08/30/2017 11:26AM

Meeking, 89, still sending out winners


Trainer Bob Meeking is still going strong at 89 and is actually on a bit of a roll right now. In the last month, he’s won with 4 of his 10 starters at Emerald Downs, and he has an excellent chance of winning Friday’s third race with She’smusictomyears.

He had a simple explanation for his recent success: “I haven’t come up with a magic formula. I just have my horses down low enough to where they can win.”

Meeking was born in Victoria, British Columbia. He saddled his first horse at Lansdowne Park in Richmond, B.C. Landsdowne is long gone and is now a shopping mall.

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He grew up near the Willows racetrack in Victoria, where one of his neighbors was David Cross, who ended up winning the 1983 Kentucky Derby with Sunny’s Halo.

“We have stayed in touch all this time,” Meeking said. “I still talk to him every couple of weeks. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but he’s still buying and selling horses.”

Meeking was on another roll in the 1970s when he hooked up with Canadian owner Ole Nielsen of Canmor Farms.

“He was the best the guy I ever trained for,” Meeking said. “We won the 1976 Longacres Derby with Salad Sam, who also ran second in the B.C. Derby. The next year, we won the B.C. Derby with Bucksaw. He wasn’t afraid to put up his money to get a nice horse.”

Meeking shelled out a few bucks of his own to buy Mincemeat, who swept both races in 1970.

“A friend of mine at Golden Gate said he knew of this horse that was tearing down the barn and that I should try and get him,” Meeking said. “I had just won a race at Longacres and the horse was claimed. I took all of the money out of the office and every dime I had to buy him. We took him to Santa Rosam, and he won his first start for us. He turned out to be my own cash register. He made over $100,000, which was a considerable amount back then. It was a big gamble, but it really paid off. It really was the best thing that happened in my career.”

Meeking’s last derby win came at Emerald Downs in 1996 with Find Our Star.

“I seem to win it every 20 years or so,” said Meeking. “I am due.”

Helping keep Meeking fit and young is the 70-acre farm in Poulsbo that he owns with his wife of 35 years, Barbara.

“We have 70 horses and 50 goats,” he said. “We started with 10 goats, but they seem to propagate and we can’t seem to get rid of them. We also have some cows. It is a beautiful property. It keeps us hopping.”

One of their two daughters, Ruel Johnson, has a 20-acre property that abuts their farm.

“She has an equestrian center where she teaches riding,” Meeking said. “Our other daughter, Stacy, has a Phd in something I can’t pronounce and lives in Maryland.”

Last winter Meeking had quadruple-bypass surgery. He seems to have recovered extremely well, especially for someone of his age.

“I feel great,” he said. “The doctor said I was good for another 20 years, so I told him I would give him a post-dated check.”

Meeking certainly hasn’t lost his sharp wit or keen sense of humor.

“The best thing about being 89 is that I can tell lies about people and most of them aren’t around to correct me,” he said.