David Steiner doesn’t know how much longer he’ll hold on to the picturesque horse farm that straddles Greeley Chapel and Bellefontaine roads.
It’s been in his family for 113 years, the beauty of its rows and rows of white picket fence only surpassed by the images of the 30 or so peaceful animals inside.
But age is sneaking up on the former orthopedic surgeon, who retired after 50 years and whose friends fondly call him “Doc.”
“I’m going on 82 plus 10,” he’ll tell you when asked his age. Then he explains his daughter lives in the San Francisco area, and his son will likely be moving from Columbus. Both are long removed from the farm.
“I guess I’m just at the end of the line. … When it gets to the point where I cannot handle it anymore, well, then I’ll probably put it up for sale.”
That’s why what happened a couple of weeks ago was priceless.
A horse named Captain Barbossa, which was born and raised at Steiner Stock Farm, won the Little Brown Jug, which for pacer horse racing is the equivalent to the Kentucky Derby.
Steiner cannot smile enough when he talks about that day.
“This not only is the first time that a horse we raised won the Jug, it’s also the first time we had a horse good enough to even start in the Jug,” Steiner said.
He would have loved to have been at the Delaware, Ohio, track to watch the race Sept. 24, but the usual crowd of 40,000-plus was trimmed to a few hundred due to the pandemic. His farm manager, Al Menke, however, was able to find the live broadcast that night on the United States Trotting Association website.
“I told Al to let me know if Barbossa gets in the finals, so he did,” Steiner said. “Then I said if he wins, call me.”
Later that night, Menke found himself yelling at his cell phone as he watched Captain Barbossa rocket to the lead just past the half-mile mark. The other horses never got close as the 3-year-old gelding finished in 1 minute, 49 seconds, winning the 75th Little Brown Jug with a payoff of $6.50-1.
“It was late, but I said to my wife, ‘I’m calling him,’” Menke recalled. “Doc answers the phone and says, ‘What’s up?’ I told him, ‘You said to call if Barbossa won, so I’m calling!’”
At that moment, the third-generation Standardbred breeder said he could almost hear his grandfather, his grandfather’s two brothers and his father cheering from the clouds above.
It was his grandfather, David William Steiner, a Lima physician, who along with brothers Gideon and Eli began the Steiner legacy of breeding and racing horses. It started with a livery business in 1885 just north of Bluffton, teaching folks how to take care of a horse and its equipment such as harnesses and buggies.
“As a sideline, they raised and raced Standardbreds, who were the Corvettes of their day,” Steiner recalled. “Young men would use their Standardbreds to speed around the folks driving wagons and carts.”
In 1907, the operation was moved to its current location in Lima to be closer to its customers. It thrived until Henry Ford started mass producing automobiles. That curtailed business but not the family’s love for horses.
“I think winning the Little Brown Jug is probably the biggest thing that’s happened to this farm,” Steiner said. “It’s tough when you’re a small breeder with just three full-time employees trying to compete with the big farms in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.”
Steiner said horse racing and breeding is a lot like the old saying on Wide World of Sports — “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
“For every thrill you get, there are about a dozen disappointments. It’s not for the faint-hearted. It can be expensive, very expensive … It’s like buying the tip of a tip of an iceberg.”
He’s loved every minute of it, though.
“My family has always been horse people,” Steiner said.
And now they’re also Little Brown Jug winners.
ROSES AND THORNS: An art project finds its way into the rose garden.
Rose: To Dennis Hempker of the Lima Mural Project, whose artwork can now be seen at the Lima Mall’s new main entrance. The mural is part of Washington Prime Group’s Canvas Project, which features the works of local artists within prominent areas of the group’s properties. Other Lima Mural Project works are on display along Cole and North streets; I CAN Celebrate Ministries on High Street; and the First Church of Nazarene on Elm Street.
Rose: To assistant Allen County Prosecutor Tony Miller, whose successful case against Eric Wilson resulted in the gang member being sentenced to 62 years in prison. The trial last week put a spotlight on Lima’s gang problem, noting one gang had over 200 members.
Rose: To Dana Frost, the Region 3 director of ABATE. COVID-19 put a stop to the annual motorcycle toy run, but it didn’t keep them from finding an alternative event last week to raise money to help children have a better Christmas.
Rose: To Jeanette and Richard Laudick, of Ottawa, who celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Wednesday.
Rose: To Greg Sneary, who has officially retired after serving nearly 18 years as an Allen County commissioner.
Thorn: The village of Belmore in Putnam County has been declared “unauditable” after Ohio Auditor Keith Faber’s office could not find adequate records to complete its audits of 2018 and 2019.
PARTING SHOT: People learn something every day, and a lot of times it’s what they learned the day before was wrong.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.