Elkton, MD — This is part one of two of the Jeff Fout story. Fout is currently the head trainer at Winbak Farm in Chesapeake City, Md. He also drives, primarily on the Delaware/Maryland circuit. Fout has 4,564 driving wins, and $23,265,101 in career earnings.
Sitting in his office at Winbak Farm in Maryland with a coffee in hand, the longtime horsemen stared at his perfectly conditioned training track. With a bit of a reflecting grin on his face, he admitted he had to be much more than a trainer to deal with yearlings. “I’m like a Doctor Phil,” Fout joked. “I’m a psychiatrist, a blacksmith, a trainer, a doctor, and a mechanic all rolled into one.”
Fout is in charge of a process called ‘breaking,’ which is a term that means getting yearlings used to the racing world. Fout trains on a five-eighths-mile training oval, which is located just steps from his office. As many as 45 yearlings can be jogging on the track at one time.
The Jeff Fout story started simple enough.
“I found a girl in high school and thought she was pretty hot,” Fout said. “I started dating her and found out that her father raced horses up in Michigan. On weekends, I would go with them to watch her father race.”
Her father was Joe Marsh Jr. Marsh, who passed away in 2016, won more than 5,800 races and $36 million. He was one of the leading drivers in the world at the time.
Fout, who liked to race motorcycles and cars at the time, was instantly turned on to harness racing.
After Marsh took him under his wing, Fout eventually quit his job at Whirlpool to make the full-time transition to harness racing.
“They built a brand new factory near me in Ohio, and I would have been in on the ground floor there, probably retired by now,” Fout reflects. “It wasn’t any fun. Racing is fun. It’s something!”
Marsh put Fout right to work, the old fashioned way.
“I was leading broodmares, cleaning stalls, getting my toes stepped on, and smelling like horse manure all day,” Fout quipped. He managed to work his way up from groom, to following along in training trips, to eventually driving horses.
“He (Marsh) was such a good guidance to me, and I met a lot of high profile horsemen through him that I forged relationships with,” Fout said. “It was important to me not to embarrass him. I worked really hard at it, because I was always told you don’t know anything about racing when I started.”
When it was time to go on his own, Fout bought his first horse from the Amish for $500. His name was Sam The Timer.
“He was an old gelding that had bumpy old knees, but he was a good horse,” Fout explained. Sam The Timer had a lot of success, primarily racing in Ohio and Michigan.
“That horse just seemed to know when I needed money,” Fout joked. “He made me look like a way better driver than I was. Most of the time if you didn’t hit a tree, you had a good chance to win.”
From there, Fout won enough to upgrade his stock.
“I have been fortunate to have a lot of good, smart horsemen and productive owners in my life,” Fout said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win heats of pretty much every stake race there is, with the exception of the Hambletonian.”
Part two will take an in-depth look at his duties on the farm, how he goes about breaking Standardbreds, and his reflections of his nine-plus years at Winbak Farm.