If it wasn't for standardbred breeder Carl Becker, harness racing fans would have almost certainly never seen St Elmo Hero win 23 races straight. In fact the 5-year-old gelding and his mother Crystal Crickett would have almost certainly been dead now.
“She was sold to a killer buyer and I managed to reclaim him and the mare through court action. I owned the stallion –- and bred the mare.
“It cost us $700 to get the mare and her 2-year-old colt back home. If we didn’t do that they were destined for the slaughter yard because she was unproven as a broodmare. St Elmo Hero was her first foal and the colt was unbroken and no one wanted to drive him,” 73-year-old Becker said.
Becker owns Fair Meadow Farm which is based in Altamont Illinois. He breeds and sells horses and very seldom races them.
But when St Elmo Hero came home Becker’s son John got involved and they decided to race him with Duquoin (Illinois) trainer Shawn Nessa.
Nessa took his time with St Elmo Hero and didn't race him until his 4-year-old year in a lowly $7,000 claiming race for non winners of one race; an $1,800 pace at Balmoral Park.
"Shawn said he would win in 1:55 that night and sure enough he won in 1:55.3. [Shawn] said he had to put [Elmo] in a claimer because he wanted to qualify him for a later Indiana Series which stipulated that in order to be eligible, pacers had to have raced in one claiming race."
That was the first and last time the Beckers and Nessa raced him as they lost him in this claimer. New owner John Barnard of Orlando Park bought St Elmo Hero out of this claimer simply because he had heard what Nessa had said about the brown gelding.
“John bought him simply on the reputation Shawn had bestowed on the horse. He thought if Shawn had kept him and taken his time with him until he was 4-years-old then the horse had to be worth buying. He knew Shawn’s word and conditioning were more than reputable,” Becker said.
Since that claiming event on July 14 last year the horse that no-one wanted as a baby has now won 23 from 23 and $197,500.
Asked if he felt sick inside about losing St Elmo Hero after only one claiming race, Becker replied:
“Hell no. I am so pleased for the new owners and I have no regrets. Who knows what he would have achieved if he stayed with us? The results could have been different, but to be honest I don’t race horses and we probably would have won a couple more with him and then sold him at the Meadowlands Sale,” Becker said.
“I still get a huge thrill out of watching him win because we still have the stallion and his dam. I have no regrets and am pleased for John and Darcy Fletcher (new trainer),” he added.
Becker has been involved in harness racing since 1969. He used to announce at the Red Mile and his son Kirk is also an announcer and automobile auctioneer. He also broadcasts races for Nascar.
He said St Elmo Hero was the best horse he had been involved with but also had huge respect for his leading stallion, the son of– .
He won three of his five races and $160,325 in 2007 and 2008.
“The St Elmo hero story is a good one because he should really have been dead, killed at the slaughter house. I’m just glad I played a part in his rise to what he’s achieved now. I’m so happy for everyone involved,” Becker said.
2011 Complex Final - St Elmo Hero
By Duane RANGER (editor)