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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

WAPLES FAMILY LEGACY ALIVE

By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Several months after Karen Hauver retired from a 21-year career with the Ontario Sire Stakes program — a job that precluded her from owning a racehorse — her father suggested that she and her mother join him in ownership of a 2-year-old filly pacer that was getting ready to qualify.

Hauver’s father, the multiple Hall of Fame horseman Keith Waples, had bought the filly for C$127,000 at the 2018 London Selected Yearling Sale. Waples, who was 94 at the time of the purchase, told his daughter as the filly approached her first qualifier, “I think she’s going to be a good one.”

Karen and her mother, Eileen, both took a quarter share in the horse, and Waples proved to be prescient. The filly — Karma Seelster — was a multiple stakes winner at age 2, an O’Brien Award finalist at 3, and exceeded the million-dollar mark in Canadian earnings this past July.

Keith passed away in 2021 and Eileen, his wife of nearly 75 years, passed away the following year. Since then, Hauver and her brother, Gord Waples, have shared ownership of Karma Seelster, who on Friday makes her 2024 debut in an invitational for fillies and mares at MGM Yonkers Raceway as she begins her march toward next month’s Blue Chip Matchmaker Series.

“She has certainly meant a lot to me,” Hauver said about Karma Seelster, who is the only horse she owns. “I really enjoyed when mom and dad were around, and we were racing her together. We had a lot of fun. They didn’t go to the races much, but I was pretty much always there and as soon as the race was over, I would give them a call and talk about the race. We really enjoyed that.

“She’s been really great for the whole family. It was more fun when she was racing up here (in Canada) because I could go see her in person, but we still watch the races on the simulcast. My brother has a little group that follows her, and he sends out the program ahead of time and everybody watches and comments. That’s a lot of fun too.”

Karma Seelster, a daughter of Sportswriter-Kiddie Cocktail, has won 23 of 93 career races, hit the board an additional 40 times, and earned C$1.1 million ($934,701 in U.S. dollars). She won the Battle of the Belles as a 2-year-old, the SBOA Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-old filly pacers the following season, and an elimination of the Milton Stakes at age 4.

In 2022, the mare split time between Yonkers and Woodbine Mohawk Park. Last year, she raced exclusively on the half-mile oval at Yonkers, where she hit the board in 21 of 30 races, winning eight and earning $245,280. She missed a check just twice.

“She just loves the half-mile-track racing,” Gord Waples said. “On the big track, the big ones show up and they just go too fast for her. When she gets them on a little ring, she can keep up with them. She’s not very big, but she has a big heart.

“It’s been a nice ride. It’s just too bad my dad wasn’t around to enjoy it, see her make a million dollars.”

Karma Seelster, trained by Gregg McNair in Canada and Andrew Adamczyk in the States, has posted 17 wins and a total of 35 top-three finishes in 46 races on half-mile tracks in her career.

The 7-year-old has enjoyed competing in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers, where in the past two years she has started in 10 preliminary rounds and recorded three wins, three seconds, and two thirds. Unfortunately for the horse and her connections, Karma Seelster drew post seven in the 2022 final and post eight in the 2023 final. She finished seventh in both.

“That’s just racing,” Waples said with a laugh.

“We’re going to give her one more chance,” Hauver said. “We stopped with her in November and gave her a break to try to get her ready for the Matchmaker. Both years, she’s raced so good in the eliminations and drew so bad in the final. I know she’s getting up there, 7 is a little old, but we’ll see what happens.”

Karma Seelster prepped for Friday’s debut with a fourth-place finish in a qualifier last week at Yonkers. She was timed in 1:56.4 with a :27.3 last quarter. She will start this week from post one with Matt Kakaley in the sulky and is 7-2 on the morning line. Delitfulcatherin N is the 3-1 favorite.

“Andrew was happy with the way she qualified,” Hauver said. “We’ve been lucky to have two good trainers. Gregg had her in the beginning, and I know she was hard to get gaited. Once she did, she looked like she was going to be good, and she was.

“I think her best quality is just how much she tries every time. She’s very steady, that’s for sure.”

And while Hauver is retired, she remains active in promoting harness racing as a director of the Bill Galvin Racing Alliance. The nonprofit volunteer organization is in its second year, with the goal of creating and encouraging partnerships and programs to engage young people and the general public with the Standardbred industry.

“The first year went very well,” Hauver said. “We got a couple of racetracks to have open houses that never had one before. We were at quite a few events. We have contests for students for writing about Standardbred racing or equine art. We had a night at Mohawk for the finalists, and that was really successful. Out of 22 finalists, 21 came. They were all so enthusiastic. It’s so nice to be able to showcase our sport to people that don’t know anything about it.”

Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EST) at Yonkers. For free programs, visit the Standardbred Owners Association of New York website here.

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