Day At The Track

Dr. Weir is Thoroughbred vet and Standardbred trainer

02:58 AM 16 Nov 2018 NZDT
Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print
The Meadows.jpg

WASHINGTON, PA, Nov. 15, 2018 -- In horse racing, Dr. Howard Weir, Jr. is a rare bird.

He's a Thoroughbred veterinarian who owns, trains, breeds and campaigns Standardbreds. Innocent Victim, the only horse currently racing for Weir, goes Saturday at The Meadows in race 12, post 8, for Dave Palone. First post is 1:05 PM.

A native of Butler, PA, Weir was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1975. After locating in Canfield, OH, where he still resides, Weir focused his practice on horses. He makes farm calls, and he's an assistant state veterinarian at Mountaineer Park, a Thoroughbred venue in West Virginia about 45 miles south of Weir's home.

"My main duty at Mountaineer," he says, "is to examine all horses scheduled to race that evening to make sure they're sound. I scratch any of them I don't think should race."

Despite the satisfaction he gets helping Thoroughbreds, when it comes to ownership, Weir prefers the more hands-on experience the Standardbred game allows.

"When you own Standardbreds, you can do many things yourself," he says. "I can jog them four miles myself, train them three tips myself, plus the Canfield Fairgrounds are right here. I'm not at the mercy of exercise riders or jockeys and their schedules. I may go three or four months without a racehorse, then I'll claim one."

In addition to Innocent Victim, Weir owns two broodmares and a pair of weanlings that he'll train down at the fairgrounds.

It's a wonder Weir is involved with horses of any breed after a horrific 2003 incident that occurred when he was gelding a horse at Mountaineer Park for the late Dale Baird, the all-time "winningest" Thoroughbred trainer with 9,445 victories. The patient took exception to the procedure and kicked Weir in the leg.

"I don't think the horse saw what I was doing, and I don't think the knife hurt him," Weir recalls. "I believe he was reacting to the noise of the emasculator."

Intentional or not, the blow sheared off part of Weir's left knee -- tibial crest fracture was the official diagnosis -- and left him with a limp that persists to this day. The horse's situation wasn't much better, as the surgery was only half complete. Immobilized by his injury, Weir persuaded the reluctant Baird to complete the surgery lest the horse bleed out.

"I told Dale that the horse didn't mean to kick me. He said, 'Naw, that horse was looking right at you. He wanted to kick you.' Eventually, Dale finished the procedure."

But the story wasn't done. The horse went on to become a successful performer in allowance company at Mountaineer Park until he broke down on the track several years later.

"They paged me, figuring I would want to put him down because he had hurt me. I didn't feel that way. He was a good horse who didn't mean to kick me."

Once he determined that the animal was suffering and his condition hopeless, Weir euthanized him, ending a tale of strange, dark intimacy between horse and veterinarian. It's a story Weir remembers with each labored step.

"That leg is crooked and shorter than the other, and there's a lot of hardware -- screws and plates -- in there. The University of Pittsburgh says it will build me a new knee if the pain becomes too much, but I'm still trying to limp along."

by Evan Paddok, for The Meadows

Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print

Read More News About...

Stallion Name

Next article: