In 2008, Maryland harness racing horseman Mark Callahan turned 4-year-old pacer Dream Our Way out. Three years later, the horse was still in the same field at the farm belonging to Joan Breeding and Richard Schreiber. "I said to Mark, 'he's finished growing now,'" Schreiber said.
Apparently ready to give up on the horse that had failed to make it to the races as a 2-, 3- or 4-year-old, Callahan told Breeding and Schreiber he'd give them the horse as payment for his board for the past three years. The couple, who'd come to call the big horse "Junior," accepted.
"We made a swap," Schreiber said, "and we're not sorry we did."
While the duo had never owned a racehorse before, they decided they'd like to give Dream Our Way another shot at the career he was bred for.
"I told Joan, let's fork out some money," Schreiber said, "we've been feeding him anyway."
As a 3-year-old in 2007, Dream Our Way (-Delightful Diana) was entered in two qualifying races at Harrington Raceway but went offstride during both attempts. The following year, under the tutelage of a different trainer, the pacer made breaks during two qualifying attempts in January and in a final try in February achieved a flat line of 2:05.1 after being parked the entire mile. In spite of his history, Schreiber and Breeding got Delaware-based trainer John Wilkerson to take the horse in August.
A few months later, Schreiber went to watch the horse go his first training mile.
"After that John turned him every two days for three weeks," Schreiber said.
He said at the end of October when Junior paced a mile in 2:04 on Wilkerson's dirt farm track, the trainer deemed him ready to qualify. A trip to Dover Downs proved him right, as the horse who'd gone offstride four out of five times as a youngster had no trouble pacing a mile in 1:58.3, finishing third for pilot George Dennis.
"When they were coming off the track George said he seemed a little immature and asked how old he was," Schreiber said with a laugh.
Because he was a 7-year-old maiden with just two flat lines to his name, Junior's connections opted to try him at Rosecroft Raceway, where there was not an age cap on the non-winners of one pari-mutuel race class. He drew the four hole in a maiden race at the Maryland five-eighths-mile track for Oct. 29.
"It was snowing and blowing and everything," Schreiber recalled. "The track was heavy and sloppy."
Nevertheless, driver Wayne Long steered his charge to the front of the field at the three-quarter pole. Off-track and all, Dream Our Way won his first pari-mutuel race in 2:00.1 by more than five lengths. He followed his first victory up with a second the next week, coming from far back to win by nearly two lengths in 2:01.2.
Junior found the winner's circle yet again on Nov. 12 in the "Learn and Earn" late closer at Rosecroft, dropping his record to 2:00. He won again the next week, impressing spectators with a 28.2 last quarter that left him 12 lengths ahead of his competition at the finish wire.
"Wayne just let him go," Schreiber said.
In his most recent effort, this past Friday at Rosecroft, Dream Our Way captured the $4,650 Learn and Earn final and lowered his mark by more than two seconds to 1:57.2. He is still unbeaten in five lifetime starts.
Schreiber, who had experience with racing ponies in the past, believes late-bloomer Dream Our Way has found his recent success because he's now had the time he needed to grow and mature. He said he could tell when the pacer first came to the farm that he was not done growing yet.
"He had such long legs he didn't know what to do," he said.
The horse's size caused the only issue his connections have had with him this year, as they had to make some sulky modifications to keep him from hitting his racebike. Schreiber credits Wilkerson with working to get the horse, that most people wouldn't want to spend time on, going.
"He works hard," Schreiber said.
If Dream Our Way continues to better his race times at Rosecroft, Schreiber and Breeding are hoping to race the pacer at Dover in the coming year. If not, they have no qualms about returning him to the field where he spent the last three years so he can enjoy his life with their other horses, most of which were rescued.
"He's not for sale and he's not for claimers," Schreiber said. "He's our pet."
by Charlene Sharpe, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent