Following this year’s National Football League draft, the Indianapolis Colts have made a major score in the talent department. When things get back to normal, the two-time Super Bowl champs (1971, 2007) will welcome a former Smyrna Bulldog to the organization. It will not be a running back, lineman, or wide receiver, but rather a position of far more importance.
Any successful football team has people behind the scenes that really and truly make it all possible. Most do not realize the things that happen between the lines are a result of tireless hours of work by the administrative staff. This is where the brilliance of Hannah Potter comes in to play.
A “four year starter” on the Smyrna High football managerial staff, the 2016 graduate made life much easier for the Bulldogs during her tenure. Always prepared or preparing, Potter was an integral part of a highly successful program.
“We have had a lot of wonderful student assistants at Smyrna over the years,” says Bulldog head coach Matt Williams. “Hannah ranks right there at the top. She always had everything, and I mean everything, organized and ready to go. She genuinely loves the game of football and is an invaluable asset to whatever program she is a part of. She’s a great young lady and the Indianapolis Colts are getting a quality individual. We are very proud of her.”
After her days of helping guide the Dogs down the right path, Hannah went slightly north and became a part of the Western Kentucky program. Lending her expertise to the Hilltoppers, Hannah helped them reach all new heights. Since she walked on campus in Bowling Green, Western has won two bowl games and one conference championship.
The experience that began for a high school freshman has now morphed into an eight year success story. Learning along the way, Potter has picked up some valuable life experience while making sure her football teams are winning on and off the field.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I walked into Coach Williams office back in 2012,” says Potter. “Everything has worked out great. Over the years I have learned a lot about many different things. Equipment, field maintenance, and problem solving have all been a part of it. Some of it was taught, some of it I just had to figure out on my own.”
So now it is time for Potter to take her game to the next level. Having walked off the Western Kentucky campus with a degree in Sports Management and a minor in business administration, Hannah is looking to help the Colts find success. Having accepted a position as Team Operations Intern, Potter is anxious to see what life is like at the next level.
“It’s very exciting to think about this next step in life,” says Potter. “We don’t know exactly what is going to happen just yet because of the current state of the world. Once the NFL makes a decision about training camp and the season we will know more about my role with the team and such.”
Hopes are widespread for a return to some sort of the normalcy we have all become accustomed to. Football has given this ambitious young lady an avenue to direct her talent. To this point, the teams Hannah has been a part of have enjoyed much success between the lines. Thanks to people like her it has been possible. For her this endeavor has been about way more than a blitz package, lining the field, or fixing football helmets. It has been about winning the game of life and that is something she looks to continue for the Colts.
“Perhaps the best thing about my football experience is the people I have connected with,” says Potter. “I grew my family at Smyrna and expanded it even more at Western. I kind of became like a mom to some of these guys. I love my players and treasure all the great relationships we have formed. Hopefully that can continue.”
As long as the Colts give her a chance…it will.
The road that leads to the Kentucky Derby can be a treacherous one. This year’s winding path has been especially challenging. For one impressive colt, the merge into the fast lane towards immortality is now right in front of him.
Maxfield is a very impressive three-year old that is yet to toe the track in 2020. This strapping son of Street Sense has only two career starts, yet he is one of the highly regarded contenders for Kentucky Derby 146. Ranked in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association three-year old poll, his two trips to the winner’s circle as a two year old were jaw droppers. The romp in the Claiborne Futurity at Keeneland last October immediately spiked some Derby fever amongst his backers.
Running well off the early pace, Maxfield made a sweeping move at the top of the stretch and powered past the front runners. Much like his pappy before him, who had a penchant for late power, this Brendan Walsh trained behemoth flew through the final furlong. Coming home clear a good 5 ½ lengths, many of the onlookers immediately thought blanket of roses.
“The way he did it in the Claiborne was no doubt exceptional,” says Walsh. “With just one previous start, to be able to take dirt to the face like he did and come home like that says a lot about his talent level. We thought he was ready to run but didn’t really expect it to be that good. He exceeded our expectations, but at the same time gave us a glimpse of how good he can be.”
A physical hiccup kept him from running in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup and he has not made it to the starting gates since. The delayed running of the Kentucky Derby has given his calculating conditioner the opportunity to add things up without any real rush.
“When they announced the new date we decided to take our foot off the gas and give him plenty of time to get right physically,” says Walsh. “I think we could have been ready for early May if we needed to be, but we didn’t have to.”
The patience in his handling has allowed this imposing two-year old to become even more of a physical presence at three. Owned by Godolphin, Maxfield is absolutely an eye-catcher.
“He’s always been a very impressive colt physically,” says Walsh. “Believe it or not, he is even better looking now. When you see him you will realize he was just a frame of a horse at two. Now that he has turned three, he is very imposing.”
Maxfield is slated to make his long-awaited 2020 debut in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 23. Now a points qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby, this mile and a sixteenth circle beneath the twin spires is where Walsh is looking to start their run at some roses.
Recent works say that Maxfield is certainly on his game right now. Working from the gate at Keeneland on May 10, Walsh saw his charge cover five furlongs in 59.2, which was the fastest of 34 workouts at the distance.
“The work from the gate was very nice,” says Walsh. “(Jockey) Jose Ortiz worked him and was very happy with how he covered ground. As nice as he looks right now, this horse still has a lot to prove. The Matt Winn is a great place to get started because we don’t have to ship anywhere to run. We would like to run him a couple of times before the Derby.”
A veteran of the game, Walsh is cautiously optimistic with his prized colt. With better than three and a half months to go it is understood anything can happen.
“We are just trying to do what the whole world is trying to do and that is stay healthy,” says Walsh. “Probably the best thing is we think he still has plenty of room for improvement. I hope our plan works out and we can make it to the starting gates for the Kentucky Derby. We are certainly giving it our best guess.”
The Matt Winn is part of a stakes blockbuster day at Churchill that will also feature the Blame (1 mile for older horses), Shawnee (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 mile), War Chant (3 year-olds 1 mile on the turf), and Tepin (3 year-old fillies 1 mile on turf).
Of course we love the sport of Thoroughbred racing for many reasons. Here is a short narrative documenting some of those reasons.
The speculation on the sport is very intriguing. Some may be overwhelmed by the many different wagers on the menu, but the bottom line is back a horse and get paid. The pick six is the Dahlia Llama of wagers as you try and forecast the first place finishers in the final six races on the card. You can play multiple horses in each race, but that can lead to a very pricey gamble. Sometimes it can be hard to hit back to back races, so six in a row????
The attractiveness to a wager like this is two-fold. First of all, the payout can be quite handsome. Secondly, being right about something is always nice, so strutting your stuff six consecutive times…yeah baby.
I am fortunate to have a betting buddy. Guy is pretty quick on his mental feet, being an investment councilor is his day job. Hmmmm, imagine that. I have long told him putting his clients in the handicapping market can yield big returns on an investment…or not. And these days the ponies may yield a little more…at times.
Got a text from him Friday morning that said Thursday’s pick six ticket at Gulfstream Park yielded a $14,000 payout. We needed to get in on that action so he suggested a low budget play. Here is where it gets good.
First two race winners were favorites and I had them both. These multi-race wagers are difficult to hit when you go low risk with your ticket and hopes are you are at least alive long enough to let the excitement build.
I’m a believer in the omens of horse racing as it relates to life, always have been. The third leg had me taking a middle of the road shot. Favorites do not always win and playing the chalk all the time can lead to a torn up ticket. So when my selection, Arithmetic, came home first at 8 to 1 I immediately thought heck yeah… things are adding up!
So now that we are half way home with a live ticket, I’m feeling good. If nothing else, at least we were half right. Then came race 9. Jockey Luis Saez put his horse in the race early and rode him to a convincing win. The runner was named Jesus’ Team…Holy mother it’s divine intervention!
So here we are staring at the fifth leg of the pick six still with a shot at glory. My councilor’s selection shot up the rail and was first to the wire in 5 fast furlongs over the Gulfstream grass. Name of the horse…R Happy Ending…WOW!!!
Five winners in a row and the last three had come out of the Tarot card deck. What the???…The next twenty minutes were filled with anxious moments and dreams of glory. We were three deep in the last race and as I watched the tote board on my computer screen I saw we had the two favorites and still another as well. It was as much about being right as it was the potential payout…or not…but still the old blood was pumping for sure.
As the final race went to post I was cautiously optimistic. This may have been a maiden claiming race to some, but to me it was the biggest one of the day. The horses broke clean and the opening furlong of the 1 mile turf race saw our runners all in the top three. Covering ground with ease, they maintained position with the others a few lengths back. As they turned for home we still had the top three spots. Front-running Florado gave way and was passed by Quiet American. This was good as the Joel Rosario ridden runner was our 12-1 shot!
With my heart racing as if I were the one running, our American was still in the lead in the final sixteenth. Wait a minute… an outsider was coming with huge strides!!! I pleaded “Hold on baby hold on!”
In the final two jumps Noble Alma got up to win by a prevailing head…She was not on our ticket. This Helen of Troy had wrecked our empire. Befallen by a female (of course it was a race for fillies ), we were designated to the close but no cigar category.
With the adrenaline still pumping I realized what I already knew. It was one heck of a ride and just playing the game really is part of the fun. Me and a good friend got to enjoy some camaraderie and we shared some smiles afterwards even if we weren’t splitting the $2622.22 payout. Ahh yes, the sport of kings can crown you…if you let it.
So, you read the headline and wonder “what’s the definition of good by a hillbilly turf writer’s standards”? For that matter, does a hillbilly turf writer even have standards?
The answer to those questions are yes, the bar may be low but he does have standards and yes, this Bret Calhoun trained runner is answering the “good” questions without any help from a hillbilly.
By My Standards has turned in a couple of big performances in 2020 and ran himself right into the mix of the best older horses in the country. Currently ranked third in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll for older horses, this four-year old son of Goldencents has been nothing short of outstanding this year. Three wins in three starts has run his racing record to five wins, two seconds, and a third place finish in nine career starts.
The latest trip to the winner’s circle came on May 2 in the Oaklawn Handicap. Facing a stellar field, By My Standards ran just off a solid early pace and powered home to a 1 ¾ length victory. Running with confidence, Calhoun’s charge turned in the biggest performance of his career when all eyes were on him.
“That was obviously his best performance to date,” observes his conditioner. “He shipped in to a track he’s never ran on and beat the deepest field he’s ever faced. Runing closer to the pace than normal, he showed us another dimension. We expected a top effort because he had been working so well and to Standards credit he delivered in a big way.”
By My Standards display of immense talent actually began over a year ago. Since winning a maiden race at The Fairgrounds on February 16, 2019, the only break from the gate that did not land him in the winner’s circle was the Kentucky Derby (11th place finish). Before that first win, however, his handlers were doing a little head-scratching. What was thought to be a talented son of a two-time Breeders’ Cup winner always seemed to be coming up as the brides maid with two seconds and a third in his first three starts.
“I will admit I was a little discouraged before he broke his maiden,” says Calhoun. “We thought he was a really nice horse, but he was not getting it done on race day. After that third start when he didn’t win I think he knew he was under achieving. We could see a big change in his mental approach. Suddenly the switch flipped and he learned how to win. Figuring out how to put horses away and run to his potential has lead him to the winner’s circle in five of his last six races.”
Owned by Allied Racing Stables, By My Standards was a $150,000 purchase as a two year-old. In the higher levels of the sport that can be somewhat of a modest price. Now having banked over $1.2 million in on-track earnings, by anyone’s standards he has been a great investment.
“(Bloodstock Agent) Josh Stevens did an excellent job of picking him out,” says Calhoun. “I am especially proud of him for what he has achieved thus far as what some consider a modest purchase price. I will say at one time, having a horse in my barn that costs that much would have been super high for me. Fortunately we have done some things right over the years and have been able to raise our level of play. Competing against the best competition with a horse that is perceived to be of lesser value is always very rewarding for me.”
With a hot horse on his hands, Bret Calhoun is now faced with the coaching decisions every trainer wants. How to keep your contender on the right path as he runs toward the riches of Thoroughbred racing is the quandary. Right now there is a short term plan and long term goals.
“We are targeting the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 27”, observes the Texas native. “It really makes the most sense for us because it is a top flight race that offers a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He gets to run out of his own stall at a place he calls home much of the year. We don’t have to ship and the Classic is our year end goal. What happens in between is yet to be determined. Right now we just want to let him freshen a bit and figure out how to get him to the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in November.”
Any questions about this race horse By My Standards will continue to be answered in the coming months.