Parker’s “Pear” Takes the Busher

The first person I spoke to at Aqueduct on Sunday told me that he’d come out to the track to cheer on Joe Parker’s filly in the Busher.

That person must have been very, very happy at about 3:51 pm.

Channing Hill sat the rail aboard What A Pear, stalking comfortably in third until they hit the far turn, when What A Pear drew off easily, winning by ten lengths.

Including yesterday’s race, Joe Parker had started 21 horses this year; he’s got five victories, and three of them belong to What A Pear. The win in the Busher means that he’s surpassed his win total (4) of 2008.

Joe Drape profiled Parker in 2001 for the New York Times. The Trinidad native was starting his first horse at Saratoga, something he had no doubt dreamed of since beginning his racetrack career as a hotwalker. Living on the backstretches of the New York tracks, Parker began the long road to becoming a trainer.

Parker worked his way up to groom under accomplished trainers like James Bond and finally became an assistant trainer to Bruce Levine, who has won at a 14 percent clip this year on the New York circuit. Now Parker has a home in Queens, his own stalls at Aqueduct and makes a modest living as a trainer. Most important of all, today he had a horse in a race at the Spa. (Drape)

Drape emphasizes Parker’s optimism that day, his popularity at the track, his confidence in his filly. And even when Logan’s Girl finished last, even when the horse was claimed away from him, Parker demonstrated what appears to be an inveterate cheerfulness:

”I bought her for $20,000,” Parker said. ”She won $22,000 for me and now we’ve sold her for $40,000.”

He now has a two-horse barn and a career record of one victory in six starts, but Parker is not discouraged. Once a groom in a $25-a-week room, he has visited the most revered paddock in racing as a full-time trainer. Only one more step is left.

”This has been a fine day, the greatest day,” he said. ”I’ve raced in a place with 100 years of history. This is the sport of kings, and one day I’ll get in that winner’s circle.”

Last week, Will Springstead wrote about Parker and his promising New York-bred (E Dubai – Perfect Pear) filly in the Glens Falls Post-Star. Springstead notes that Parker’s been in this position before, when around this time of year in 2007, Johannesburg Star looked like he might take the trainer’s small operation to the next level. But the colt was transferred, and Parker continued to wait for the next Big Horse that might come his way.

Speaking to Springstead, Parker noted that his talented filly is also remarkably easy to be around:

The nice part for the Parkers is What a Pear is not only talented, but low maintenance. Her breeder, veterinarian Russell Cohen, and owners Ira and Bernice Cohen, Russell’s parents, race the filly without medication. That puts her in a very selective, rapidly shrinking group.

“One of his horses has Lasix, but all the rest run without medication,” said Parker, a 1986 Hudson Falls High School graduate. “Usually horses at least have standing bandages, a little medication on their legs. All I do is pick her feet and brush her body. I mean, no tongue ties, nothing. She’s the easiest horse to take over to the races and she’s very nice to deal with.”

Following What A Pear’s victory on Sunday, Parker was asked what he thought of the filly’s performance. “I thought it was ridiculous!” he exulted. “In a great way!”

“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “The horse speaks for herself. Horses like her come along only once in a while.”

Like Little Belle, who won the Busher last year, What A Pear will be pointed to the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. Little Belle won that race, and clearly, Parker is hoping that history will repeat itself.

Springstead, Will. “Filly Has Parker Hopeful for Spring.” Post Star. 17 Feb 2009. 22 Feb 2009.

Drape, Joe. “Horse Racing; Last Place, but All Is Not Lost.” New York Times. 2 Aug 2001. 22 Feb 2009.

7 thoughts on “Parker’s “Pear” Takes the Busher

  1. I must confess I was surprised by the info in Theresa’s excellent post. Of all the vets who’ve taken care of my horses, Russell Cohen was always the one who was heaviest on the medication. To see his filly running without Lasix is an eye-opener, and a tribute to Joe Parker’s hands-on training.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, folks. It was fun last night to search around for information about Joe Parker, and to dig up such great stories about a contemporary horse and trainer, instead of ones who raced a hundred years ago! This guy, I can actually speak to!

  3. Thanks for that great story. I have been watching this filly for a long time and I am touting her on the Ky Oaks website. I think she is a star in the making and I am happy she is drug free. I hope her owner doesn’t sell her and keeps her with her trainer. He seems like a well grounded person and I wish him and his filly well. I just hope he gets here out of NY, that track has had some issues lately.Raven Dancer 7

  4. You all need to research Russell Cohen. He trains this filly and uses Parker as a set up. He also is the owner and uses his parents as a cover-up so he can own horses as a vet. Major conflict of interest and everyone at the track should make some noise about it.

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