You won’t see Dewayne Minor avoiding cracks, closing the stable door a certain way or wearing the same outfit for five straight days this week. The owner/trainer of Wishing Stone has brought enough horses to the Hambletonian to realize that superstitions aren’t going to help once the race starts.
It’s all about preparation, which has been the cornerstone of Minor’s success.
“I really don’t have any superstitions,” Minor said from his base in Chesterfield, N.J. “Some people say you have to wear the same thing every day, do this, do that. It all boils down to being confident in the product you’re presenting in that race. You have to make sure you’ve done everything possible to make sure everything is up to par on that day.”
Minor speaks from his experience as he’s had two other starters in the Hambletonian: Legendary Lover K in 2000 and Operation Lindy in 2007. Minor drove Legendary Lover K to a sixth-place finish, beaten only 2-3/4 lengths, in a final won by Yankee Paco. Operation Lindy failed to advance from his elimination.
Having been in this situation before, Minor appreciates every moment leading up to the race. That’s why he puts hard work ahead of all else. Wishing Stone was third in his Hambletonian elimination, which was won by Cassis in 1:52.4.
“Any time you have an opportunity to participate in one of the greatest races in harness racing its sends chills up the spine,” he said. “You want to make sure everything is correct and go into the race with the horse at the top of his ability and hope things pan out right.
“You just spend the week checking and double checking, making sure your T’s are crossed and your I’s are dotted.”
It is these moments that Minor dreamed of when he first started in the sport at age 11. Growing up in Michigan, he and his brother Demier would ride horses on the weekend. One day they asked their dad to buy them one.
“He said ‘I’ve got a better idea, let’s buy a racehorse, then we can make some money and have some fun at the same time,’” Minor recalled. “He did it when he was younger and that was his way of getting back in the game.”
The Minors bought two 4-year-olds and after their first races, they “did a little horse trading, started doing the fairs and things like that, until my brother and I ventured out on our own.”
That came in 1975, when Dewayne graduated from Highland Park High School in Michigan. As a trainer, he handled some Michigan champions as two- and three-year-olds.
“I did well for other people,” he said. “My horses at that time were overnight horses.”
After racing claiming horses in 1980, Minor and his brother wanted to escape the cold Michigan winters and trailered eight horses to Florida. The two took training jobs there, but as the Meadowlands started to grow in stature, Dewayne wanted to be part of it.
“I always wanted to race here,” he said. “But when it first started getting big, I didn’t have the horses to do that.”
He finally got them and, in 1985, began racing in New Jersey before establishing Cowboyland Aalborg stables. The prefix, obviously, has to do with horses. The second part of the title is his wife’s hometown in Denmark.
Minor has won 562 races as a driver and more than 200 as a trainer.
Wishing Stone is the latest success story for Minor, who is looking for a driver Saturday after John Campbell drove him in the eliminations. The diminutive Wishing Stone is winless in five starts this year, but was a multiple stakes winner last season.
“He raced great,” Campbell said. “I thought after his last race that he was going into this in good shape. He kind of had a tough trip but I expected him to race well and he did.”
Campbell is committed to Hambletonian finalist Lucky Chucky, however, so Minor hopes to get George Brennan.
“That’s probably the best fit for him,” Minor said. “I actually think if we get a halfway decent trip and are able to be close, it’s going to be a very good race. There are some very competitive horses in there. It’s just going to come down to who’s the strongest and quickest at the end.”
And preparation, of course.