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Yoder On His Career-Best Season

Published: November 5, 2018 10:42 am ET

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Verlin Yoder raced the best horse of his career this season, the undefeated Breeders Crown champion Woodside Charm, but the filly was not alone in helping the 45-year-old owner/trainer/driver to the best season of his career.

Yoder established highs of 31 wins and $1.38 million in purses as a trainer to go with a career-best $1.15 million as a driver. His 26 victories in the sulky were two shy of his career mark of 28 set last season. And while two-year-old female trotter Woodside Charm contributed $521,658 in purses to this year’s totals, Yoder still would have surpassed his previous highs of $571,162 as a trainer and $571,903 as a driver without her.

“We just had the right horses in the right classes,” Yoder said. “It worked out great.”

Yoder had three Indiana Sires Stakes champions: two-year-old male trotter Its A Herbie, two-year-old female trotter Kissesforall, and four-year-old female trotter Compelling. Three-year-old male trotter Katkin American finished second to Fiftydallarbill in his Indiana Sires Stakes final.

Those four horses combined for 18 wins, hitting the board 43 times in 50 starts, and $749,440.

Compelling, claimed by Yoder last year, came back from a suspensory injury to find success. Katkin American was unraced at two, but showed potential last winter while training with Yoder’s millionaire trotter Natural Herbie. Driven by Yoder’s son, James, Katkin American was a Hoosier Park track record setter and finished worse than second only once in 12 starts.

“I knew we had some decent ones coming out of Florida,” said Yoder, who lives in the ‘Sunshine State’ during the offseason and returns to Indiana to race. “We knew (Katkin American) was pretty nice. It was nice to have him and watch my son do well with him.

“The ‘Herbie’ colt (Its A Herbie), about the middle of March he showed me he had some real talent. We just took our time with him. He’s a big growthy colt and I stuck to my guns and kept on trying to teach him. Every start, he got smarter about things. I was really excited about him.

Compelling was a very nice addition. I was going for a Hail Mary (when he claimed her last year) because I was kind of soft in the three-year-old fillies. I took the gamble of keeping her and rehabbing her. I tried to do all the right things and she came back a hundred per cent. It was the middle of February and the boys kept on telling me they’re going to read about her. The farther we got down, the stronger she got.”

And then there was Woodside Charm, who on October 27 capped a seven-for-seven campaign with her win in the Breeders Crown final for two-year-old female trotters at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It was Yoder’s first trip to the Breeders Crown. She joined Manchego as the only two-year-old filly trotters to be undefeated Breeders Crown champions.

“The way she did it is what impressed me about her,” Yoder said about the filly’s season. “She went to so many tracks and shipped all over, and every time I went to a different track she adjusted. She let me do what I had to do.

“She’s a fast, smart horse.”

Woodside Charm won her Breeders Crown final by one and three-quarter lengths over Simon Allard-driven When Dovescry, and covered the mile distance in 1:54.1 on a cold rainy night.

“I was going up the backside and she was cruising and I’m thinking, ‘man, it can’t be this easy,’” Yoder said. “I thought I better grab into her a little bit to make sure I had plenty left. Then when Simon pulled, I was waiting on him, I squawked at her and she was gone.

“You’re pinching yourself in the race. And then when you get done and get home and start thinking about what you did in the last couple weeks, it’s pretty amazing.

“It takes a lot of focus and a lot of hard work to pull something like that off. The biggest thing is staying focused on your work. To stay focused and do your job every day, and stay religious about it, that’s the tough part. You set up a plan to lead to one direction. I wouldn’t say that I’m proud of myself, but I was happy with myself to stay focused.”

Yoder also credited his wife, Rachel, with being instrumental to the stable’s success.

“This was the first year that my wife was able to help me in Indiana and it made a big difference,” Yoder said. “We’ve always been a team, but the boys always went to school and she had to be in Florida and I was always trying to do it myself. When you have somebody that thinks the same way that you do and it’s a team, it just works better.”

Yoder is already resettled in Florida, giving his horses some time off and contemplating next season.

“Things went right; we did the right things and stuck to the plan,” Yoder said. “Now we have to go back through the motions again. Hopefully we come back and do all right again.”


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