Bridgeville colt ready for Hambletonian

Iron Mine Bucky has won five of 16 career races and earned $167,756. Last year, his victories included divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Keystone Classic. This year, he won a division of the Currier & Ives Stakes. (Submitted photo/Chris Gooden)

Iron Mine Bucky has won five of 16 career races and earned $167,756. Last year, his victories included divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Keystone Classic. This year, he won a division of the Currier & Ives Stakes. (Submitted photo/Chris Gooden)

BRIDGEVILLE — When the mare My Foolish Dream gave birth to a colt on Bud Carter’s Delaware farm three years ago, farm assistant Greg Haverstick looked at the foal and was impressed.

“There’s something special about him already,” he told Carter.

There was no telling what the future held for the horse, or those around him, but it turned out Haverstick was correct.

The colt, Iron Mine Bucky, is racing in Saturday’s $1.14 million Hambletonian Stakes for 3-year-old trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack. And he is bringing Carter, Haverstick, and others on the journey of a lifetime.

The Hambletonian as well as the U.S. Pacing Championship and Hambletonian Oaks will be presented during a 90-minute broadcast from 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network. Hambletonian Day first race post time is noon.

“We never thought we’d be here and have this opportunity,” Carter said. “Everyone around the farm is so excited. It’s somewhat overwhelming in that it’s such a very prestigious thing to occur. We have so many nice friends and neighbors wishing us well. We’re excited.”

The 73-year-old Carter, who owns Iron Mine Branch Farm in Bridgeville, is making his first trip to the Hambletonian. Haverstick, a 46-year-old groom-turned-trainer, and 46-year-old driver George Dennis also are heading to the sport’s premier event for the first time.

“Greg Haverstick has been almost the horse’s soul mate,” Carter said. “That’s the way it’s been through this whole journey. Everything that has occurred is due to Greg and his devotion to all of our animals, but specifically this one. We worship him. We’re like two dads. Maybe he’s a little spoiled, I don’t know. But if so, it’s a nice spoiled.”

Haverstick was harness racing’s Caretaker of the Year in 2011 in a contest then-sponsored by Harness Tracks of America and Hanover Shoe Farms.

“Now I’m going to the Hambletonian,” Haverstick said with a laugh. “I get nervous, like do I really belong in there with all those other trainers and stuff, but George Dennis has got a lot of confidence in me and the horse. I’m really excited. I think Bucky can hold his own with them.”

Iron Mine Bucky has won five of 16 career races and earned $167,756. Last year, his victories included divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Keystone Classic. This year, he won a division of the Currier & Ives Stakes.

On July 16, the colt was third in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial, finishing behind highly-regard Hambletonian contenders Marion Marauder and Bar Hopping.

“The first time I sat behind him, he sort of gave me chills,” said Haverstick, who is known simply as “Stick” to many in harness racing. “I never sat behind a colt like that. His attitude, his gait, his stride, his endurance; just from day one I knew he was special and that’s what I told the Carters.

“He’s never let me down since. Even as a baby, I watched him grow up, he was a good looking colt and got across the field really well. That makes this very special. We’ve seen him from day one.”

Iron Mine Branch bought My Foolish Dream from Julie Swann and Lois Swann in foal to Explosive Matter as part of a package deal that also included then-yearling filly About To Explode. A little more than a month later, My Foolish Dream gave birth to Iron Mine Bucky.

Carter has received offers to sell Iron Mine Bucky, but turned them all down. Sadly, the farm lost My Foolish Dream, who died in 2015 while giving birth to a filly, now named Iron Mine Krystal.

“We’re not getting rid of anything with that bloodline on the farm,” Carter said. “We’ve had a lot of people call wanting to buy Bucky, starting last year. We said no. My wife (Nancy) and I are 73-74 years old. There’s not many more hurrahs. We’ve always wanted to do something like this. This is what it’s all about.”

Carter, who grew up in Elkridge, Md., near Baltimore, first went to the races in his early 20s, but it was on regular visits to Ocean Downs that he caught the harness racing bug and decided to buy a racehorse. He was introduced to horseman Corey Braden and horsewoman Colby Hubble, who helped get him started.

The Carters’ other business interests include a restaurant and a hospital linens supply company. Carter previously owned an industrial laundry.
Haverstick worked for Hubble and was a second trainer at the farm before taking over more responsibilities from Hubble last year.

“I grew up in New Oxford, Pa., between York and Gettysburg,” Haverstick said. “I was real close to Hanover Shoe Farms. My family had racehorses, so that’s how I got into it. I was riding very young and as soon as I could sit on the jog cart I was jogging horses. I sort of forgot about the riding horses and all I wanted to do was the racehorses.”

Iron Mine Bucky and driver Dennis will start from post eight in the first of two nine-horse eliminations for the Hambletonian. The top five finishers from each elimination advance to the $1 million final later in the day.

Dennis has won nearly 5,200 races as a driver and more than 1,000 as a trainer. He is a regular at Harrington Raceway and Dover Downs in his home state of Delaware. He grew up near Harrington Raceway and followed his father, trainer-driver J.D. Dennis, into the sport.

Haverstick credits Dennis with helping Iron Mine Bucky’s development.

“We talk all the time,” Haverstick said. “He really thinks a lot of this colt and goes above and beyond as a driver to help with him. He gave me a lot of input and suggestions, which was a big, big help.”

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