By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
CLARKSVILLE. Ohio — In Ohio, harness racing is as synonymous with county fairs as cotton candy. Starting in the 1800s, the Buckeye State was among the first to feature harness racing at county fairs.
In 2019, pacers and trotters will provide entertainment at 62 such fairs, according to the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Assoc. (OHHA). That’s the most in the nation. And Hagemeyer Farms will have horses racing at 25 fairs this year, carrying on a long tradition of fair involvement.
Scott Hagemeyer is the current farm manager. His grandfather, Maynard, started in the Standardbred industry in the 1960s and was a senior fair board member in the Warren County Agricultural Society. He served 28 years as race secretary for the Ohio Colt Racing Assoc. (OCRA) fair stakes.
His father, Mel, served many years on the Warren County Fair Board and was recently inducted into the Warren County Fair Managers Assoc. Hall of Fame. He retired from the Lebanon Raceway after 45 years as director and general manager.
Hagemeyer Farms is a boarding, breeding, and foal care facility, with primarily Standardbred horses, said Hagemeyer, also a board member of the OHHA. His daughter, Lyndsay, in her second year at The Ohio State University veterinary school, helps at the farm.
“We board about 80 horses year-round,” he said. “We do everything from breeding, raising the babies, and a nominal amount of training. The interesting part is to see a baby that is born here go on to be a very successful racehorse, and then at the end of their racing career to see them come back to a breeding program.
“We currently have six horses, of various age groups, racing all over the place. Last year we were extremely proud – one of our colts born and bred here, High On Paydaze, was voted the OHHA’s Ohio Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year.”
Three stallions stand at the farm, which is one of 72 Standardbred farms statewide. The Hagemeyers do all of the breeding by artificial insemination. Foals start coming in February through about the end of June; 30 mares will be delivering this year.
“Every one of these animals has a different personality,” Hagemeyer said. “We get to see them at the moment of their birth. It is interesting to see that they’re born with a personality. You can modify that somewhat by how they’re raised and interacted with.
“A lot of them enjoy what they’re doing. Some are not excited by the sport, and those horses are transitioned into another path.”
In 2011, the year before the state of Ohio legalized video lottery terminal (VLT) slot machines, Hagemeyer’s was standing two stallions and bred 12 mares. “We weren’t very busy,” he said.
In 2012 the VLTs were legal, but the physical facilities were not yet built. The farm had five stallions standing and bred 115 mares. Hagemeyer is aware there is negativity surrounding the VLTs. Gambling must be discretionary, he said, but is like any other form of entertainment and doesn’t cost any more than dinner out and a movie.
Also, he said horse racing contributes to the economy. A nutritionist from the local feed mill creates a custom blend for the farm. They feed three tons weekly. Their horses consume about 4,000 square bales of hay a year, and upwards of 200-250 round bales. The money for that feed, most of which they source locally, is well spent.
A Hagemeyer Farms 5-year-old, racing in Cleveland, has earned more than $1 million in his lifetime. His mother also made well over $1 million. His sire, who is also the sire of High On Paydaze, earned more than $2 million. With a record like that, the farm could easily expand. But Hagemeyer chooses not to.
“The name of our farms is Hagemeyer Farms, so anything we’re doing represents my family name,” he said. “It is extremely important that we can offer a quality service at a reasonable level, and I choose not to become so inundated with work that we can’t provide that quality of service to our clients.”