The Horse Race Insider is a privately owned magazine. All copyrights reserved. “Bet with your head, not over it.”

The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

SHULTS’ ‘FAMILY’ IN HARNESS

By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Michael Shults was fascinated by horses at an early age – his family had been involved in harness racing before he was born and Shults appeared in his first winner’s circle photo as an infant – but it wasn’t until recently that he embarked on his own career in the sport.

In 2021, Shults joined with his father, William, and business partner Scott McDarby to buy his first racehorse. Later that year, he got his first training win with the horse, Revolver N, in a race at The Meadowlands. Now, the 44-year-old New Jersey native will look to get to the winner’s circle as a driver. Shults will make his career debut in the sulky Saturday in a Meadowlands Amateur Drivers Club event at the Big M.

“I always had dreams of driving, especially at The Meadowlands,” Shults said. “Just to be a part of the circuit, around the drivers there, and be part of that atmosphere is definitely special. I’m looking forward to getting out there.”

Shults’ grandfather, Vincent Ferriero, was a driver and trainer and Shults’ father got into the sport as an owner through that side of the family.

“I was captivated by the horses at a very young age,” Shults said. “In my teenage years, I wanted to spend more time with my grandfather at the farm, but my mother didn’t want me in the business. She wanted me to get my education and take a different path. I was pretty upset at that moment because I was captivated by the training and driving, just being around the horses.

“To satisfy that itch, my mother enrolled me in a local riding academy when I was about 14 years old. I excelled in that, riding English, doing hunter/jumpers. I ended up getting a horse at 16, and that’s kind of how I learned my horsemanship.”

Shults worked at Watchung Stable in Mountainside, N.J., for six years as a riding instructor and trail guide in the Watchung Reservation. At the age of 23, he moved to Hawaii and got an International Business Degree from Brigham Young University in Laie. He remained active with the horses there, working at Gunstock Ranch in Kahuku, before eventually returning to New Jersey.

In 2013, Shults and McDarby started a hardwood flooring company, Selecta Flooring.

“I kind of got burned out on that a few years ago and needed to make a change, so I bought my first racehorse with my business partner and my father,” Shults said. “I’m still with the company, but I’m more in a consultation role.

“My time is spent here seven days a week at the farm. It’s been an adjustment for my family and myself. That’s been my biggest challenge, but every time I walk in there and see the horses, I just really like that. It’s very fulfilling.”

Shults, who had 10 horses last year and six in training at the moment, got his first training win with Revolver N in November 2021.

“I have to give that horse all the credit in the world,” said Shults, who now has 17 wins in 162 lifetime starts. “He taught me so much about training and the business. He’s such a great horse; he has such a big personality. For me to click with him, to get along with him, inspired me to want to keep going.

“Eventually, I wanted to dig deeper and started doing qualifiers. I’ve been watching the amateur events and felt like it would be a good place for me to start and see where it goes from there.”

On Saturday, Shults will drive Bionic, a 6-year-old pacer he trains and owns as a member of Blazer One Racing. The ownership group’s name is a reference to the helicopter in the film “Predator,” a favorite of Shults and McDarby.

Bionic, who is making his first start since Jan. 20, will leave from post six in a field of 10 and is 15-1 on the morning line.

“I think the nerves will be up a little bit, but I feel confident, I feel great,” Shults said. “I wish my horse had a start under his belt, he hasn’t raced in six weeks, but he trained really well and is feeling good. I’m pretty sure he’ll be tight enough to give me a good performance. I’m not looking to go out and be a hero right out of the gate. I’m hoping he can go out and have some good pace at the end of the mile.”

Revolver N also will be racing on Saturday’s card. He will compete in a conditioned pace and have Jordan Stratton in the sulky.

“I almost listed myself on Revolver, but I’m trying to make smart business decisions for the stable and the horse,” Shults said. “I want to get my feet wet first in the amateur ranks. I’m thankful they have these events because they give me an opportunity as a newer guy in the sport to get out there and compete and showcase my horses.

“They’re very competitive races. I think it’s good for the sport. It gets new people enthused. That’s kind of what motivated me to want to drive now, seeing those races and thinking I could race against those guys and have a shot. It’s an opportunity to get involved a little deeper without having to dive in headfirst against the top 10 drivers in the whole world. I feel good about it.”

Facebook Share
Twitter Share
LinkedIn Share
Email
Print

⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *