This is the THIRTEENTH 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
ELIZABETH CHEESMAN HAS FOUND HER "NICHE" IN HARNESS RACING
Ever since she was a child, Winbak Farm Public Relations and Marketing Director Elizabeth Cheesman has been following her passion. A native of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Cheesman was exposed to the sport of harness racing by her Mother (Barb Lewis). Lewis did it all from a racing perspective. She has been an owner, trainer, driver and breeder. The young Cheesman was poised to follow in her footsteps.
After getting her grooms license at a young age, Cheesman was gifted by her Mother with a horse of her own, a paint named Iza Grand Lady. She went on to show her new horse, along with Iza Jezabel (daughter of Iza Grand Lady) at some local 4H and open shows, where she went on to win awards. She also placed at the Ohio State Fair.
In high school however, Cheesman's potential training and driving career took a bad turn, as she suffered a broken back. It did little however to dim the fire she had for the Equine Industry.
She started out in pre-vet in college, but decided to switch majors. While in college, she attended the Clyde Hirt Media Workshop and served as the editor for the school newspaper. She graduated from the University of Findlay (Ohio) with a Bachelor's Degree in Public Relations and Equine Business Management.
After a summer grooming job, and even a gig at a plastic parts factory, her dream opportunity was about to become available.
"I made a post on Facebook about a job search," Cheesman said. "I was going on interviews for jobs that I just was having a hard time getting excited about." Her post was answered by Winbak Farm's Chris Fout. After submitting her resume, she was offered an interview. "Ironically, I got a call that I was laid-off from the factory while on the trip to Maryland," Cheesman said. When she arrived, the farm was love at first sight. "This part of Maryland is very competitive with Kentucky on the amount of farms and beautiful landscapes. It was love at first sight with the farm after Garrett (Winbak Farm General Manager) took my Dad and I on a tour."
Cheesman has plenty of duties presently at Winbak Farm. As the Director of Public Relations and Marketing, she is tasked with keeping Winbak in the public spotlight. Her tasks include graphic design, press releases, designing sales materials, and updating the farm's website. Cheesman has also developed quite a social media following for Winbak. "We get several compliments on how many people get involved on our media," Cheesman said. "My goal is to use our social media platform to get current fans involved but to also expose harness racing to as many people as possible." Cheesman believes that the positive promotion of harness racing through social media can help show the good sides of racing.
She also provides breeding/stallion picks and suggests ideas for what mares should be bred to whom. One of Cheeseman's recent projects has been trying to find gray broodmares with good pedigrees. She also makes appearances at racetracks for trophy presentations.
Cheesman is quick to give credit to what she says is a tremendous team at Winbak. "I have to give recognition to Laura Trzonkowski. I am so lucky to have a proofer who is very meticulous in details."
Cheesman works closely with Kimberly Zeller, who is the daughter of Winbak Farm owners Joe and JoAnn Thomson. "She is the usual liaison between Joe and myself since he is very busy with his financial company. She is very creative and helps come up with new design ideas."
Harness Racing has supplied Cheesman with many great memories. She helped the farm find Village Madonna, who's first foal was world champion Travel Playlist. Before she came to Winbak Farm, she groomed Stable Creek Barb, who crossed the line first in an Ohio Sire Stakes Final. The filly was named after her Mom, and was the biggest race her Mother won as a trainer.
Currently, Cheesman had a front row seat to two straight second place Hambletonian finishes that were Winbak graduates, both trained by Julie Miller (Devious Man 2017, Met's Hall 2018). Another Winbak graduate (Courtly Choice) won the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug. The now 4-year-old will return to the races in 2019.
Despite Cheesman's current indoor job, she always tries to find time to visit the horses. "There is a broodmare here named Summersgrandlady, and she was born close to when I started at the farm," Cheesman said. The horse is named after Cheesman's riding horse (Iza Grand Lady) who played a big part in Cheesman's formative years in the business.
As far as what's down the road for this youthful veteran, she is hoping for more of the same. "I believe my job (at Winbak) is the perfect 'niche' for me and I don't see wanting to leave anytime soon." Eventually, she would like to get more into breeding her own horses. She currently has a broodmare, Stablecreekcruiser, and a 2-year-old, Stable Creek Kay, in partnership with her Mom. She plans to continue her owner partnership with her mother as long as her mom continues to train.