availability and adoption procedures.

They are part of the “Back to the Track” national harness racing program.

For more information, visit  www. 

Tammy KNOX

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