In the words of owner Jerry Post, Big Towner is "the Seattle Slew of harness racing."

Well, not exactly, Big Towner, a 3-year-old pacer, finished third in the first leg of harness racing's Triple Crown, the Cane Pace, at Yonkers Race way in New York June 24.

But the owners off the horse still think they've got a good deal.

Post, a statistician with U.S. Census Bureau; Richard Bessette, a Rockville native and owner of the AB Shellfish Company; and Pat Kelly, a real estate agent from Falls Church, bought the horse for $5,700 at a Columbus, Ohio, auction two years ago.

Since, then, he had earned more than $104,000 for them. "So far," Bessette added quickly.

The strange thing is not that the pacer is winning, but that he is running at all. Big Towner doesn't have an ordinary history.

Post, Bessette and Kelly, had known each other a long time, and frequently met at Hosecroft Raceway.

We had always talked about buyring a horse," Bessette said, "and we finally went ahead and did it."

"It was a lark really," Post added. Mr. Kelly owned horses before and knows something about horses. He gets mailouts on different horse sales.

"So we picked out a horse and all went down to Columbus. We set ourselves a limit of $6,000 and bid and bought him for $5,700. But we're just amateurs, really," Post said.

The "amateurs" fromed Big Stable and in addition to Big Towner, now own Big Power, Big Towner's brother, and have claimed Aachen's Double.

But Big Towner is their main concern.

After buying the horse, they brought him to a stable in Bird's Nest, Va. The trainers at Bird's Nest didn't think much of the horse, and doubted that he would amount to much.

"They didn't like his gait," Bessette explained.

Big Towner won five of six races at Rosecroft.

Follwing that, the owners took the advice of some racing - expert friends and platooned teh horse in Woodsboro, Md., for a while, hoping to build up his strength.

But things didn't quite work out.

Under a new trainer in North Carolina last winter, the horse developed a blocked intestine. He recovered from that, but because lame. Still, the owners were not discouraged.

"We knew we had something too good to chuck," Post said. "We never lost faith in the horse."

The new Trainer, Lee Broglio, gave the horse shots of radium in the injured hock. The leg healed, and they were back in business.

Big Towner moved to New York to compete against better horses and to try for bigger purses. The plan worked.

Over the next few weeks, the horse will run in three races with Purses totaling $800,000 including the $50,000 New York sire stakes Friday night. With part of his earnings, the owners have had buttons printed proclaiming their loyalty to Big Towner.

Where will it go from here? "Well, we don't know," Bessette answered. The horse is running well, so who knows?

Will they get rich?

"Welll, we'd like to think so. We sure hope so," Post said. "But whatever happens, when things go bad, we'll still remain friends."

The frienns had a hard time describing Big Towners, other than to say he was brown and on the small side.

"We have a very informal arrangement," Bessette said. "But we're enthusiastic."

And lucky.

"We realize that our luck is one in 10 million," Post said.

"Sure anybody could do what we've done," Bessette added. "But the odds are really against you."

But like Big Towner, the Big Stable is getting pretty good at beating the odds.