East Rutherford, NJ - Golden Receiver is a gift that keeps on giving, and the pacer's charitable contributions now include the Hairy Angel Foundation.
"The Golden One" has brought life-changing fortune to his breeder and co-owner Nina Simmonds, and she continues to give back and pass on the good karma she's been blessed with through her charity work.
Golden Receiver is a nine-year-old pacer by, who is one of those rare birds that has simply gotten better later in life, and has risen to be a star and fan favorite at the top level of harness racing for the past few years.
In 2013, he made it back-to-back Presidential Series sweeps at the Meadowlands, won the Allerage Farms Final at The Red Mile and finished second by a nose in the TVG FFA Final at the Big M.
Withdriving for trainer , Golden Receiver won his 2014 debut at the New Meadowlands on February 22, his 26th tally in 62 starts at the Big M. He now has 59 wins in 147 career starts and has earned $2,107,636 for Simmonds of Binghamton, NY, and Our Horse Cents Stable of Clifton Park, NY.
Golden Receiver will go for career win number 60 from post six [program number five] in Saturday's $30,000 feature, carded as race two on a 13-race program.
Simmonds' Cinderella story began back in the early eighties when she decided to quit her job and pursued her dream of working with horses. Simmonds and her late husband purchased Windy Hill Farms, a 60-acre property in Binghampton, NY.
After 25 years, Simmonds' operation fell on hard times, and she was ready to sell the farm, as well as Golden Receiver for a few thousand dollars.
Fortunately, Golden Receiver got good, real good. Simmonds sold a share of the horse, sent him to trainer, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Not only did Golden Receiver pay off the bills and save the ranch, the pacer has also afforded Simmonds the opportunity to use his earnings to fund several charitable organizations. To top it off, it was eventually discovered the farm was sitting on the Marcella Shale natural gas source.
Simmonds continues to support Equitarian Initiative, a group that unites veterinarians, blacksmiths and animal caregivers who go on missions in Costa Rica and Mexico.
Simmonds has also assisted New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, which retrains racehorses and gives them a new life.
Her latest venture is getting involved with the Hairy Angel Foundation, a charity based in Sedona, Arizona and Dallas, Texas that provides Service Golden Retrievers to special needs children. The dog raising and training is done by volunteers and professionals before they provide an assistance to and a magical bond with the autistic and challenged.
Their website is www.hairyangelfoundation.org.
"This year I was looking for some sort of little guy charity, and I've known the director, Fran Elliott since the early eighties," said Simmonds. "We met in New Jersey and she's been my best friend. She fell in love with my dog, a Golden Retriever, and saw the potential. The breed loves children. Fran moved out to Sedona and started breeding and raising them for autistic children. She's been in business for 18 years and placed over 100 dogs all over the country. We're trying to fill the backlog of requests.
"They'll take the puppies when they're eight weeks old, and train them to become service dogs in public places," she continued. "It's just a miracle when you see these kids who have never smiled or spoken get one of these dogs. Then, they're suddenly smiling and chattering. It changes their lives. Their parents can't believe the transformation made by this animal that is totally devoted to them. I went along when we placed a dog last week, and it was such a moving experience. We introduced the puppy to this boy, and his mother has called everyday in tears thanking us."
Simmonds admits to being a nervous wreck whenever Golden Receiver is in training.
"All his races are the same to me," she noted. "It doesn't matter what the purse is. I want him to look good, and of course, I want him to win. I'm just so proud he's still out there plugging away at his age.
"Last season, he actually wasn't as good as he could've been because he had a serious hoof abscess or infection. That plagued him through the whole middle of the year. They packed it and tried every kind of shoe. Those things just don't heal overnight. But it's done and it's gone. I'm just hoping for another good year.
"He's always had a big knee and he can't go on a half mile track. I'm glad the Meadowlands has a bank on the turns so he can clear that knee. He does wear these big felt boots and the tough guy just keeps on going. He has zip in vet bills. He's so happy because he's with the same trainer,and groom, Billy Mandrell. He knows exactly what's expected of him.
"We keep forgetting he's not just a nine-year-old that's racing. He's facing the best horses in the world. He's just a dream. Nobody expected this from some backyard bred by some girl who raced cheap claimers.
"I bred both of Golden Receiver's sisters to Rocknroll Heaven last year, and they've got two gorgeous foals I'm going to sell at Harrisburg next Fall.
"One day I was jogging a horse on my farm track, looked around and saw my Golden Retriever. I thought his name had to be Golden something because the dam is Royal Gold, so I came up with Golden Receiver. It's just amazing he turned out to be the best one she had."
by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands