Odell Men’s Horse Takes 2 of 3 Lucrative Stake Races in Illinois

Harvey Grieff of Odell and Keith Verdun, formerly of Odell now of Pontiac, invested $2,500 together on a horse that won a $180,000 purse Sept. 23. Not a bad deal.

“I liked this guy from the time I looked at him,” Grieff told The Paper last week. Grieff’s hunch paid off big.

Earlier this year at the state fair, the same horse, Captain Rhett, won a $50,000 purse. The $180,000 purse was at the Robert F. Carey Race at Hawthorne, Cicero.

The horse is competing in harness racing, which harkens back to the days when horses were used with a harness on the farm to plow the fields. Today, with the exception of the Amish, modern mechanical farm implements, such as a combine for harvesting, have replaced the horse.

Captain Rhett’s mother’s name is Scarlet, thus the winning horse’s name is inspired by Rhett Butler from the famous Civil War novel, Gone With the Wind.

Captain Rhett is a Standardbred horse, coming in at about 1,000 pounds, with 23 race starts over the past two years, so he is still just starting to give the horse owners a return on their original investment. The same horse took fourth place in Du Quoin, the third harness competition in the Illinois’ Triple Crown.

Standardbreds are so named because only horses who could trot or pace a mile in a standard time of no more than 2 minutes, 30 seconds were admitted to the “stud book.”

Captain Rhett is a pacer, not a trotter, according to trainer Horvath.

Pacing horses are faster and not as likely to break stride. If a horse starts to gallop, it must be slowed down and taken to the outside until it resumes trotting or pacing.

In addition to Verdun is Jim Horvath Jr., trainer and originally from Worth; the blacksmith (known as a horse farrier) is Randy Finn, of Newton; and their vet, Dr. Pete Langley of Peotone. Rounding out the winning team at Hawthorne is Marcus Miller, who was flown in from New York to drive Captain Rhett on Sept. 23.

Miller is “one of the top drivers in the country,” Grieff said.

Grieff has three sons, one who runs Grieff Monument (Brad) in Dwight and Grieff Exteriors (Tim) in Odell, and Rich who had horses with Harvey and is still interested in the harness industry. Because of the depressed state of the horse racing industry, Grieff and Verdun were able to purchase Captain Rhett at bargain basement prices. Such horses can sell for up to $300,000 or more, he said.

A yearling in the Lexington, Kentucky sale sold Oct. 4 for $480,000, Grieff said.

This year, Grieff said he believed the purses at Springfield and Hawthorne would be considerably less before the budget was approved.

The six horses owned by Verdun and Grieff were trained in Florida as yearlings, but are resting in Odell situated on a farm owned by the late Robert Fraher of Odell before continuing racing in Ohio.

Grieff began his harness horse racing career back in 1979 with a friend, the late Leonard Howell.

Grieff said Captain Rhett is going to Ohio to continue to provide more return on Grieff’s and Verdun’s initial $2,500 investment.