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Daughter Hopes To Join Father As Futurity Winner

Published: October 6, 2017 10:31 am ET

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Jean Goehlen never expected to be here.

Fifty years ago, her father, George Alexander, won the Kentucky Futurity with a filly named Speed Model. And now on Sunday, Goehlen will try to win the 125th edition of the trotting classic for three-year-olds at Lexington’s Red Mile as an owner of colt Dover Dan.

“I’m getting nervous already,” Goehlen said Thursday afternoon from The Red Mile. “I’m excited, especially to be able to bring a horse down here that looks like he’s going to be competitive. I’ve got my fingers crossed, my toes crossed.

“Dad won the Futurity 50 years ago and just to have a horse in it is exciting. Who would ever think I would end up here? It’s a far cry from where I started, but here I am. Surprise, surprise.

“It’s pretty damn cool.”

Dover Dan, trained by John Butenschoen, heads to the Kentucky Futurity off a nearly nine-length win in a division of last week’s Bluegrass Stakes. He was timed in a career best 1:51.3 for the mile.

“That doesn’t happen very often, but boy is it exciting when it’s your horse,” Goehlen said about the colt’s romp.

He has won three of his past four starts, including the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, and his only loss during that span was a second-place finish to What The Hill in the Canadian Trotting Classic.

“I’m just hoping he races like he usually does,” said Goehlen, who owns Dover Dan with Bill Wiswell and Gene Schick.

Goehlen’s father was known as “a trotting man.” Alexander bred and raced only trotters, Grand Circuit-calibre horses, but Goehlen got her start as an owner with pacers and competed at the county fairs in her home state of Illinois. She got more involved with trotters when she joined with Butenschoen about a dozen years ago.

“I had to work up a little bit,” Goehlen said. “Starting with Illinois-bred pacers to this kind of stuff is a big jump.”

Alexander, a Yale graduate with a degree in economics, was first involved with cattle and show horses at his Chestnut Farm in Sugar Grove, Ill., before breeding Standardbreds. His knack with trotters was seemingly immediate and he became a fixture at the sport’s prominent sales.

In 1967, Alexander not only owned Kentucky Futurity winner Speed Model, trained by his good friend Frank Ervin, he was the breeder of Dan Patch Award-winning three-year-old trotter Flamboyant. It was the filly’s second trophy; the previous season she was voted harness racing’s best two-year-old.

Alexander’s goal was to breed a Hambletonian winner. He nearly fulfilled his dream in 1981 when Super Juan won a heat of the Hambletonian in its first year at the Meadowlands before losing a three-horse race-off by a neck to Shiaway St Pat.

Seven years later, Alexander bred a mare, Highland Bridget, to the stallion Speedy Somolli. Alexander, unfortunately, never saw the resulting colt that was born in 1989. Alexander passed away in October 1988, soon after watching a group of his yearlings sell at Lexington, at the age of 76.

Highland Bridget was sold in foal in 1988 and ended up with owner Karl-Erik Bender. The colt born the following spring was named Alf Palema, who went on to win the 1992 Hambletonian on his way to Trotter of the Year honors.

“That was his big goal, to breed a Hambletonian winner. He did it, but he never knew it,” Goehlen said. “That was the first Hambletonian I didn’t watch on TV, and if I had, I would have never guessed that Alf Palema was a horse my dad bred. That certainly wouldn’t have been a name he would have picked.

“I knew some people who had taped the race and they sent it to me. I still have it. It’s too bad he never was here to see it happen.”

Alexander’s career in harness racing went beyond the racetrack. He was active on the administrative side of the sport as well. He was a director of the Hambletonian Society, as well as other organisations, and counted among his accomplishments writing the original conditions for the Breeders Crown.

In 1990, Alexander was elected to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in the Immortal category.

“He liked the paperwork and most horse people don’t,” Goehlen said, laughing. “Dad was a real stickler for detail. Everything had to be perfect.

“He was quite a guy. He didn’t say much. But before he made any decisions he would check with everybody that was involved. He thought those that were involved needed to have input. He always liked other people to voice their opinions, and yet he was very quiet about anything he said.

“They used to call him ‘Silent George’ because he very seldom spoke much at home. But at the track, he and (Ervin) were like two little kids, giggling and carrying on. Dad liked to work behind the scenes. A lot of people didn’t know who he was.”

Goehlen, a retired schoolteacher, was unable to attend the 1967 Kentucky Futurity because she had a child just several months earlier and was living in Indiana. But she was a frequent visitor to Lexington in the ensuing years, helping her father prep yearlings and attending the sales and races.

“It’s awful cool being down here again,” Goehlen said. “I hope Dad is watching. I wish he were here. He would be pretty proud.”

Seventeen three-year-old male trotters entered the Kentucky Futurity. Two $90,000 eliminations will be contested, with the top five finishers from each division advancing to the $420,000 final later in the afternoon.

The field includes Hambletonian winner Perfect Spirit, Canadian Trotting Classic winner What The Hill, Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial champion Devious Man, Goodtimes winner International Moni, and Stanley Dancer Memorial division winner Long Tom.

The Kentucky Futurity is the third jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. The first was the Hambletonian and the second was the Yonkers Trot, which was won by Top Flight Angel.

Ariana G, the top-ranked horse in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, leads a group of 13 female trotters in the Kentucky Filly Futurity, which also will be raced in an eliminations-final format Sunday (October 8).

The first Kentucky Futurity elimination is race nine and the second is race 10. The final is race 13. Following are the elimination fields in post-position order with named drivers and trainers.

Elimination 1
Post - Horse - Driver - Trainer
1. Stealth Hanover - Brian Sears - Francisco Del Cid
2. King On The Hill - Yannick Gingras - Jimmy Takter
3. Long Tom - Tim Tetrick - Marcus Melander
4. Di Oggi - Tim Tetrick - Archie Kohr
5. Snowstorm Hanover - Matt Kakaley - Ron Burke
6. International Moni - Scott Zeron - Frank Antonacci
7. Bills Man - Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen
8. Perfect Spirit - Åke Svanstedt - Åke Svanstedt
9. Giveitgasandgo - Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen

Elimination 2
Post - Horse - Driver - Trainer
1. Dover Dan - Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen
2. Yes Mickey - Åke Svanstedt - Åke Svanstedt
3. Sortie - Andrew McCarthy - Noel Daley
4. Jake - Daniel Dubé - Luc Blais
5. Devious Man - Andy Miller - Julie Miller
6. Enterprise - Brian Sears - Marcus Melander
7. Lindy The Great - Scott Zeron - Frank Antonacci
8. What The Hill - David Miller - Ron Burke

This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit

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