Day At The Track

A special horse for breeder Merlie Schwartz

01:55 AM 28 Aug 2020 NZST
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Odds On Osiris, harness racing
Odds On Osiris
Dean Gillette Photo

One morning a little more than five years ago, Merlie Schwartz was paging through the harness racing catalog for the 2015 Blooded Horse Winter Mixed Sale when a horse caught his eye. He looked to his wife Christina and said, "This is the one I want."

The horse was 5-year-old female pacer Antigua Hanover. Schwartz paid a sales-topping $55,000 for the mare, who was a daughter of Somebeachsomewhere out of the Artsplace mare Appleonia-Art and a stakes-winner on the Pennsylvania circuit during her career.

Schwartz, a breeder from Peru, Ind., added Antigua Hanover to his broodmare band. Two years after the purchase, she produced the best horse Schwartz ever bred. Originally named Swiss Rocket -- a nod to Schwartz's business, Swiss Builders -- he sold for $60,000 at the 2018 Hoosier Sale and was renamed Odds On Osiris.

On Saturday, Odds On Osiris competes in the C$1 million North America Cup for 3-year-old male pacers at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Ontario. He is 10-1 on the morning line, starting from post 10 in the second tier for driver Sylvain Filion and trainer Melanie Wrenn.

"I've been in this for about 20 years and this is the first one to come out like this," Schwartz said. "You always dream of it, but never know if it will ever happen. When it actually happens, it's pretty special. He's pretty awesome."

Odds On Osiris, owned by Dana Parham's Odds On Racing, is a son of Rockin Image. He was Indiana's Pacer of the Year in 2019 after winning seven of 10 starts, including the Indiana Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old male pacers and two Grand Circuit stakes.

This year, Odds On Osiris has won two of five races, including the Carl Milstein Memorial. He finished third in his North America Cup elimination last week, beaten a half-length by Tall Dark Stranger, who is the final's morning-line favorite at 7-5.

North America Cup elimination last week

Odds On Osiris has finished off the board only once in 15 career starts and earned $504,955.

"He's a well-bred horse, but you never know what you really have until they get to the races," Schwartz said. "He's got a big heart, that's for sure. It's exciting."

Peter Wrenn has driven Odds On Osiris throughout his career, but turned over the lines to Filion for the North America Cup elimination and final because of international travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Pete is real good with horses, I'm really amazed with him," Schwartz said. "I watched him race as a 2-year-old and Pete took good care of him. That's helped him come back good as a 3-year-old so far. I think he's going to get better and better."

Schwartz has a 24-acre farm, where he used to keep several stallions and a broodmare band that was as large as two dozen mares at one point. He no longer has any stallions and has cut back to four broodmares.

"I do this on the sidelines," said Schwartz, who turns 61 next month. "I enjoy taking care of yearlings. I like to get them prepped and ready for the sales and hope they do well for the people that buy them. I like to take an interest in them when they're young, get them handled every day. I think that makes a world of difference.

"It's a chore, and I like chores. It gets you away from your other stuff, the things you do every day, and gets your mind off it. It's relaxing."

Schwartz got assistance from his sons before they were grown and had their own families and Christina plays a valuable role in the farm's success.

"I couldn't have done all this without help," Schwartz said. "My boys helped me the best they could, and my wife takes care of the paperwork and staking. That's a lot of help to me. And she comes out to the barn and helps me with the weanlings.

He added with a laugh, "They say the lazy one gets the help first; I must have been the lazy one."

So, what attracted Schwartz to Antigua Hanover that morning five years ago?

"I wanted to buy her based on her pedigree," Schwartz said. "She was racing real good when I bought her. People told me I should keep racing her, but that's not why I'm in business. I'm in business to breed mares. I think that (not continuing to race) helped her as a broodmare because she wasn't run down."

He is looking forward to Odds On Osiris taking on North America's top horses the rest of the season.

"He's sure been a pleasant surprise for us," Schwartz said. "You don't run across ones like him every day. He's a special horse."

For Saturday's complete Mohawk entries, click here. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT).

by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

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