Day At The Track

Kentucky fairs fuel owner's passion

11:09 AM 07 Feb 2018 NZDT
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Worldofrockzee won four of 11 starts in 2017, including the Kentucky Fair Stakes championship, and earned $19,372 in purses.
Stanley Wildharber Photo

Hightstown, NJ --- Stanley Wildharber might not have been born to race at the Kentucky fairs, but it seems close to the case. Wildharber grew up two blocks from the Ballard County Fairgrounds in La Center and at an early age was riding his bicycle there to be around the horses.

Eventually, he was cleaning stalls, harnessing horses, jogging, training and traveling to other fairs. Today, the 46-year-old Wildharber remains a fixture at the fairgrounds, helping to maintain the track and promote harness racing, even when he had no horses of his own to race.

Right now, though, Wildharber has a horse. Her name is Worldofrockzee and she is one of the queens of the fair circuit. Last year at the age of 2, the homebred filly pacer won four of 11 starts, including the Kentucky Fair Stakes championship, and earned $19,372 in purses.

“It was a great year,” said Wildharber, whose harness racing operation is made up of two horses: Worldofrockzee and her dam, Cara Mia Hall.

Cara Mia Hall was Wildharber’s first horse, and she came into his life as a gift. Literally. An acquaintance gave the filly to Wildharber soon after she was purchased as a yearling in 2005. Cara Mia Hall was unraced as a 2-year-old because of an injury, but won her debut at 3 by 16-1/2 lengths at Bluegrass Downs. Unfortunately, health issues continued to hamper Cara Mia Hall, prompting Wildharber to give her a try as a broodmare.

“She was meant to be a racehorse, but she had something always going wrong with her,” Wildharber said. “But she wanted to be a racehorse. She is all heart.”

Worldofrockzee, sired by World Of Rocknroll, is Cara Mia Hall’s fourth foal and the third to find the winner’s circle multiple times on the fair circuit.

“She was mean from the day she was born,” Wildharber said about Worldofrockzee. “I didn’t have anybody to help me break her, so I took her to a guy in Illinois and got her broke. She was ornery from there on, but she was a natural pacer from the start. She’s not very tall, but she has a very long gait. And a big muscular rear end.

“I wasn’t going to breed my mare back, but after I got (Worldofrockzee) to pacing, I knew I had to breed her again. She is expecting a foal by Riggins in the middle of March.”

Wildharber brought Worldofrockzee to the fairs in western Kentucky, where she finished second in all three starts, before turning the filly over to his friend Jack Gray Jr. to handle the training. Worldofrockzee, driven regularly by Randy Crisler, won her next four in a row, culminating with her victory in the fair championship at Lexington’s Red Mile.

Worldofrockzee raced four more times at Lexington the remainder of the campaign. She finished third in an overnight behind Kentucky Sire Stakes champion Band Stand and concluded the season with a sixth-place finish in a late closer, after which she was found to be sick.

“She raced pretty good, but she didn’t have the pop she had been having,” Wildharber said. “That was it. We treated her, brought her home, and turned her out. She’s been back jogging now for a week. I took her to Jack and he’s going to get her ready. We’re going to try to race maybe in Ohio a little bit before the fairs start.

“Maybe we’ll be good and ready and win all the fairs this year,” he added, laughing. “That’s the hope.”

Wildharber said Worldofrockzee filled out during her time off, but had not changed in other ways.

“She’s still mean as ever,” he said. “You just have to make her think she’s getting her way even though she’s not. She’s pretty headstrong.”

Wildharber, who works in a power plant, says harness racing is a hobby, but a big part of his life.

“I have a lot of good friends that I’ve made over the years through horseracing,” Wildharber said. “Jack Gray is like my second dad. We talk every couple days. I’ve really bonded with a lot of people through the horseracing.”

Worldofrockzee, who last year was seventh, beaten by five lengths, in her only start in the sire stakes, will again look to rock the fair circuit in 2018. The fair program, administered by the Kentucky Colt Association, offers purses of $5,000 for each race in seven preliminary rounds and $15,000 for each final.

The Kentucky Sire Stakes and Kentucky Fair Stakes have both enjoyed resurgences thanks to a change in eligibility requirements to permit foals out of “resident mares” to compete regardless of where the stallion stands. This season marks the second year of racing under those conditions. Worldofrockzee's sire, World Of Rocknroll, was standing stud in Ohio when bred to Wildharber's Cara Mia Hall in 2014.

“We’re going to focus on the fairs,” Wildharber said about Worldofrockzee’s 2018 schedule. “For the money they’re going for, I just can’t not go for the fairs.

“I can’t wait for this year. We’ve got high hopes.”

by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

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