The TRM trainer of the quarter award has been won by Judi Hicklin. Judi and her team will receive a TRM product portfolio worth in excess of $1,500. The portfolio will consist of TRM tack bags and saddle pads as well as a large selection of the world famous TRM product range.
Two months after her 94-year-old mother died, trainer Judi Hicklin saddled the star of her 14-horse stable, Wayzata Bay, for his third start in the $295,000 Grade 2 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap June 28th. The six-year-old had finished eighth and fifth in the stakes the two previous years, results the 54-year-old Hicklin didn't regret. She has a deep appreciation for racing in Nebraska. "I can remember when I was a little kid going over to Ak-Sar-Ben to watch the races," she said June 30th. "We had to go to the Kiddies Corral. That's where the kids had to stay. I was six. The Cornhusker has always been the premier race in the Midwest. Even to be in the race was exciting." Hicklin, a 54-year-old native of Des Moines, Iowa, showed horses initially before getting involved with Thoroughbreds. "Then Prairie Meadows opened (March 1st, 1989)," she said. "I bought a race horse, Clusterplan. I had a friend of mine train her. She won a race and she was third in a stakes. It was pretty amazing. It wasn't like show horses. You got paid instead of a ribbon." Hicklin quickly acquired her trainer's license and has been racing at Prairie Meadows ever since, spending her winters at Tampa Bay Downs. Before Wayzata Bay, Hicklin's best horse was Madam Riley, a two-year-old filly who won a few minor stakes. Wayzata Bay's fondness for Prairie Meadows is documented. His record before the 2008 Cornhusker was seven-for-15 at Prairie Meadows and three-for-26 everywhere else. But his owner, Gene Phelps, who named Wayzata Bay after his hometown in Minnesota, decided to attend the Cornhusker. He hadn't seen Wayzata Bay race live since he won the Prairie Mile three years earlier. Bettors weren't impressed and sent Wayzata Bay off the longest shot in the field at 38-1. Perhaps they knew no local horse had ever captured the Cornhusker, whose previous winners include Star de Naskra, Gate Dancer, Black Tie Affair, Sir Bear and Roses in May. Hicklin, however, thought Wayzata Bay was sitting on a top effort. "He was going into it as good as he possibly could," she said. Then, after an anxious moment, the race unfolded beautifully for her deep closer. "He stumbled at the start; I wanted to throw up," Hicklin said. "He recovered. Then two horses (Temporary Saint and Encaustic) hooked up in front and he laid third down the backside. Usually, he comes from way back. I thought, `Wow! He's laying real close.'" Then jockey Israel Ocampo moved his hands and Wayzata Bay shot past the dueling leaders. "He was in front at the eighth pole, and I was screaming," Hicklin said. "And he just widened." Wayzata Bay won by 3 ½ lengths in 1:48 47 and was greeted by a tearful Hicklin when he came back to the winner's circle. "I still can't believe it," she said two days later. "I can't stop crying about it. It was amazing. To win the Cornhusker is unbelievable, unbelievable." Wayzata Bay's victory pushed him past half a million dollars in career earnings. His next start will likely be in the Prairie Meadows Handicap at the end of July. He's won it the past two years. Would another victory tempt Hicklin to try and up the ante in a major stakes? "Wayzata is going to tell us where we want to go," she said. "Everybody else in our stable will follow him." They should. He's the leader of the pack in Nebraska and he has given Hicklin a moment she'll treasure the rest of her life, forever validating her ability to train Thoroughbreds. She is quick to point out that she's been helped the past 10 years by her assistant trainer Rafael Sanchez. Maybe somebody else was helping her the night of the Cornhusker. "I know she was watching, and screaming as loud as we were for him to win," Hicklin said of her mom. "She loved the races."