This is the ELEVENTH installment on Winbak Farms, one of the most successful breeding farms in the sport of harness racing.
By Mike Bozich for Post Time with Mike and Mike
THE JEFF FOUT STORY: PART TWO
This is Part TWO of Two of the Jeff Fout Story. Fout is currently the head trainer at Winbak Farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland. He also drives, primarily on the Delaware / Maryland circuit. Fout has 4,563 driving wins and $23,255,101 in career earnings.
Jeff Fout has been the Head Trainer at Winbak Farm in Maryland for approximately nine years. He is in charge of getting yearlings ready for their racing careers. As one can imagine, his day starts with the suns first rays.
"The first thing I do is check results on the computer," Fout said. "I try to watch every horse that races. At that point, I'll get with Joe Thomson (Winbak Owner) and we talk about them." Fout and Thomson will assess the performances of the horses, and decide the best course of action going forward for each horse. Fout will get a hold of each trainer, and will either offer, or in some cases seek, advice about each race horse.
After the morning meetings, Fout then heads to the barn to train. "I physically like to train 25-45 head per day myself," Fout explained. Afterwards, the head trainer and his team will pack feet, wrap legs, and feed the horses. Fout also races 2-3 nights per week, usually at either Dover or Harrington. Sunday is usually a day off, but Fout explains there are always things to do. "I like to do various activities, including track maintenance," Fout said. "At a farm, you have to do a lot of things yourself. If something breaks, you fix it. Any grass that grows, you mow it. It's hard work, but I enjoy it."
Fout credits much of the success of Winbak yearlings to the training track itself. "I want my horses to experience everything on this track that they will experience on a racetrack of any size," Fout said. "I have a water truck, tractor, pylons, and starting gates to school them up. I try to make horses as user friendly as possible." The track itself is a five-eighths mile track with half-mile turns. "The track has sharp turns and long stretches. We want horses set up to go on the small and large racetracks," Fout said.
Although the infrastructure is in place, working with young horses presents its share of challenges. "You have to get them to think right," Fout laughs. "They are like kids out there. Some of them get panic stricken, so the goal is to get them happy and comfortable." Fout prefers a slow training style when breaking babies. Fout explains that it's part of a philosophy to not press hard in the very beginning. "I don't want them to start off thinking it's like work," Fout said. "I build them up slowly so they are in condition to work, then I will slowly increase the work load."
A lot of the yearlings Fout breaks for Winbak are horses that are called 'keeps'. These are yearlings that weren't sold for a variety of reasons. "It's kind of like raising kids," Fout said. "You take pride in bringing along a horse that was a slow learner."
Despite the many challenges that goes along with teaching babies the ropes, Fout continues to enjoy his time at Winbak Farm. "Mr. Thomson has accumulated a real good team to work with," Fout said. "Everyone here knows their job inside and out." Fout explained that first and foremost, everyone that works at Winbak loves horses. "I don't know if I ever met someone that loves horses more than Mr. Thomson," Fout said. "Mr. Thomson and his team spend a lot of money and time on care of horses. They spend a lot of resources to make sure that these yearlings have the possible chance of becoming great race horses."