Hightstown, NJ — Pinske Stables did not race as many times as most of the owners in last year’s earnings Top 50, but it made the most of the opportunities.
The stable — made up of Marlys Pinske, her son Karl and her grandson Carter — ranked 30th in starts among that group in 2020, with 217. It ranked seventh in purses, with $3.50 million. The six owners ahead of Pinske Stables in earnings all had at least 174 more starts and five had a total of at least 920.
Among the Pinske Stable’s 29 starters last season were three Dan Patch Award winners: 2-year-old female pacer Fire Start Hanover, 2-year-old male trotter Venerate, and 3-year-old male trotter Amigo Volo.
All the numbers added up to Pinske Stables being named Owner of the Year earlier this month by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. The Pinskes were finalists with Caviart Farms and Crawford Farms Racing.
“My hopes were high, but you never know,” Karl Pinske said. “It’s not easy to do. But I was hoping because it’s really hard for a smaller stable like us to ever repeat that (kind of year) again. The other stables had very good years as well. They had nice horses, for sure. They’re excellent people and have a lot of money invested.”
The Pinskes have been involved in harness racing since the mid-1950s when Karl’s grandfather Robert began competing at the Minnesota county fairs. Karl’s father, Tim, followed in Robert’s footsteps and the family’s participation continued from there. Tim Pinske passed away in July 2018.
“It’s a bit bittersweet since my dad was gone just a short time before,” Karl said. “I’m excited for my mom, she’s put a lot into this.”
Carter Pinske, 25, has worked with trainer Nifty Norman since graduating from college. Carter got his first training win in 2019 with Amigo Volo.
“I’m proud and excited for Carter,” Karl said. “I’ve been around it a long time and it’s great, it’s fun, but nothing is better than seeing your son do well with it.”
Amigo Volo and Fire Start Hanover, both in Norman’s stable, were the leading money-winners in their respective divisions and were Breeders Crown champions. Venerate, trained by Julie Miller and co-owned with the Andy Miller Stable, won the inaugural Mohawk Million and sat atop his division in purses as well.
“For me, having Carter work with Nifty and having horses with Andy and Julie is great,” Karl said. “Our friendship goes back a long way. That’s a great feeling too, just having those guys and knowing we can trust them and work with them.
“Every time we went to the track last year, we felt like we had a chance. That’s more than you can ask for.”
In addition to winning a second Breeders Crown, Amigo Volo’s victories in 2020 included the Kentucky Futurity. Pinske Stables also won the Kentucky Filly Futurity that same afternoon with Love A Good Story.
“That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen,” Karl said in amazement of the day’s results.
Pinske Stables shares ownership of Amigo Volo with David J. Miller and Love A Good Story with Daniel Plouffe and Kentuckiana Farms. It shares ownership of Fire Start Hanover with David Hoese and Lawrence Means.
“Our owner group has stuck with us through thin and thick,” Karl said. “I say it in that order for a reason because there were some not great years. To see the smiles on their faces at the Breeders Crown was pretty special.
“But all the races are special. All the wins are special. Doing it with our family and those guys was the best part.”
As for 2021, Karl said Pinske Stables will continue to operate with around two dozen horses. Among the group returning from last season are two male trotters that banked six figures at age 2 in 2020: Jack Fire, who was a Grand Circuit stakes winner, and Steel, who won the New York Sire Stakes championship.
“We bought more (yearlings) on the trotting side, that seems to be Carter’s passion, but our horse numbers in Florida are identical to last year,” Karl said. “There were plenty of opportunities to be bigger, but we chose the other way. You don’t want to change the formula too much right now.”