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Racing Returns Saturday, October 24



Saturday Feature

Ehrlich brings it home with Lumberjack Willie

The long and winding road that led the now 11-year-old pacer Lumberjack Willie to Cal Expo is explained by his current owner Scott Ehrlich.

“In the early fall of 2013, I was wagering on Hoosier Park and Lumberjack Willie caught my eye. I bet him back-to-back weeks in which he made huge closes from no chance spots to hit the board, and then the next week, which was closing week, he was scratched.

“I wasn’t going to let him win somewhere without my money on him, so I put him in my TrackMaster Virtual Stable. He shows up a week later at Yonkers, drawing the pole. Brent Holland, my friend, was down to drive. I couldn’t call him fast enough to tell him I had a ‘hot’ one for him. He wired the field at $8.90 and I now I’m following his career like he was mine.”

Ehrlich was so crazy about Lumberjack Willie that he actually bet on him against Sweet Lou at Yonkers in 2014, the same year Sweet Lou won 10 in a row and was named Pacer of the Year. Lumberjack Willie finished third behind the champion and went on to win an Open Handicap over that New York half-mile track in 1:52 4/5.

After racing in June of 2014, the pacer disappeared from Scott’s virtual stable until a qualifier 13 months later in 2015 at Harrah’s Chester, where he finished second. Oddly, he didn’t turn up again until a qualifier at Freehold in March of 2016, then was off again until a May 6 qualifier at Yonkers

“He broke at the start at Yonkers and was pulled up with Brent, who told me he thought he was done. Turns out he broke a coffin bone in one of his feet. Then after the recovery, he broke the coffin bone in the other foot. That was that – or so I thought.

“To my amazement, he shows up in my virtual stable for a March 2 qualifier at Freehold in 2017, with his longtime East coast trainer, Jack Franklin, driving him. He qualified and for the next several starts, was okay, with the seldom driving Franklin. When Jimmy Marohn Jr. drove him on April 8, he won.”

Lumberjack Willie did his vanishing act once again follow that, eventually resurfacing in a June 8 qualifier at Hawthorne. He won that contest with Matt Avenatti.

“Wouldn’t you know it that I’m friends with his dad, David,” Ehrlich continued. “I excitingly called David to let him know how I feel about this horse. He informed me they bought him at the Delaware, Ohio May sale for $2,600.

“He promised me if his son and his fiancé, Amanda Mills, ever wanted to move him, that I’d be the first they’d call. He did nicely at Hawthorne in the $4,000 to $8,000 claimers, then went to The Red Mile where he won in 1:52 1/5, then was second and then finished last.

“About a month later, David called me wanting to know if I’d be interested in purchasing him, but was very forthright in telling me that he did not come out of that last race too sporty. But, under the loving care of his son and Amanda, was coming along nicely. With David’s guidance, we quickly agreed to a price, and it was off to California.

“ Since arriving at Cal Expo, Lumberjack Willie has made a pair of visits to the winner’s circle, including a 1:52 3/5 score in February. “He’s been getting great care from Kathie and Steve Wiseman, and the extremely diligent work of his marvelous caretaker, Jodi Svendsen,” Scott noted.

For Scott Ehrlich and Lumberjack Willie, this story has truly come full circle.