By Ken Weingartner—-While John Ackley grabbed a hot dog, Charles Taylor grabbed the best horse they’ve ever had.
Taylor, who has spent a dozen years in harness racing as an owner, and his trainer Ackley were at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale looking for a yearling that might be able to compete on the Grand Circuit.
They had already purchased one horse when Catch The Fire entered the auction ring and figured the son of Captaintreacherous would exceed their budget.
Ackley decided to get a hot dog. Taylor remained and watched the bidding. When it stalled, Taylor jumped in and bought Catch The Fire for $15,000. By the time Ackley returned, Taylor had signed the slip.
On Sunday, Catch The Fire will compete in the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final for 2-year-old male pacers at Harrah’s Philadelphia. A week later, he will be at Lexington’s Red Mile for the $250,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes final.
From there, if all goes well, he will spend the remainder of his campaign on the Grand Circuit, including the Breeders Crown.
For the year, Catch The Fire has won three of seven races and finished second on three occasions, earning $82,093 in the process. The colt has a mark of 1:50.4, which puts him tied for the fifth-fastest win time of the season for a 2-year-old pacer.
“We just couldn’t believe we got him for $15,000,” Taylor said about the colt, whose dam Dream Outloud is a half-sister to Life’sliltreasure, who produced O’Brien Award-winner Control The Moment:
“Nobody was bidding so I jumped in and I grabbed him. I liked his pedigree and it was a first-time Captaintreacherous, so we were willing to take a shot at him. He was a little small, but he has great conformation. And I think as anybody can see now, he loves to race.
“This is by far the best horse we ever had. About two years ago, we decided we were going to make a run at getting a Grand Circuit horse. It just so happened our Grand Circuit horse turned out to be a $15,000 horse.”
Taylor is the CFO of Cell Phones for Soldiers, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans. He grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and introduced to harness racing at the age of 4 by his father.
“My goal in life was to own Standardbreds since I was a little kid,” said Taylor, who races under the name CT Stables and has an eight-acre farm in Washington Court House, Ohio.
“My father was a big harness racing guy and it just got in my blood. It’s a thrill for me to watch Standardbreds. Around 2007, we were at a racetrack and my wife said, you know, you should buy a horse. Well, one horse turned into 10, into 15, and just kept going. I have probably 20 horses now.”
Catch The Fire, with regular driver Mike Wilder, will start Sunday’s PASS final from post six and is 7-1 on the morning line. Papi Rob Hanover is the 3-1 favorite, followed by Adriano Hanover at 4-1 and Cattlewash at 9-2.
“Win or lose, we’re excited,” Taylor said. “This is why we all do it. We’ve had offers to sell him and I could never do that. I couldn’t take our one chance at maybe racing in the big races and give it away to somebody else.
‘[Catch The Fire] loves what he’s doing and he’s got the heart to do it. He’s a little smaller than the rest of them but he just loves it. He comes off the track and he’s ready to go another mile.
“To me, he’s proven in the last couple weeks that he belongs. That’s what we were hoping for. It’s so easy to think you have a great horse, but if they can’t keep stepping up week after week, you’ve got to consider them maybe not as good.
“I think at this point he’s proven that he at least deserves a shot with the best. We’re very excited.”