Morris living his dream in U.S.

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — Growing up in England, Lee Morris watched harness racing in the U.S. and imagined being part of the action someday. He had followed his grandfather and father into the sport in the U.K. but was captivated by The Meadowlands and top races such as the Little Brown Jug. In recent years, Morris visited the States regularly and even drove in a handful of races on an annual basis at Florida’s Pompano Park.

In February, Morris and his wife Kayla decided to give living and working in the U.S. a go. They first headed to Florida for the Pompano meet, then moved to upstate New York, not far from Tioga Downs, where a number of the friends they had made in Florida race during the summer.

The 38-year-old Morris got his first U.S. win as a trainer with Better Call Saul at Tioga Downs in late June. He also drove the trotter, notching his second victory in the States as a driver (he got his first in 2018 at Pompano).

Lee Morris has driven in 54 races this year, with a number of his starts coming in amateur events. Jessica Hallett photo.

For the season, the Morris Stable has 10 wins. Morris, who works primarily as a blacksmith in addition to helping run the family’s small stable, has five triumphs as a driver.

“My wife used to live here and train Thoroughbreds,” Morris said. “We trained the trotting horses back home in England. I’m a blacksmith, that’s basically what I do as my main job, and the money for blacksmithing is more here than what you get in England.

“We wanted to give it a go with having a few horses and see if we could make a living. And we absolutely love it. We’ve been very lucky. I’d been back and forth to Florida quite a lot, so I made a good few friends. They said I should move here.”

Racing in the U.S. is a business, whereas it is more of a hobby in England.

“In England, you can’t make a living off it,” said Morris, who lives in Hereford, about 140 miles northwest of London. “We raced on a grass field that was made up on the day. You do it because you love it.

“Back in England, we had a stable of seven horses and I’d drive all seven of them throughout the year. It’s different there. The season starts in May and finishes in October and there is no pari-mutuel racing. It doesn’t exist.”

Morris has been around horses for most of his life.

“I love working with horses in general,” he said. “They’re always great fun. They’re always different. And with them you get to travel, meet new people, see new things.”

Morris has driven in 54 races this year, with a number of his starts coming in amateur events. On Thursday, he will have two drives at The Meadowlands in GSY Driving Club races. One of his drives will be with 3-1 morning-line favorite Know Your Roll in the night’s third race. He has sat behind the Danielle DaCruz-trainee twice before at The Big M, finishing second both times.

“She raced huge last time,” Morris said. “They asked me to leave with her, and I ended up getting parked the whole mile and she only got beat a length. She was strong. She was really, really good.”

Lee Morris will be driving at The Meadowlands for only the third time on Thursday. Worcestershire Horse Pics.

Morris will be driving at The Meadowlands for only the third time. In addition to his two drives in the GSY, he will send out one starter on Thursday as a trainer — Winding Hill in a conditioned race. He has had one previous starter at The Big M as a trainer, finishing fifth with Only Passing Thru last week.

“I’ve enjoyed going to The Meadowlands,” Morris said. “When you grow up as a kid, if you love the sport, you’d watch the races on the telly, or you see the highlights on the internet now, and you dream of coming over here and having a go at doing it.

“I’m living my dream, doing what I really want to do. Hopefully we can get a winner soon at The Meadowlands. That would definitely be one to tick off the big bucket list.”

Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EST) at The Meadowlands. For free TrackMaster programs for all Meadowlands cards, visit the track’s website here.

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