Some people are driven by success and will take any path in order to achieve it. Then there are those fortunate few where success comes as the byproduct of following one’s lifelong passion. Treasures may await, but it is finding one’s true path that is the greatest treasure of all.
Abigail Adsit is one of those fortunate few. Many little girls long to become the proverbial fairy princess before reality disrupts those dreams. In a metaphorical sense, Adsit, 27, has actually grown up to become that princess. Her kingdom is Saratoga and Belmont Park and her subjects are the noble steeds with whom she has had a love affair since she was a child. For this fairy princess, the fairy tale has come true.
As a measure of her success in the two years she has been training, the number of horses in her barn continues to increase, as have her number of owners. It is obvious the word is out that this is the time to grab hold of the Abby Adsit comet.
On a humid overcast morning at Saratoga on the final morning of the meet, Adsit is still aglow over her victory in a starter allowance race on the grass the day before with Flamingo Lane, a 4-year-old filly she has nurtured and turned into a virtual winning machine. But on this morning the daily routine continues, as she and her father, Eric, a retired harness trainer who now works as her assistant, prepare to head back to Belmont Park.
Adsit dismounts from one of her horses, and it is immediately apparent that this is a person who loves what she is doing more than anything. Her passion and ebullience burst forth through the radiant smile on her face, and one gets the feeling she still is trying to accept the fact that she is actually living her dream.
Everything, in fact, is cheery about Adsit’s barn, from the pink canvas chairs, with the name “Adsit Equine” written on the back, to the white picnic table and the large rows of pink, white, and purple petunias and geraniums hanging outside the barn, which appropriately is located in the Saratoga Harness stable area, directly across the street from the historic Clare Court area of the backstretch.
But don’t get the impression that Adsit and her operation are all about show. It is the results in a short period of time that is the true indication that she is a growing force in New York racing, which is not exactly the easiest spot in which to get one’s career started.
After making it through her first year in 2013 with five victories, five seconds, and five thirds in 58 starts for earnings of $147,000, Adsit has made a major leap forward in 2014. She already has nine wins, four seconds, and 12 thirds in 44 starts for earnings of $258,898. More importantly, she has seen her win percentage of 9% catapult to 27% this year and her in-the-money percentage skyrocket from 26% to 57%. If you want to know what she can do with a good horse, she is four-for-five with favorites and seven-for-18 with horses 5-1 or lower.
One of the reasons why Saratoga is so special to Adsit and why her victory was such an emotional one is that the Spa has been a major part of life, well before she branched out to Thoroughbreds.
“This is her home track; she’s been here since she was a little girl,” Eric said. “She grew up here. She went to grade school and high school here. Some years she wasn’t here, because I was a trainer and we were on the road and she’d go to other schools. But she’s always wanted to be here and win at Saratoga and she got it done.”
Eric said he’s not surprised at the success his daughter has had in such a short time.
“Not at all,” he said. “She grew up with the horses and I’ve got winner’s circle photos with her when she was four days old. My wife came to the track with her right out of the hospital. My mother had to pick her up because I was racing, and she came right here and watched the race, got their picture taken and went home. I’m very proud of her for what she’s accomplished. This is all she ever wanted to do. She went to college for four years and had a good experience, but she always told me when she got out she wanted to train. And she’s fulfilled her dream.”
Abby agrees. “I am living a dream here,” she said. “I grew up here. My dad trained horses and I got involved with horses early on. Fast forward to my teenage years. I worked for Rick Violette, Todd Pletcher, and finally Linda Rice. You grow up and you idolize these people and then you work with them. I worked for Linda for four years and then went out on my own and it was sink or swim time. So it’s a pretty good feeling when you know you can get your head a little bit above water. It was special to be able to win yesterday with that filly, who has always been an underdog, starting at the $16,000 claiming level and climbing up the ladder for me. No one thought she’d be much. People kept telling me she’d never be competitive on the NYRA circuit. I kept on with her and kept on with her. I always thought she had ability on the grass and her owner (Tom McCrocklin and Weila Ye) stayed loyal to me and kept her.
“To have a filly who was an underdog win five races since January at all three NYRA tracks is pretty amazing. It’s been the biggest joy of my life. And then yesterday, she wins at Saratoga, with my mom and my dad and my 91-year-old grandmother there, who was driven from the nursing home to watch her run.”
To Adsit, every victory is special, regardless of the race. “To be able to win a race, I don’t care if it’s in a $5,000 claimer or at Suffolk Downs or Finger Lakes or Aqueduct or Gulfstream, it’s unbelievable,” she said. “A win is just wonderful satisfaction. And to be able to win at one of the most competitive meets in the United States and to have my grandmother there and standing next to my mom and dad, who supported me all these years, there’s no better feeling. It was all goosebumps and raw emotion.”
Flamingo Lane broke her maiden for Adsit for a $20,000 claiming tag in January. She then romped by five lengths for $16,000 in April at Aqueduct before moving on to Belmont, where she continued her climb up the claiming ladder, winning for a $25,000 tag in May and for $40,000 in June.
Following that last victory, McCrocklin, who used to train horses at Suffolk Downs, said to Adsit, “Abby, you’re always going to remember that filly. There aren’t many horses who can do what she’s done.”
“He was right, I will always remember her,” Adsit said.
Adsit has always had confidence in her ability to train horses, and she exudes that confidence in the enthusiasm she demonstrates whenever she talks about her horses and the magical journey she’s been on.
“I always believed if I was given the opportunity I could run with it,” she said. “That’s not being cocky, just secure in knowing I can work with horses and help them. I knew I could prove myself if I was given the chance. It’s tough to prove yourself when you have six horses running on the NYRA circuit. They get in once a month, so you have just a little window of opportunity. I tried to get the most out of my horses and make them competitive.”
Adsit’s success and growing reputation have resulted in a major increase in her stable. She came up to Saratoga with eight horses and left with 15, expanding her stable by nearly 100 percent. Among her new owners is Drawing Away Stable and managing partner Ed Boden. The stable has been affiliated mainly with David Jacobson, but they decided to branch out and approached Adsit.
Looking back, Adsit still gets emotional thinking about where’s she’s been and where she is now in only her second year training.
“I almost get teary eyed about it,” she said. “You work so hard for something. Although my dad trained harness horses, I’ve been around Thoroughbreds since I was 12 and always wanted to train them. I fibbed about my age and started galloping them at a younger age than what was allowed. When I graduated college I was 21 going on about 45 and then I went to work for Linda. I missed out on a lot of family stuff, and I missed out on friends and that perfect relationship with somebody.”
While she learned a great deal about horsemanship from her father and continued learning from Rice, she picked up a great many other skills along the way.
“Linda’s skills at being a businesswoman are far superior to most,” Adsit said. “She’s not only a horsewoman who knows horses in and out, she knows how to deal with clients and partnerships, whether its someone who has two horses or 20 horses, and she knows how to read a condition book and place her horses in the best spots. These are all things I learned and studied as I went along. “
It’s never easy for anyone to give up the security of working for a successful operation, but that burning desire to train horses finally ignited within her and the time was right to try to make it on her own.
“I loved the horses and I wanted to train and I kept that in my head all the time,” Adsit said. “I knew what I wanted to do and I was approached by some people who gave me a substantial amount of money and said, ‘Let’s go out and own.’ Looking back, it wasn’t that substantial and at the time it was a nice sum of money, but enough for only about three or four horses. It wasn’t the amount that normally would make one go out on their own, but I kind of jumped at it. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do and that kind of money isn’t going to come knocking on my door again.’ So I went and did it. Fortunately, I’ve had people who really believe in me and stood by me from day one.
“When I left Linda to go out on my own it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, to take that leap of faith, and in New York, which isn’t the easiest of places to take off at. It’s really tough. You’re going against outfits that have 50, 100, 150 horses. I try not to compare myself to anybody else. I try to hold myself to my own standards, because in this business if you wake up and say, ‘Oh. I don’t have Todd Pletcher’s horses,’ you’re going to go back to bed pretty quick. I just tried to stay positive and make the most out of every situation. If it was a $5,000 claimer I tried to make the most out of that $5,000 claimer. And like everything in life you have to take things in stride. This is such an emotional business; the good comes with the bad and emotions are always up and down. One day you can win the Derby and then lose 30 in a row. You just have to ride the waves in this game.”
While no one can predict the future, it’s a pretty safe bet that Adsit is a trainer whose reputation and accomplishments will continue to grow, and she will make a name for herself on a national scale in no time. It’s right there in the past performances and in the pedigree.
“It’s an honor to have my father, who’s also my best friend, work with me,” Adsit said. “I cherish him and was his right-hand man growing up. To have someone you trust implicitly in your operation is priceless.
“To start getting those feathers in your cap, it’s the best feeling, and also to win at Saratoga where I grew up with my dad, who had 40- to 50-horse stables and watching the Thoroughbreds and wanting to train them. It was bizarre for such a young kid to know what she wanted to do at such an early age.
“I have friends from college who are lawyers and bankers. They say, ‘Why not come to Martha’s Vineyard; we’re having a get-together,’ or ‘Why don’t you come to the reunion?’ I tell them, ‘I love all of you and one day I’ll have time, but not now.' This is not a job; it’s a lifestyle. These are my babies and I don’t like not being here.”
It is difficult to explain one’s passion to others who are not familiar with it. Adsit can try to put her feelings into words, but sometimes the fewer the words the better. Perhaps she explained her love of training horses best when she said in the simplest of terms:
“It’s my life. I live, eat and breathe it.”
Abby's love of horses and passion for training is evident by her radiant smile and effervescence.
Abby's barn is alive with color.
The walking ring outside Abby's barn in the harness stable area and scenic backdrop reveal an area few people are aware of.