By Jay Bergman for Breeders Crown
It’s hard to believe that one race could make such an enormous difference, but to Trent Stohler, being part of Extreme Velocity’s upset victory in the 1997 Breeders Crown Mare Pace was a life changing experience.
Stohler will start Rock On Ladys in an elimination of the Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Filly Pace on Friday at Hoosier Park, but the memory of his first Crown experience is still fresh, 20 years later.
“I was doing pretty well driving in Indiana,” Stohler said, “But because of Extreme Velocity and the people I was able to meet traveling with her to the Meadowlands and to Ontario, it changed my life and my career.”
Stohler recalls that the trip to the Meadowlands prior to the 1997 Breeders Crown by no means meant the horse, owned by his father Kenneth and uncle Merrill, would participate in the actual event.
“They had paid the supplement to make her eligible for the Breeders Crown,” said Stohler of the decision to nominate the once-beaten 4-year-old mare that had dominated in Indiana as a sophomore. “But when they sent her to the Meadowlands they were just trying to see how she fit.”
The good news for Stohler and Extreme Velocity was that they put John Campbell up to drive her. “John came back and said that we had to put her in the Breeders Crown and that she deserved a shot.”
The Extreme Velocity story is one of extremely humble beginnings and that of two brothers, who, upon retiring from years of work at General Motors, decided to breed a mare of somewhat questionable pedigree.
“They owned the mare together and raced her,” said Stohler of Hasty Grand Slam, a mare that raced 20 times total as a 3- and 4-year-old and won exactly once with $1,617 in career earnings. “Hasty Grand Slam was a mare with a lot of heart,” said Stohler. “She broke a knee and they decided to breed her.”
The brothers proved right about the mare as her first seven foals all made the races; included in that group was Smartdecision, a son of The Denman who scored in 1:53 3/5 as a 2-year-old at The Red Mile in 1991.
But it was the mating with Camtastic that yielded Extreme Velocity. The filly trained down very well as a 2-year-old before beginning to sore up late in the training sessions.
“They decided to stop with her and give her time to mature,” said Stohler. As a relatively small stable back then, the Stohlers returned Extreme Velocity to training for her 3-year-old season, but were pretty much unable to assess just how good the filly was.
“We really didn’t have anyone to train her against to get a feel of just what kind of horse she could be,” said Stohler. “One day I was talking to Ernie Gaskin, I had worked for him for a few years and I noticed that he had an Open horse (at Hoosier Park) that had missed a week and that he was going to go a big training trip with. I asked him if I could tow along with Extreme Velocity.”
That training trip let Stohler know just what kind of horse he was sitting behind. “I tracked Ernie’s horse into the stretch and when Extreme Velocity pulled out, she finished right with him.”
In 1996, Trent drove and trained Extreme Velocity to 15 wins in 16 starts. “She never lost a race at Hoosier Park that year,” said Stohler. Her lone defeat came at Fairmount Park in Open company.
It was the end of the 3-year-old campaign and the first meeting with John Campbell at Garden State Park that gave the family confidence that Extreme Velocity belonged.
“When we took her out east to Garden State Park it was perhaps the first time we realized how good she was,” said Stohler recalling the late closing series in the fall that Extreme Velocity captured. Stohler drove her in the final, but Campbell sat behind her on one victorious occasion.
That Stohler was driving or training Extreme Velocity so late in her sophomore season was a turning point as well.
“They were offered $200,000 for her during the Lexington Grand Circuit that year,” said Stohler, who remembered clearly what was at stake. “Since both were retiring from General Motors, they consulted with their accountant to find out exactly what $200,000 would actually come to with taxes and such. In the end they decided it would be best to continue to own her and watch her race.”
Extreme Velocity had developed a racing style during her 3- and early 4-year-old season as a strict closer. Stohler explained how that evolved.
“It was in the early days at Hoosier Park with the long stretch,” he said. “You could just sit and wait and she would chase and pass horses. Boy have things changed, it’s much more aggressive today.”
As far as Breeders Crown day, it was one that Stohler remembers vividly.
“I flew in from Indiana and got there in time to warm her up. She was really good that day, but after she won I had to run out quickly and catch a plane because we had horses in stakes at Hoosier Park that night. When I got to Indiana, a friend drove me to the airport right to the paddock. I had my colors on and when I got to the gate the guard asked to see my license. I didn’t have my license on me, but I was in full colors and they finally let me in right before the horses were going on the track,” Stohler said.
“It was a great night. I won a few races and afterwards we were all able to have a big party.”
Extreme Velocity went on to career earnings of $856,070 and helped Stohler’s career immeasurably. “When I was in Ontario I would run into Carmen Hie, John Hayes and so many others. I meet plenty of horsemen from New Jersey. It was fantastic and over time, when many of those would need to send horses to Indiana, they would give me a call,” Stohler said.
Extreme Velocity went on to be a solid broodmare in her own right, producing three open class mares in Real Velocity, Ultimate Velocity and Continual Velocity, a trio that earned over $1 million collectively.
The Stohlers’ Captain Velocity, a 3-year-old by Somebeachsomewhere is currently campaigning at Hoosier Park, the host of this year’s Breeders Crown. For Stohler it has come full circle, as 20 years ago he was first arriving on the national scene and today, the racetrack he calls home gets its moment to share the spotlight.
By Jay Bergman for Breeders Crown