Delaware harness racing driver Jason Lynch is quick to admit that getting a racehorse to the winner's circle is a lot harder than he thought it was as a child when he decided he wanted to make a career of it.
Nevertheless, the 22-year-old has no regrets about taking on the profession.
"I'm happy because only a handful of people can honestly say they're doing what they wanted to do," he said. "A lot of kids have dreams but they don't see them through."
Four years after getting his driving license, Lynch, who sports the red, black and gold colors of his father, A. Toby Lynch Jr., is a regular at tracks in Maryland and Delaware. Although he did not get his first win as a driver until he turned 19, Lynch has maintained a UDR above .220 each of the past four years. He has steered the winners of $701,338.
Lynch is no stranger to harness racing, as he began helping his father in the barn as a kid. Like many of those exposed to the sport at an early age, once he experienced the speed of a training mile he was hooked. Because his mother didn't want him distracted from his academic education, Lynch didn't officially sit in the sulky until June 2007.
"I qualified my first horse the day after I graduated high school," he recalled.
It was when he made it to pari-mutuel competition that Lynch realized driving was tougher than it looked.
"I had a lot of confidence going in," he said. "But you're only as good as the horse."
Lynch says he was lucky to pick up drives for his father and area trainer Sam Banks initially. He credits Cliff Green's claiming pacer Coopersmith with getting him attention on the track.
"He was a big help when I first started out," Lynch said.
Lynch appeared to have won his first race Feb. 14, 2008, but he was disqualified. Looking back, he says that happened for a reason, as his official first win came two weeks later on the hard-to-forget date of his 19th birthday. Since that victory with the aforementioned Coopersmith, Lynch has made more than a hundred trips back to the winner's circle for a variety of trainers.
Many of the horses Lynch has found success with have not been picked to win, one of the reasons he enjoys racing on half-mile tracks the most.
"There's more action and there's more moves being made," he said, "and on a big track the best horse usually wins."
While he likes being the first to cross the finish wire, Lynch says his favorite part of a race is the start.
"The best part is leaving the gate," he said, "because that's when you're going the fastest."
Although he continues to gain notice from trainers in the Mid-Atlantic area, George Teague, Jr. among them, Lynch says he likes to maintain a small stable of horses of his own to supplement his driving income.
Although he currently only owns $10,000 claimer El Cerrito, Lynch had significant success with Little Bit Tricky before she changed barns. He won 10 races in 2011 with the 5-year-old pacing mare before she was claimed in September.
On Monday night (Oct. 24), Lynch is programmed to drive three horses at Harrington Raceway, highlighted by Teague trainee Majorly Bad. The 2-year-old-Dance Major gelding boasts four wins from five starts this year as he heads to the gate in the $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund final for pacing colts and geldings.
As Lynch continues to gain experience in the bike and the trust of local trainers, he remains optimistic about his future and cognizant of what he's already achieved.
"This is what I wanted to do," he said.
by Charlene Sharpe, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent