Athletics, Local, Park Forest, Schools, Sports

Marian Catholic Grad Hochstetler in Breeders Crown Final

Jay Hochstetler and Ponda Warrior
Jay Hochstetler is the proud owner of Ponda Warrior. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Campbellville, Ontario-(ENEWSPF)- Jay Hochstetler is living a boyhood dream. The 2011 Marian Catholic High School graduate has been in harness racing since he was young. Now a trainer, the 29-year-old has a horse running in the Breeders Crown Final next weekend, the “World Series,” so to speak, of harness racing. Jay is a fourth-generation harness racer. His father, Homer Hochstetler, is well known on the harness racing circuit as an owner, rider, trainer, and more.

Jay drove in his first race at the former Balmoral Park at 16. He drove competitively through high school at race tracks across the Chicagoland area and beyond. After high school, he took his talents to the University of Kentucky, where he studied Equine Management and Agricultural Economics, graduating in 2015.

Jay Hochstetler
Jay Hochstetler in 2011 called former Governor Quinn’s office every day, asking the state’s highest elected official to “please sign SB 744,” to secure the future of harness racing in Illinois. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Jay phoned Sunday from Campbellville, Ontario. Catching up with my former student, he said the upcoming race was still surreal for him.

“Being here is something you know. I’ve been watching this race for as long as I can remember. So just getting here is something I always told myself I wanted to do. Finally got the opportunity.”

Now at the top of his game, the Crete native had kind words for those of us who taught him in Chicago Heights, “Thank you so much. It takes a village to get to this point. You and so many of the great teachers I had at Marian played a crucial role in getting me here.”

He reflected on his winning horse, Ponda Warrior, “He’s very kind-hearted and, you know, not aggressive like some of them can be. And he’s really a pleasure to be around once he’s on the race track. Whether he’s just practicing or actually racing, he’s a total professional. He’s the easiest horse to work with in the world.”

Hochstetler said he bought Ponda Warrior about two years ago exactly. It took him and his team about eight months to get the horse ready to race. Before Jay bought him, Warrior was living in a field. Jay bought him at an auction.

“We started [Ponda Warrior] from the ground up, taught him to race, and he was he was a very good horse. Last year, he made $115,000 in nine races. And then this year, he made about the same amount of money.” The horse finished first in Indiana two weeks ago, winning $125,000, where the winner receives half of the total race. That pushed Warrior to $355,000 in lifetime earnings.

The 3-year-old stallion loves passing other horses, Hochstetler said. “He never resented being made to go faster or anything. He wanted to do it. He likes to pass other horses and beat them in a race. The older he’s got, it seems, the more he likes to do it.”

Jay said the stallion is playful, “We buy [horses] based off of how they look and their pedigree and how they can move around. But at the end of the day, until you actually race him, you really don’t know how good they are. Either they have it, or they don’t. [Ponda Warrior] acted like he was good from day one. You know, you could tell he kind of had some talent, and he enjoyed his work.”

“That’s what kind of made me decide to try to come up to Canada and try this race. And it worked out, and we raced great last night,” the proud owner said.

“And now we’re gonna see if we can shock the world a little bit,” Hochstetler said.

And we will cheer him on.

Follow Jay Hochstetler here on Twitter: