That’s something to keep in mind next weekend when the 52-year-old native of Krasnodar, Russia, who speaks charmingly fractured English, saddles one or possibly two horses in the upcoming Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Louisiana Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford on Feb. 25.
“I don’t have big expensive horses like those I run against in the big races,” said Dorochenko Friday morning during training hours. “Everybody thinks this is an easy business,” he added (gesturing with his hands as someone taking a sun bath) “but I have to work hard every day to keep my horses running. I gallop all of them myself. I don’t ever have time to take a day off. I haven’t had a day off in almost 19 years. But that’s alright. Life is all about trying.”
With a large stable of unknowns (Hero of Order broke his maiden here Jan. 7 while Adena’s Chance accomplished that feat at Hawthorne last fall), it is unlikely that even if they both run in the Risen Star they will draw much attention at the windows, but Dorochenko has been known to strike suddenly when least expected.
Last summer at Arlington Park, Dorochenko started off the season by running his filly Santina Dond in the Grade III Arlington Matron where she ran eighth, then hauled her by himself to West Virginia’s Mountaineer Park where she broke her maiden for a $30,000 tag less than a month later and then hauled her back to Arlington where she won the $65,000 Hatoof Stakes on Arlington Million Day Aug. 14. On that day she returned a $62.40 win price.
Dorochenko, of course, is something of a longshot himself. Krasnodar is a large city but has its equine oriented outskirts, so the diminutive man with a grip of iron worked with horses all his life and spent 33 years as a jockey in addition to training and owning Thoroughbreds most of those years.
In fact, as a youngster, Dorochenko worked for the noted Russian horseman Nikolai Nasibov, who rode Russia’s representative Aniline to a runner-up and a third-place finish in two renewals of Laurel Race Course’s Washington D. C. International Stakes during the mid 1960s.
However, Dorochenko’s arrival in this country, with no money and no prospects, was a struggle. Starvation was not an option, but survival was, and so after an indifferent career as a jockey on the West Coast, Dorochenko gradually began to make ends meet as a trainer and began to blossom on a more prominent scale last summer in Chicago.
“I love New Orleans,” Dorochenko said of his first winter at the local oval, “but horses are like people. They are all different, so I’m still trying to figure out where my horses fit bit best down here. But if you don’t run them, they can’t win.”
The $300,000 Risen Star Stakes, as the final designed local prep race for the 2012 $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby April 1 on closing day of the Fair Grounds season, is just one of six stakes worth a total of $885,000 that will be run a week from Saturday.
MARATHON WOMEN REMEMBERS WHAT HAPPENED ONE YEAR AGO – It’s not an anniversary anyone would want to celebrate, but Fair Grounds-based horsewoman Carmel Heitzmann, speaking on the shed row at her trainer husband Eric Heitzmann’s barn Friday morning, was quick to remember what happened exactly one year ago on this day.
Severely injured when kicked by a horse in front of the stands Feb. 17, 2011, Heitzmann’s life was in jeopardy during those first critical hours and days, but following exploratory surgery that led to the removal of 24 inches of her colon, she was released from the hospital 10 days later.
Now, the British-born but Irish-raised former flight attendant is preparing for an upcoming run in the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on March 4, but she’s doing it to raise funds for Remember Me Rescue, owned and operated by Donna and Dallas Keen.
The Keens were central to the rescue of a number of starving horses from a northern Louisiana farm in January, and Heitzmann is taking pledges for her upcoming run that will be donated directly to Remember Me Rescue.
“I ran 16 miles yesterday,” said Heitzmann Friday morning, “and tomorrow is my day off so I’m to try and go for a run of 17 or 18 miles.”
Remember Me Rescue has a specific area on its website at http://www.TeamKeen.com that allows horse lovers to donate toward Heitzmann’s upcoming marathon run.