Day At The Track

Sam Coven notches his 500th conditioning win

10:24 AM 16 Feb 2016 NZDT
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(L to R) Jennifer Coven, Racing manager Helen Carlo and Sam Coven Kayne Kauffman guided Meersburg to victory giving the Sam Coven stable its 500th career win
(L to R) Jennifer Coven, Racing manager Helen Carlo and Sam Coven
Conrad Photo
Kayne Kauffman guided Meersburg to victory giving the Sam Coven stable its 500th career win
Conrad Photo

Trainer Sam Coven notched his 500th conditioning win on Monday afternoon (February 15) at Miami Valley Raceway, just miles from where he was born 45 years ago in Lebanon, Ohio. Born into a harness racing family, Sam never seriously considered anything but following in the family footsteps. His father Herb Coven Jr. won multiple driving titles at both Lebanon Raceway and Latonia before succumbing to cancer way too early in his life, at age 44. His mother Mary, still doing well today at age 71, was an accomplished trainer in her own right and taught her son the business after school and on weekends, until Sam graduated from Lebanon High School and submerged himself full-time into the racing business. During the 90's Sam averaged close to 200 starts per year as a driver, winning 181 races, before losing his zeal for sulky sitting following the sudden and unexpected death of his dad.

For the past two decades, Coven has concentrated on the training side, with solid results in all but two years out of the last twenty. Sam entered 2016 coming off his two best seasons in the business. In 2014 he sent 45 horses to the winner's circle while amassing $240,741 in stable earnings. Last year his win total of 43 propelled the Coven Stable earnings to $242,231. In all, Coven's 500 training triumphs have resulted in just shy of $2 million in purse winnings.

"I can't take much of the credit," Coven laughs, "because my wife Jennifer has been the backbone of the stable since we got married almost ten years ago. She is also from a harness racing family (her father is Keith Justice) and she knows the horses as well as I do. I'll tell you how dedicated she is...both of our daughters were born on a Sunday, and both times Jennifer paddocked a horse on Saturday, the night before!"

Coven's best horse to date was Compass Connection, an Ohio Sires Stakes standout who won all five preliminary legs as a two-year-old before finishing third in the final. "My mom picked him out at the Ohio yearling sale and owned him with Charles French, who was a longtime Coven Stable supporter. Chip Noble and Brett Miller drove him that two-year-old season, then we sold him for a handsome profit," Sam recalls.

Meersburg, a $5000 claimer owned by Cheri Watts and driven by friend Kayne Kauffman, got the Coven Stable to the coveted 500 plateau. His 1:57.4 come-from-behind victory over Hidden Hall and Oyster Bay on a sloppy track was the 19th overall for the five-year-old Sand Shooter gelding.

Three races later, Coven started on his next 500 wins when his own Jackson Wyatt captured a $5000 conditioned race over Independent Spirit and Woo Shark in 1:58.1.

Gregg Keidel

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