Hawthorne Racecourse (3/9/10)
Contact: Ron Uchman
Dee Poulos - A Class Act
If you have attended Chicagoland racetracks in the last few years, 37 in fact, there’s a good chance that you might have noticed Dee Poulos. Elegant is one description that comes to mind. Classy would be another.
Dee is one of the more popular trainers in the area and she’s been a local mainstay for nearly four decades. As the wife of Ernie Poulos, she was right there during the brilliant career of Jeffrey Sullivan’s Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year as well as the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic that same year.
“I grew up on a farm in Missouri. We had working Quarter Horses that we used for cattle but no Thoroughbreds. When I met Ernie in 1973, I was teaching business in District 214 in Arlington. I had never been to a racetrack before I met him. He took me to Sportsmans’ Park. We went in the morning. I thought that it was the greatest thing ever.
“I started helping him out. I would go out before school and back again after school. Then I started taking my students on field trips to the racetrack. They loved it. We used to spend the whole day there. They were taken on the backside and shown what went on behind the scenes. They got a race named in their honor. Allan Monat, now on the Illinois Racing Board but a jockey at that time, got into a win picture with all of those kids and had to sign all those pictures. He still talks about it.
“A couple of years ago some of those old students came back. They brought their kids with them.
“It’s been a different game since Ernie is gone. He took care of the horses, the hustling, the buying and selling. I took care of all the bookkeeping, the payroll, and such, and I helped out with the training. We were a good team. Now, I still do all I did before plus run the barn. On a positive side, however, is that some of the people that have worked for me for 25 years are still there. That made the transition a little easier.
“I still love the business. I don’t know of anything that is so challenging to deal with in so many ways. From an emotional standpoint, I still get attached to the horses. That’s part of my makeup. But, I’ve come to the realization that as long as they are with me, I have to do what I can do for them. You work with a horse and get them right to where they are ready for a race and God forbid, something happens. You have all that time invested. You put your heart and soul into it. It definitely has its ups and downs. Still there’s nothing like it. It’s not only when they win but when they run well, when they finally get it and understand what they are supposed to do. You get such a feeling of accomplishment.
“You always dream of the `Big' horse. I might never get another Black Tie Affair but I always get excited when I get a 2-year-old that shows promise. If I ever lose those dreams, I know it will be time to give it up.”
We hope that doesn’t happen for a very long time.
Hawthorne Race Course begins racing on Friday, February 12 and runs through Sunday, April 25. First post time daily is 1:35 pm. For racing schedule and details on promotions and parties at Hawthorne, visit www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.