Local Women Find Success Out of the Gate
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photographer // Theresa Skutt and Conrad Photographs
What would you do if you found yourself at a certain age in life with bountiful acreage, a boarding barn, a broodmare and a young colt? Keep in mind that you didn’t buy into these things with any grandiose plans of becoming a racehorse owner, but what if, suddenly, you found yourself well positioned on one of life’s fast tracks? Would you run like the wind alongside the possibilities? Two local ladies bound by one special horse did, and they are thoroughly enjoying the unexpected path that this horse is leading them on.
Zionsville resident Shara Weaver and her business partner, Carmel resident Micki Roche, were brought together for a purpose in their lives, and they strongly believe that the purpose is to have as much fun as they possibly can with their business venture, 2OB (2 Old Broads), LLC.
“John and I bought our property, Stonegait Farm, in Zionsville seven years ago,” Weaver said. “The owners had a boarding business there, and when they decided to move away, we had to find someone to manage the barn.”
Through a mutual acquaintance, Weaver and Roche were introduced. Roche has a background in managing a horse farm and caring for horses. Prior to meeting Weaver, she had a dream of one day having her own barn.
“We [Micki and I] became fast friends,” Weaver said. Roche added, “I came down for an interview, and we just hit it off.”
“John and I never wanted to run a boarding business,” Weaver shared. “We had a business in Chicago that took up most of our time, so within a few months of Micki being an employee, she had shared that she had some property and that, one day, she wanted to have her own barn. I asked her, ‘Why don’t you just have this barn? Rent it from us and run your business out of here?’ It wasn’t even a year after that when we started renting to her.”
Roche currently operates her boarding business, CTE Horsecoats, at Stonegait Farm in Zionsville.
According to the two ladies, they had discussed the concept of breeding Standardbreds on the farm and selling them. With Roche’s knowledge and experience with the breed, the two figured it would be fun, and it made sense.
“We thought that we’d buy a broodmare and have some babies on the farm,” Weaver said. Then Roche added, “We didn’t plan on keeping them. We were going to take them to the [Yearling] sale and sell them.” The two created their partnership 2OB, LLC with the plan to breed and sell Standardbreds.
That was the plan. What actually happened was these two ladies purchased Shannon Hall, a broodmare and retired racehorse, and not too long after, the ladies welcomed Shannon Hall’s fifth foal and the ladies’ first foal, Two O B Wonkenobi “Tobe” to the farm. With the intention of consigning Tobe at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, the two traveled to Lexington and were optimistic about the really high prices that the horses were going for. But they learned that you just don’t take your horse to the sale. To ensure that it is “worthy” of being sold at the Lexington sale, your horse must be vetted prior to.
“Randy Manges, the sales manager for Lexington Selected Yearly Sales Co., came up to see Tobe,” Weaver said. “Now, I’m a business person, a salesperson, not a horse person. Shannon Hall’s first foal sold for $85,000 ten years ago and had a decent career on the track. With that little bit of information, I had this high dollar value on Tobe. Randy came out and told us that we had a ‘decent colt,’ but it was obvious that he was underwhelmed.”
The partners engage in a conversation with Manges about what he thought they could get for Tobe at the sale, and his response knocked the wind right out of their sails.
“He told us that we could probably get $35,000 to $40,000, and I was like ‘Whoa,’” Weaver said. “We were thinking way north of that. Closer to $100,000. It’s like when you have kids, you think that they are better than what everybody else thinks. He began asking questions that we should’ve asked when we bought Shannon Hall. Questions like what’s her breeding history? How many foals has she had, and what became of them? We know that she had four foals prior to Tobe, and we know that her first foal made a couple hundred thousand dollars, the second one a few thousand and we don’t know what happened to the two foals after that. They have no winnings or track records.”
Before his departure, Manges left the partners with valuable advice. “He suggested that we need to create a ‘story’ if we want to make Tobe a $100,000 horse,” Weaver said. “He also suggested that we could sell him in Ohio because he is Ohio-sired, and you get more money where a horse is sired. While that is true, I was kind of offended.”
“Again, just like one of your own kids, Tobe is ours, and we thought more highly of him,” Roche said. “Manges also suggested that we put him [Tobe] in training. He said, ‘If he’s as good as you both think he is and he starts doing well on the track, then her [Shannon Hall] next foal is going to be worth more, and you will be creating that story.’”
Weaver added, “We never once thought about having a horse in training, let alone owning a racehorse. We were just going to have babies and sell them.”
With that fateful decision, the partners had to find a trainer for Tobe. Roche and her husband, Kevin, were already acquainted with one of Indiana’s best trainers in harness racing, Ernie Gaskin. He and his wife, Darla, have a farm near Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana.
Gaskin initially declined the request to train Tobe. He strictly trained only his horses. It took some convincing and a fateful phone call with Gaskin’s wife before the couple agreed to take on Tobe and begin training him for the track.
Fast forward, Tobe began his training two years ago in October and has proven to his owners and those who once graded him as “average” that he is a champion horse. He recently won the Governor’s Cup Trot August 4 at Scioto Downs in Columbus, OH, with a purse of $57,700. Now he is a contender for the upcoming Ohio Sires Stakes (OHSS) Championship at Scioto Downs that will be held September 8 and offers a $275,000 purse. As of August 27, Tobe has had 14 starts this year and 20 career starts. He has eight total career wins – six wins this year.
“Our trainer Ernie keeps saying, ‘I don’t think you ladies understand that this doesn’t happen. You’re spoiled,’” Roche said. “By deciding to race Tobe, Shara and I were hopeful that we could improve the story on Shannon Hall, so her foals that we sell would have more value while putting Tobe on a good path to make him successful.”
Both Weaver and Roche praise the Gaskins as well as his caretaker Dara Hatcher and his main driver Sam Widger for the level of care and compassion that they give Tobe.
“We are responsible breeders,” Weaver said. “There are breeding farms that just turn them out, and we aren’t going to do that. We do everything that we can for the mare and the foal, and we pick the best sire to make sure that we have a good result at the end. Ernie, Darla and Dara respect the horses and take good care of them. Ernie’s philosophy is to keep Tobe sound and conditioned, so at the end of the season when the sire stakes and big money races are coming up, Tobe is conditioned and prepared for those races.”
“Tobe’s driver Sam knows when Tobe is in the lead that he can let off of him and let him coast,” Roche said. “He doesn’t drive him harder. Tobe enjoys being on the track. When a horse really likes their job, you can see it. If you look at the horses when they come up to the starting gate, they are prepared and are sizing up their competition. When the horses get a little too close to Tobe, he goes a little faster, and he doesn’t want to lose. It’s great to watch. He has such heart.”
Circling back to their pal Manges, Roche said that he has become a fan of theirs and of Tobe.
“Randy is happy for us,” she said. “Anytime we have questions, we can call him. He even came out to see Shannon Hall’s newest foal Beaner and told us, ‘I think this is the nicest yearling I’ve seen so far this year.’”
Tobe’s brother Beaner will be track-ready next season. Weaver added, “We’ll just be thrilled if he [Beaner] has any measure of the success that Tobe has had. But for now, we’re just two old broads with our two old husbands, having the time of our lives.”
For more information on CTE Horsecoats, contact Micki Roche at 317-250-0318 or email at [email protected].