Ten years ago Mary Ann Callahan was terrified by horses.Today, Callahan, who looks like a typical suburban housewife, trains a bay named Funnyman's Lashout, the fastest pacing filly or mare on a half-mile track in the U.S. this year.
Funnyman's Lashout, a mare which Callahan says "looks like a mule," won Saturday in a Rosecroft record 1:58.
Callahan married husband Charles 10 years ago and they decided to invest in standardbreds. Today, they own a 130-acre farm in Monkton, Md., and Charles commutes to Cincinnati where he is president of a women's clothing store.
"Within one year we had 19 horses," says Callahan, whose bouffant coiffure is never out of place, her mascara never smeared. "So it started from there. Finally, six years ago, I decided I wanted to train the horses full time."
There was just one problem. She was terrified of horses.
"Obviously it wasn't insurmountable," she says. "We had a trainer on the farm who insisted that I learn it from the bottom up. So when he handed me a horse to walk, that's what I would do."
Within months Callahan had it all under control. She learned how to wrap legs, pick out the hooves and began studying the basics of training.
"In her (Funnyman's Lashout) first pari-muttuel race as a 2-year-old she was so bad coming into the last turn that she backed up through the field and into the wheels of another horse and didn't finish," says Callahan, who commutes from Monkton to Rosecroft three nights a week. "I really didn't think too much of her that night."
Funnyman's Lashout is owned by Joseph Leshinsky of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., who purchased her dam at the Liberty Bell sale for $5,000 on Callahan's recommendation. The stud fee on her sire Nansemond was $3,500. To date Funnyman's Lashout has won more than $45,000.
As a 2-year-old, Funnyman's Lashout started 11 times, won once and her fastest time was 2:06 1/5. Then early last year, driver Vic White discovered her secret.
"She didn't like the whip," Callahan says. "So Vic . . . goosed her. I guess in polite language you would say 'pinch.' Anyway it worked. Heck, I'd stop too if somebody whipped me."
Callahan is up every day at 7:30 to job and train the 12 horses in her stable. When one of her horses is to race, she leaves Monkton at 2:30 p.m., drives a two-horse trailer or a four-horse van to the track and returns home between 2 and 3 a.m.
"I usually don't get sleepy; I'm still keyed up from the race and driving home gives me time to unwind," says Callahan, who feels that horses race better when they're not stabled at the track. "The horses relax more when they can go out in the paddocks."
Funnyman's Lashout -- named after Callahan's first horse, Funnyman, who is 14 and a permanent resident on the farm -- is turned out in those paddocks on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
On Wednesday Lashout is jogged five miles. Thursday and Friday she is trained "three miles and then we turn here and go a mile in 2:30. The next day the same thing, then I give her time to blow out, then she goes 1/2 mile, turns and goes a mile, usually between 15 and 18," says the woman who didn't know the lingo a few years back.
On Saturday nights Funnyman's Lashout makes the trip to Rosecroft, and, according to Callahan, "When it's warm one night soon she just might do it again (break a record). We never go out just for fresh air. We're going to try like hell to set another record."