It was a thrilling, nail-biting win for Cannibal in the $350,000 Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids at Hollywood Casino at the Meadows on July 29th, and his victory in 1:49 by a head proved that he was up for the challenge and more. The son of the great Sweet Lou out of No More Losseszoomed up the Lightning Lane, passing Redwood Hanover and Seven Colors, with favorite It’s My Show fourth.
It was trainer Nancy Takter, though, who cemented her name in history that day at the Meadows, becoming the first woman trainer to complete the Adios Day double, with a win also in the Adioo Volo with Always B Naughty.
Her excitement was still evident days later, as Nancy talked about her horses and the amazing day at the Meadows, particularly with Cannibal. “It was a REALLY exciting weekend. Going into the race, I thought that he had a good chance of picking up a good piece of the purse, but did I necessarily go there thinking he was going to be the winner? No! Was I going to be surprised if he won? No. But it wasn’t a surprise, it was just a happy moment.”
“Things were kind of unfolding (in the race) like I expected them to unfold, it was just a matter of when he was going to get the room in the open stretch, and if he was going to have enough of the race left to kind of pick up speed to win the race. Things worked out in our favor,” she said.
Her smile in the Winner’s Circle rivaled that of the sun shining brightly over the track that day. “The Adios is one of the classic top races for three-year-old pacing colts, and I’d never won the Adios before, so it was definitely one of the races left on my list of races to win. I think I’ve pretty much won everything for three-year-old pacing colts except the (Little Brown) Jug, so maybe we could knock that off this year too!” she laughed.
Nancy and winning driver Yannick Driver, who picked up his 2nd Adios win in his career, have a strong, solid bond and work well together, and she leaves the races in his hands. “Yannick and I, we’ve had a good working relationship and a friendship for a long time, so we kind of know each other, and what each other is thinking when it comes to races and so forth.”
Photo Credit to Dawnelle Mock

“I definitely don’t give him any direction, that’s his job. That’s what he’s good at. I’m the trainer, and I let him do the driving. He always gives me really good feedback, so we are able to make the adjustments that need to be made from race to race, so that’s very helpful, and very important when a trainer and driver are working together.”

Do the nerves ever get the best of this strong, confident woman? “I’m not nervous, I don’t think,” she confided. “I’m too busy on big race days to worry about getting nervous because I’m just trying to get horses warmed up and kind of make sure that everything is right, all the equipment is on right, the race bikes are where they need to be, and so forth, so there’s not a lot of time for nerves. Obviously, when they go behind the gate, I don’t think it’s nerves, I think it’s more of an excitement and adrenaline rush, kind of leading to that point all day. I don’t really get nervous because I know we’ve done all the preparation leading up to the race, so there’s reality nothing to be nervous about. It’s just a matter of things kind of going your way, which you know, in horse racing, a lot of times, it doesn’t.”
Her Adios day adrenaline rush started with a tremendous win by Always B Naughty (Always B Miki-Ooh Shesa Badlands) in the $114,700 Quinton Patterson Adioo Volo in 1:50. “I actually own a piece of her too,” she said proudly, “so that was super exciting. She’s been such a good filly for us this year. She didn’t race last year at age 2, we put her away in the middle of July and gave her some turnout, and she was just going through growth spurts. She was just not ready to race last year. It’s been really rewarding to see that she’s taken that year, that we kind of ‘red-shirted her’ and made the most of it this year.”
“That race, (the Adioo Volo), she came first up a really long way on a really good filly on Strong Poison, so it was kind of really the first time she’s really had to race against better fillies in more competition. She started off the year in those NW2 series at the Meadowlands, which was not as tough competition as an open race like the Adioo Volo, and even in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, she’s often drawn into softer fields, so I didn’t really know, and I still don’t think I really know where her bottom is! How much can she really endure? She’s really been a pleasant surprise and I’m really proud of her.”
Photo Credit to Jessica Hallett

The next several months will be insanely busy for Nancy, with the Red Mile in Lexington; the Meadowlands; Canada later in the season; and the barn at her home, with other races sandwiched in between. Her massive stable is split up between multiple locations. “I have 10 horses in Lexington, 33 in New Jersey, and 1 in Canada,” she said. Mapping out their races takes time and intense concentration, and she spends hours on that task.

“I definitely spend a lot of time with a legal pad and a pen in my hand., just trying to figure out where everybody needs to go. What’s the best place for each horse to race, where they can have a maximum performance and a maximum payout for their performance. During the winter my biggest job is conditioning the horses, but I think during the summer my biggest job is managing the horses.”
Nancy juggles her wildly successful career as a trainer with being a busy mom to Ella and Marcus, and believes that there are many opportunities for women to succeed as a trainer. It can be challenging, however.
“It is a difficult job, especially if you are prioritizing being a mother. My schedule is completely nuts! You make a lot of sacrifices as a mother, and your kids sometimes make sacrifices because you’re not around. On August 20th, my daughter Ella is going to college, and I don’t even know where I’m going to be in the country on that day! But at the same time, my kids have grown up in this, just like I grew up in this, so I don’t think they’re any worse for the wear because they don’t know any different. You’re going to miss a lot of baseball games and hockey games, and school things. It’s difficult for a woman to choose between being a mother and running a barn, but there are a lot of women in the sport that deserve a shot.”
Nancy Takter, who practically grew up in a Winner’s Circle with her family, went from being a groom working alongside her father, the great Jimmy Takter; to taking on second trainer responsibilities with his stable; to become one of the most successful trainers in harness racing. Adding a win in the $1M Hambletonian Open Trot with Tactical Approach to her resume on August 5th, she has proven that she is unstoppable and a dynamic force in harness racing.
Cover Photo Credit to Chris Gooden (Cannibal winning The Adios)
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