Day At The Track

Rodney DeBeck living the dream in Lexington

08:22 AM 15 Aug 2018 NZST
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Sleep In, harness racing
Sleep In with Rodney DeBeck
Rodney DeBeck photo

Rodney DeBeck grew up in Lexington and as a child made frequent trips to The Red Mile, where he would imagine himself sitting behind horses speeding to victory. After spending some time as an adult working for a car dealership, he made his harness racing dream a reality.

The 45-year-old DeBeck trains a six-horse stable at The Red Mile, which on Thursday hosts the first round of the Kentucky Sire Stakes for 2-year-old male and female trotters. Peter Haughton Memorial champion Don't Let'em headlines the card, competing in the first of two $30,000 divisions for the colts. DeBeck's Sleep In, a three-time winner on the Kentucky Fair Stakes circuit and runner-up in the fair final, is in the same division.

"When I saw that, I thought: Oh my," said a laughing DeBeck, who in addition to training Sleep In also drives the horse. "This colt is an OK colt. He's still learning. He has ability. I don't know if he has the ability of (Don't Let'em) but he does have some go to him."

DeBeck owns Sleep In with Dream Acres Equine. The colt is a son of Explosive Matter out of Misty Mollymorning, who is a full sister to millionaire Likeabatoutahell. He was purchased for $12,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale.

"I'm going to try to play with the big boys this year," DeBeck said. "We tried last year, it just didn't work out. But anytime you race against these kinds of guys -- the Takters, the Burkes, the Tony Alagnas -- you just want to work harder so you can get where they are. That's my goal."

DeBeck's drive in Thursday's sire stakes will be for the most lucrative purse of his career, although he has trained horses that have raced for more money. In 2015, Lonoke Valley Chip and Coyote's Star both finished second in $175,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes championships. In 2016, Dazzling Rose was the runner-up in a KYSS final.

"I've been fortunate to be in the sire stakes and be competitive," said DeBeck, who worked for 10 years for Kevin Thomas before starting his own stable. "I love the competition and the excitement. And, of course, making money. But growing up playing sports, I played football and baseball in high school, I'm very competitive. That's what I like about it. I go to the track, I don't care if you're my friend or not, I'm there to beat you."

DeBeck, whose grandfather, Bill Head, ran the kitchen at The Red Mile in the 1960s and early 1970s, began racing on his own at The Red Mile in 2007. He got his first Red Mile training win in 2010 and his first driving win at the oval in 2012.

"I was very nervous and very excited," DeBeck said about his first race at The Red Mile, which is located four miles from where he grew up. "It was a great experience. It still is.

"When I was a young kid I dreamed of doing this stuff. It's great (to be at The Red Mile); you see friends that you went to high school with, they come out and see you. It gets you excited. It's a great feeling."

DeBeck's plan is to continue racing a small stable and live his dream.

"I just try to do my best," DeBeck said. "I do everything myself. It makes for a very long day, but I enjoy it. I enjoy being with my horses and working with my horses. I think that's how you get to learn what the horse needs and what his wants are.

"This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, until I can't do it anymore. If I don't have horses myself, I'll work for somebody. I love all the business. To me, there are no bad days. Any time you wake up and get to do what you love, it's great."

by Ken Weingartner, for USTA

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