Trenton, NJ — It was the kind of sight not often seen at a Standardbred sale.
Flash back to the 2020 Blooded Horse Sale in Ohio, when Brendan Toops purchased Western Ready for $3,700. Once he secured the horse he wanted, the 18-year-old proceeded to pay in all $20 bills.
Quick math reveals that would be 185 bills the cashier had to count out.
“He looked at me like I was crazy,” Toops said. “I think he was annoyed.”
There was a simple reason why the New Carlisle, Ohio resident decided on such denominations.
“I went to the bank and didn’t know what to get out, so I just got all twenties,” he said. “I just felt I had more money in my pocket with all the twenties. It felt great.”
It was the first horse purchase of Toops’ young life and, if he’s a superstitious guy, this could mean trouble for another cashier down the road. The 2-year-old gelding is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in a division of the Buckeye Stallion Series at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio on Thursday. Western Ready, a son of Western Vintage out of My My Marie, has won seven of nine starts and earned $73,290.
With that kind of success, it might be good luck for Toops to use a wad of twenties for his next purchase as well.
“I may have to,” he said with a laugh.
Brendan has been a Standardbred fan all his life, for no other reason than “I like the way they race.” His dad, Harvey, worked for trainer Jeff Smith, whose son Tyler has made a name for himself in Ohio. His maternal grandfather, Richard Mabra, lent Brendan a horse to work with when he was younger. He trained the horse with his dad before she was retired.
“So, after that my dad was like, ‘Hey you want to get a horse for old time’s sake?’ I said yeah and we got the money together,” Toops recalled.
Not wishing to drain his bank account of all the cash he made helping Mabra power wash, Brendan withdrew $2,300 and his dad would contribute the rest, with the ceiling being $4,000.
“I saw a couple that got my interest but Western Ready really caught my attention when he went up there,” Toops said. “I looked at his mom and his dad. They both looked pretty good, so I just put two and two together and got a nice horse.
“The only thing was, when I first saw him I thought he was bigger. But when I picked him up and went to go look at him he looked stocky but didn’t look that big. I was wondering why no one was taking him. I wasn’t disappointed. But I just knew we had some work to put into it.”
They entrusted trainer Scott Ferguson to do the work, and he has done an outstanding job.
“He’s been doing everything with the horse; training him and just getting him right,” Toops said. “He didn’t have any issues with him. He’s been good from the start.”
Western Ready has raced at fairs and in races for Ohio-sired colts and geldings. He will race in front of the largest crowd of his career Thursday, since it is Little Brown Jug Day at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
“I’d like to see him win that one next year,” Toops said about the Little Brown Jug, which is for 3-year-old pacers and the third jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown.
The horse enters Thursday having won five straight and having hit the board in eight straight. His biggest win came Aug. 7 at Eldorado Scioto Downs when he claimed a $73,000 Ohio State Fair division in a lifetime best 1:52.1 by going from sixth to first on the last turn. The only time Western Ready finished out of the money was in his opener, but even then he impressed the owner.
“That first race I knew he was going to be a good horse,” Toops said. “He’s been doing real good since we got him. He’s been a helluva horse so far. He’s gritty when it comes to racing. He likes to sit back a little bit and then he likes to take off in the last turn.”
Western Ready has had six different drivers and only Aaron Merriman, with four drives, has had the lines more than once. Merriman drove him at the State Fair, and will drive Thursday.
His horse’s success has Toops thinking about upping the competition next year.
“Yeah, maybe,” Brendan said. “We were just looking to work him in this year. We wanted to get him racing against all these horses and see where things stand at the end of the year. We’ve got him in some races in October too.”
Toops said he, his dad and Ferguson all talk things over in mapping out the horse’s schedule.
The teen spent this last year just focusing on Western Ready and planned on going to Clark State College with hopes of walking on to the basketball team this year. But after enjoying so much success, he’s reconsidering his options.
“I might have to stick with this…I might have to,” Toops said. “I wanted to see if I could get into horses before I went to college. It’s a big thing my family wanted me to do. And it’s doing me good right now. I think after this year we’re going to get another one and try to carry on.
“I’d like to get like those big owners,” he added with a laugh. “Wearing my jacket and smoking cigars around the track. I want to feel like I look snazzy.”
If and when that happens, he might want to have some bills a little higher than twenties on the outside of his billfold. It’s what the snazzy guys do.
Racing begins at noon Thursday at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. For complete entries, click here.