“I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
Morristown High School sophomore Carson Conrad was the youngest horse driver at the Shelby County Fairgrounds Monday morning.
He and his family standardbred horse, Zig Zag Zoom raced in the second division of the Two Year Old Filly Pace race (as part of the 2021 Indiana Sired Fair Circuit), his third of the season and first time at his home course in Shelbyville. It was the only race he competed in Monday.
“She’s an amazing horse,” he said. “She’s a character, she’s always bright and happy.”
The pair led the whole race, two laps, which started off with a bang as one horse immediately crashed and another lost his driver. The top three got out ahead of the others, with Conrad leading until a water truck entered the track, forcing him to slow down in order to avoid crashing in the final turn.
He finished third.
“It felt pretty good. [My horse] was sick last week, so she was a little short,” he said, not blaming the water truck.
As a fifth generation driver, it’s pretty common for the men in his family to start racing young.
“How long has dad been doing it, Granny? 16? My dad has been doing it ever since he was 16, but he’s been doing it all his life,” Conrad said. “He worked with a lot of horses. What did you guys have then? 40? Like 40 then, but now they’ve slimmed down to 16. His dad and his grandpa and his great-grandfather, they did it their whole entire life. It’s been a family thing and I’ve always wanted to carry it on, ever since I was younger.”
Conrad says it’s fun. He’s been caring for horses ever since he could walk.
“These horses, they’re so smart,” he said. “You can build a good relationship with them. They know you like the back of their hand, and they’re smarter than a lot of people think. It’s just fun to get it in with my dad, and I enjoy coming into the barn everyday.”
Zig Zag Zoom is the daughter to the first horse Conrad ever owned.
“It’s convenient I get to drive her,” he said. “Last race, she wasn’t really doing too well. I couldn’t blame her for that, she was sick.”
His first race wasn’t too bad either. He finished second. The goal with harness racing is to get enough points to qualify for the Fair Final.
And that’s Conrad’s goal too – he aims to race at the Indiana State Fair in August. The final prize is $25,000 and a consolation prize is $10,000.
“My goal is to keep learning and I’m really just proud of how everything is going right now,” he said. “I think she’ll be really good, consolation or final, I think she can stick with the better ones as long as the race goes accordingly. But you can never really plan a race out.”
The Fair Final is the last race of the season. Conrad has four races left to qualify.
“I think as of right now, she might have dropped out of the top eight last week because she finished sixth [in the last race], but I think she can climb her way back up,” he said. “She just has to keep racing how she’s racing and just keep learning. It’s going to be a ride for both of us.”