Horsemen already “Fair-minded” in Circleville

by Tami Hartman, for the Pickaway County Fair

Circleville, OH — Summertime and the hectic county fair harness racing season is fast approaching, and the Pickaway County Fair will be the first start for many of the young horses which passers-by have watched jogging through the snow, cold, and ice of the past winter.

USTA/Ed Keys photo

Harness racing will take place this weekend at the Pickaway County Fair.

The fairgrounds in Circleville is a busy training center for harness horsemen from across Pickaway county. The largest stable is that of nationally-ranked trainer Jim Arledge, Jr., a resident of Orient, but there are a number of smaller, family-run stables as well, helping to make up the approximately 120 horses in training which winter at the fairgrounds.

Harness racing is often a family affair, with fathers, sons, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters, owning, training, and racing horses together, sometimes for generations. This is definitely the case in the Weaver stable. On any given Saturday you’ll see Bryan Weaver of Stoutsville on the track, with Donna Anderson, Bryan’s mother and owner of many Weaver-trained horses over the years, standing at the fence watching the progress of this year’s prospects. Son Ben can often be seen at the track as well.

Weaver has conditioned and driven many top Ohio horses in the past two decades, with his base of operations at the Pickaway County Fairgrounds. He’s hopeful his young horses’ stakes schedules get off to a positive start with hometown wins this June.

The Stant stable holds the same hope. For many years Johnny Stant, a resident of Circleville, has been a “night rider” at the fairgrounds, working a full day, then heading to the track to train a small stable. Johnny’s father, Shirley, now in his mid-80s, is a familiar sight at the fairgrounds as well, riding in on his scooter to assist his son. This year the Stants are prepping a young pacer.

The Hartman stable is another family venture looking forward to the fair. William “Rick” Hartman is a second-generation trainer, and wife Tami, a high-school teacher by profession, is a third-generation horseman and is a licensed trainer-driver herself. They breed and raise Standardbred horses at their small farm in Tarlton; this year they hope to start one of these Pickaway county born and raised horses in the new Signature Series at the Circleville fair.

“It’s always great to win,” says Rick, “but it’s especially satisfying when you’ve bred the mare, watched her foal, then raised and trained that colt into the winner’s circle. Having that happen at your home fair just makes it that much better.”

Harness racing will be held at the 2009 Pickaway County Fair on Saturday, June 20, and Sunday, June 21, at 1:00 p.m. Pari-mutuel wagering will be available. Admission is free.

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