Fifteen years ago, Paul Heineken entered the harness racing business by purchasing a $1,000 claimer racing at Ocean Downs. At the same time, Paul Ewell became a first-time horse owner when he bought a 2-year-old for $3,000.
Today the two men who live on Maryland's Eastern Shore are managing Workaholic, a $167,000 yearling who is a top contender to win divisional honors as 2-year-old trotting colt of the year.
Workaholic is owned by The Workaholics of Ocean City, a limited partnership of Eastern Shore businessmen interested in investing in standardbreds as a business. Both Heineken and Ewell, the general partners of the group, stress the business aspect of the venture. As Heineken put it, " . . . When you spend a million dollars on horses, it's not a hobby."
This is actually the second straight year the two men have picked a winner at the yearling sales. Last year Heineken and Ewell put together the Arsenal Syndicate, which featured the $230,000 yearling Arsenal, who trotted a 1:57 mile as a 2-year-old.
Their success comes from putting up the big money, going with the odds and having top horsemen handle their horses.
Workaholic was purchased by the Eastern Shore group at the Harrisburg Sale last fall.
Ewell, an attorney who served from 1978 to 1981 as a charter member of the Maryland harness racing board, said his group prefers trotters to pacers because "there are not as many trotters as pacers. Getting a good trotter is a little bit better than getting a good pacer. Logic tells me the odds are better with a trotter." Heineken, head of his own advertising agency, agreed. "A two-minute 2-year-old trotter wins $250,000, a two-minute 2-year-old pacer may not pay his way."
Workaholic is trained by Jan Johnson out of the Hakan Wallner stable. Wallner and Johnson specifically and Swedes in general are considered by many to be the best trotting horsemen in the world. The reason, according to Heineken and Ewell, is experience and patience. In Sweden there are no pacers; all races are for trotters.
Johnson quickly produced. Workaholic won his first six starts before finishing ninth in the $1 million Peter Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands July 30.
Workaholic lost three more times before his earlier form returned to him in a New York Sire Stakes race at Roosevelt in September. With Johnson driving, Workaholic trotted to a 6 1/2-length victory in 2:02 4/5 for a Roosevelt divisional track record.
The next stop for Workaholic was The Red Mile in Lexington, where once again the colt was just "not 100 percent, not sharp," according to Heineken. The horse lost straight heats of the Bluegrass Stakes.
With that defeat, trainer/driver Johnson, who had driven Workaholic in all his 13 career starts, made a decision to allow another Swede, Berndt Lindstedt, to drive the 2-year-old in the first-ever Breeders Crown on Oct. 5, also at the Red Mile.
According to Ewell, whose own father was a harness driver in the 1940s at fairs on the Eastern Shore, Johnson thought that "he wasn't getting along with the horse that well. Lindstedt got a chance."
Lindstedt has won more than 1,500 career races, most of those in Sweden, and is considered to be one of the best handlers of trotters in the world. He drove Workaholic to two straight heat victories, the fastest in 1:57 1/5, to capture Lexington's division of the Breeders Crown.
The victory over his main rivals in the Crown gives Workaholic, now off for the season, a leg up in voting for 2-year-old trotting colt of the year honors.