Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 10, 2013

Local race horse to retire

Braden Layer
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — You'd be hard pressed to find a horse with more long-term success than Walter Brown. 

The 15-year-old race horse has been a winner at the Illinois State Fair, and fixture at county fairs across the state throughout his 13 years in competition.  Trained and owned by Pam Coleman at the Effingham County Fairgrounds since he turned four, Walter Brown has accumulated more than $320,000 in total winnings from a staggering 259 lifetime starts. 

Now, at the end of his 14th year, Walter Brown must retire as mandated by the United States Trotting Association.  His career was one of perserverence and longevity. Walter Brown was never the flashiest horse on the track, but rather made a living the hard way.

"He's not been in any big money races or won one big race," Coleman said.  "He's just steadily knocked it out throughout his 13 years of racing."

Among those 259 starts, Walter Brown has 38 wins, 33 second-place finishes, and 43 thirds.  In over a decade of competition, he has placed in the top three of nearly 45% of races he has entered. 

Though horses can live well into their 20s, many are sent back to the stables or sold prior to reaching the age of 10.  That makes the success of Walter Brown even more impressive, and Coleman said she traveled to Maywood Park near Chicago a few weeks back to celebrate his career.

"There was a retirement race and there were only two 14-year-olds in it," she said, "And that was in the Chicago area.  So it doesn't happen very often."

A record setter long before his victories in Altamont, Walter Brown first made waves at the Illinois State Fair in 2003. Already at the tender age of five, Walter Brown bolted to a new stakes record for aged colts and geldings.  Driven by Joe Essig Jr. of Indiana, Walter Brown crossed the finish line with a one-mile time of 1:50.

"That's where he took his lifetime record," Coleman said.  "His time ten years ago is still pretty phenomenal today.  That time back then was just, wow."

His triumphs have stockpiled over the years, including a memorable farewell performance at the Effingham County Fair in August. Among the six races on the day, Walter Brown stole the show by breaking his own record for the oldest race horse to win at the fair. Coleman drove the horse to a victory time of 2:03.40 good enough to tie for the fastest mile of the day despite racing in the amatuer division.

"He's just that guy," Coleman said. "He's always been there and pulled something out when you needed him to."

Though Walter Brown is still eligible to compete in amatuer races after retirement, which feature drivers who have never been paid to drive, Coleman says the costs just don't add up.

"The upkeep to keep him fit to race is a lot to be able to race three or four times a year for $500," she said.

He may not again be the star attraction at the fair, but Walter Brown is still keeping his trainers plenty busy in the stables.  Coleman says the old veteran continues to have his war-horse mentality even after his racing days have ended."He's a pain," Coleman laughed. "Two days ago I left the gate open a crack, and out he went. It took five of us 45 minutes to catch him."