Brenda Watson is the perfect person to be lobbying harness racing rights and initiatives to Illinois politicians. Watson has the sport deeply entrenched in her heart. She loves horses. Always has - and she loves fighting for the little guy.
Watson has been around race horses in Fairfield (Illinois) for most of her life. She is a respected owner/breeder and lobbyist, who for the last 13 years has been the membership and grass roots co-ordinator for the Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association (IHHA).
But residing on her family farm in Fairfield doesn’t make it easy. She lives 3-1/2 and four hours from Balmoral and Maywood Parks - and her Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association (IHHA) offices are in the suburbs of Chicago.
But Watson, ever dedicated to fighting for harness racing rights and concerns, overcame the rising gas barrier by buying herself a camper.
When Harnesslink conducted this interview she was parked up at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield three hours from home.
“There are so many rising costs in harness racing and gas is just one of them. I work from January to May, and then November, on the road so it made sense to avoid the hotel bills as well,” Watson said.
Watson said her job was an intensive one and relied on a lot of education – especially when trying to put across reality to win a politician’s vote.
“It’s more than just trying to convince the Governor to let us have the slots. There’s a lot of talking with both horsemen and politicians.
“What I don’t like about politicians - are the ones who say they will vote for our bill before the Government and then blatantly don’t.
“At least you know where you stand with the politician who blatantly says no from the outset,” Watson told Harnesslink.
Politics aside, its family and horses first for 52-year-old Watson. She has broodmares and babies at her Fairfield farm and her son Trenton is a trainer/driver.
She’s been going to the races and getting up close and personal with the horses since her childhood.
Watson was 19 years younger than her sister Ruth, who married Ellery trainer/driver Delbert Burkett.
“Going to the races with my sister got me hooked. I had two uncles that raced horses as well. I just loved being with the horses and going to the track.
“I’ve loved horses ever since,” Watson said.
When she left school she worked for a bank and bought her first horse in 1985. That was also about the time she started taking Trenton to the races.
“I had horses with trainers like Erv Miller, J.D. Finn and Rick Schrock. I also had horses when I worked for an off-track betting parlour,” Watson said.
Watson worked for off-track betting from 1988 to 1995 and then got elected to the IHHA Board of Directors when Tony Morgan was at the helm.
Then in 2000 she resigned from the Board after it recommended that she apply for her current position.
The Watsons have 16 horses including nine 2-year-olds.
“We have four Illinois-bred 2-year-olds – two trotters and two pacers – and five Pennsylvania bred pacers.
“I love horses I them like they were my little kids,” Watson said.
She said the best pacer she had owned was IYK and Merry High and Merrily Along were her favourite trotters.
“IYQ was wonderful. We have aweanling out of her named IYQ Too. I love the breeding side of it and my other son Braden studies pedigrees and we breed from his advice.
“I am proud of my boys. Braeden graduates with a marketing degree on May 4 and then a week later Trenton gets married,” Watson said.
By the way who is the IHHA? Who are they? -
By Duane RANGER (editor)