Columbus, MN — Standout pacer Stuckey Dote has quietly become the most accomplished Minnesota-sired Standardbred to date. At age eight he continues to compete and win at the highest level of competition at Running Aces.
Somehow the gelded son of Voracious Hanover manages to fly under the radar much of the time, while continuing to rack up purse earnings, wins, and solid top three performances. But almost like clockwork, every so often he feels the need to remind everyone just how good he still is — seemingly just as good as he’s ever been.
Such is the case in of his most recent win at Running Aces, in the track’s top weekly event, the Open Handicap Pace. Sent off at nearly 10-1 in the wagering despite coming in with back-to-back wins, he was an afterthought for most of the handicappers.
But with a crafty and patient drive by Lemoyne Svendsen, Stuckey Dote saved ground and hugged the pylons through quick fractions including the fastest three-quarter-mile clocking in Aces history (1:22.4) and came absolutely flying down the center of the track in the final sixteenth of the mile to get up and win by a head in an eye-opening 1:51.1 mile for his 43rd career win.
As of the writing of this piece, he has bankrolled just shy of $420,000 for owner/breeder Merlin Van Oterloo, while boasting a mark of 1:50.3f.
I spoke to Merlin about his star pacer and he shared a few interesting notes. First of all, he said “it was kind of by chance that he ever came along for us…we were at the sale at Harrisburg and we really had no intentions of buying his dam (Artsplace mare Missy Artsie) but somehow we wound up taking her home for around $2,500.
“We bred her to the top stallion in the area at the time, Voracious Hanover, and the result was Stuckey Dote. Then as a youngster he jumped the fence after being spooked by some hunters, and thankfully despite getting a bit banged up, he didn’t seriously injure himself.”
Merlin added that he was a dream to break, and took to his work very quickly.
As for the name, Van Oterloo shared that it derives from made up words that they used to respond to the kids with when they started talking back as youngsters. “They (the kids) would kind of say things in gibberish and we would respond with ‘Stuckey Dote.'”
And that is how they came up with the name.
He also shared that he has always been an easy horse to be around.
“The kids always love hanging around with him whenever the family visits him at the track, and he loves the attention.”
He also shared that despite all of his race wins, the horse has no patience for the winner’s circle; once he has done his job he wants to go back to the barn.
Brett Ballinger has been the trainer for Stuckey Dote at Running Aces for many years and quickly ranks him as one of — if not the best — and nicest horses he has had the fortune to work with.
Ballinger says that the strapping, muscular pacer has personality plus.
“He is very friendly and loves attention, and anyone passing by immediately takes notice of him.”
He notes his good looks, big stature, and friendly presence and adds “they can’t help but to stop and visit with him. He draws you in.”
Brett also shared that he is an extremely intelligent horse and feels that he gets even smarter with age.
“He takes very good care of himself.”
He also noted that Stuckey Dote does not need a lot of constant work to stay fit.
“He goes out and strolls along and puts his miles in, but he watches everything carefully and is always very aware of his surroundings; if there’s anything different or out of place he lets you know that he sees it; he’s just so smart.”
And he added that “He knows when I’m nearby outside the barn. I ride my bicycle over to the barn, and as soon as he hears me he starts nickering and talking to me.”
Ballinger has a daily routine of taking him out to feed on grass and if he’s running late he hears about it from Stuckey.
Last winter was not particularly good for Stuckey Dote on the track in Ohio, where he has raced the winters for the last several years and it left both Ballinger and Van Oterloo wondering if his best years were behind him, but after he got him back home at the farm, Ballinger did quite a bit of work on his feet, and he has come back very sharp so far at Running Aces this season.
In four starts he has three wins and a second (where he was just nosed out at the wire), including that very sharp 1:51.1 Open win last out.
Stuckey Dote has won the state championship race in four out of his six years so far at Running Aces, where the bulk of his successes have come. He really seems to relish the Minnesota track. He has once again reminded everyone that he can never be counted out at Running Aces. No matter how strong the field, no matter the post position, Stuckey Dote is always a force to be reckoned with on the pacing scene in Minnesota and he continues to add to his impressive win totals and purse earnings.
If he keeps going as good as he is right now, he is sure to be among the favorites when he tries for his record fifth state championship trophy this September, and win or lose, he will have a big cheering section stretching from Minnesota to Iowa, and even Ohio and Illinois.