FLYNN THE HORSE
(aired FEBRUARY 1988; 5:36)
Analyzing the state of harness racing in Western New York, as the reporter
meets his "name sake" Flynn, the horse- the pacer that races out of Batavia Downs
and Buffalo Raceway.. with Dave Knupfer, Gary Pafk and Flynn the horse.
To find out more about harness racing and the 10-year old Flynn,
I took a ride out to where he's stabled year 'round at the Gary Pafk
Stables in Alden, New York. Flynn's owners are Dave Knupfer and his
mother, Anne. Dave doubles as trainer as well. The pair purchased Flynn
for a thousand dollars two years ago with the idea to race him solely
in county fairs. Five fair races- including four wins later, he was
paid for, and moved to betting races soon after in $3000 claiming
features. Dave was told that Flynn had problems- like soreness in the
legs and slowness in the beginning of races. But Knupfer says Flynn is
one of the soundest horses he's seen, requiring little work and vet
attention. And now, Flynn's burst off the gate is his strong point.
KNUPFER: I found the secret to his shoeing- that horse was off shoeing.
Just gotta know what angle and what kind of shoes, and you're all set
with him. Off the gate, he's one of the quickest horses in his class.
Off the gate, his first three four steps, he's by everybody. That's
his secret- get him out of there.
Dave says the other drivers in competition do not respect Flynn.
His fastest time of 2:04 in a mile was set in 1983. But he just missed
that mark last summer.
KNUPFER: We never knew he could leave like he did, like he does now.
He can go to the quarter every week in 29 seconds in the summer. I
was down to 28-and-four one week, didn't think nothing of it. And
that's a $3000 claimer going 28 and four-you don't see too many
Around 12-thousand dollars, money return is the break-even point
yearly per horse at the track. That offsets six to eight hundred for
a trainer per month.. Plus shoeing, vet bills, food and vitamins.
Knupfer pays about $4000-per because he trains his three horses. In
the nineteen months he's had Flynn, Dave is slightly ahead. But the
future of area harness racing is not promising. OTB frequently outdraws
the track. And Dave believes the sport still carries a dirty name.
It just doesn't have the appeal.
KNUPFER: It's on the decline, real bad. You're losing potential horsemen.
You are not getting anybody new in the business anymore because the
money's not there. There's no incentive to move your horse up either
from class to class. A $3000 claimer has a thirteen-hundred purse..
$3500 is fourteen-hundred. You go to a $5000 claimer and you're only
making sixteen-hundred. That's only a hundred fifty dollars more in
purse money. For the guys who are in the business as their livelihood,
it's getting tougher.
Six-year driver Gary Pafk, who has steered Flynn for the two seasons,
agrees. He says harness racing reached its peak in the early 80s. Pafk would
be in favor of a shorter schedule- instead of the back-and-forth year round
Batavia-Buffalo set up- to keep fan interest alive.
PAFK: The purse structure doesn't allow that much money to be made now.
It's tough, competitive racing. You can race your cheaper horses now but
it's so competitive, it's very difficult to make any money. Summertime,
it gets better but then the competition gets tougher, too.
Pafk and Knupfer agree that Flynn has had more bad luck than good in
the past two years.
KNUPFER: As far as luck... I think Flynn's an Irish name. I thought he was
supposed to be lucky. But with him, he's not.
Horses have collided, stopped, or locked out Flynn. And getting poor
beginning slots to start the races doesn't help. The inside 1-2-3 positions
are most desirable. Still, Flynn is known as a relatively calm animal with
a lot of heart. Once again, Gary Pafk-
PAFK: He's a trying kind of stallion. When he's on the racetrack, he gives
one hundred percent. If he's on top and it doesn't take a whole lot of energy
to get there where you can relax him a little bit the second quarter, that's
when he races the most competitive.
For Dave Knupfer, it wasn't a case of a love story that began between a
young lad and a horse.
KNUPFER: No. It's a story of a boy and a betting window.
Frustrated with losing at the track, he bought the mare Della Byrd,
which made enough money early to purchase most of his training equipment
and trailer. Another horse, Tree Planter, produced funds to acquire Dave's
truck. Knupfer just bought the 8-year old horse Scandal, and has high hopes
for him this spring, when he'll be entered to race.
Flynn pays for himself these days. The 10-year old, frequent 10-to-1 shot
will race another four years, then become a riding horse. Dave combines about
three hours each night with the horses, together with his full-time job as quality
control manager and product engineer for Keystone Rubber of Buffalo. With Flynn,
it's a matter of trying to break even, and be there for that big ticket.
TRACK ANNOUNCER: ..They go to the top of the stretch... on the lead, Flynn...
Heiland Jason out for the drive... they head for home! It's Flynn!..Heiland
Jason closing on the outside!.. Flynn and Heiland Jason!... Flynn and
Heiland Jason!!- closing... and here they are!
OTB BETTOR: Hold on, Flynn, hold on!
Dave is one qualifying ride from driving his own horses, to cut down on
expenses even further. He says acquiring Scandal is the break he's been waiting
for after four years in the business.
All-time, Flynn has been in the money about every three races. For me, I'd feel
much worse not betting at all, instead of throwing away a couple of bucks when he
finishes way back. Don't tell the wife though. She doesn't hear much about the losses,
but sure wants her cut when he comes in. For Flynn...
FLYNN THE HORSE: snorts, bites microphone
Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370
TRACK ANNOUNCER: Returning to the winner's circle, your winner.. number 7 Flynn...
owned by Ann and Dave Knupfer... Flynn the winner...