When 3-year-old filly Talkin Indian won the ninth race at Fair Grounds on Dec. 7, its likely the average racing fan did not notice a unique detail that came along with the first-level allowance victory.
The interesting part had to do with winning trainer Rich Scherer, who became the third member of the Scherer family to saddle a winner at Fair Grounds that day. Earlier on the card, Richard’s father, Merrill, scored with claimer Essence of Gold in race 6, and one race later, his brother, Gary, sent out 17-1 longtshot Devil’s Libation to a maiden-breaking score.
"The pressure was on," Rich would later joke. "They were all teasing me that Gary and dad already had won and now it was my turn. I couldn't let them down."
As far as Merrill knows, it is the first time a father and two of his sons each recorded wins at a racetrack on the same day.
“I would think it’s the first time it’s happened,” said Merrill. “There aren’t too many fathers who have two sons training, let alone win races at the same place. It was definitely a proud moment. We didn’t do too much celebrating since Rich lives near the French Quarter, and Gary and I are in a different part of town. But it was nice having some of the other trainers recognize it.
“As a father, it’s great to see both sons do well. We’ve all been in the business a long time.”
In fact, Merrill, 69, has been training Thoroughbreds since the 1960s. As a 22-year-old, he took out his license in Ohio and never looked back, starting horses at dozens of racetracks in the Midwest and Southeast. A native of Louisiana, Scherer has saddled more than 1,100 winners since statistics started being kept by Equineline in 1976, the majority of them with lower-level claimers. Along the way, he taught Rich and Gary the tricks of the trade.
“They started coming out to the barn with me when they were very young,” said Merrill, who keeps most of his 30 horses in training in Louisiana, but makes his full-time home in Simpsonville, Ky. “The biggest thing I tried to teach them was to be honest, especially with their owners. It will eventually bite you in the behind if you’re not. Both of them are good horsemen. They are very hands-on.”
Rich, 45, the oldest of six children, keep most of his 25 horses in training in Chicago during the summer and New Orleans in the winter. Gary, 43, has a smaller barn based out of Minnesota. For them, horses have always been the focus of their life.
“I guess we’re your typical racetrack family,” said Rich, who took out his license when he was 18, but has been training consistently since 1988. “Dad would be off travelling with his horses, and after school let out in the summer, we’d go with him. I can remember hotwalking his horses at Thistledown when I was eight years old. We just tried to listen to what he taught us and pay attention to the horses.
“Dad still enjoys it, and actually, I think the last few years he’s been having the best years of his career. So I don’t see him slowing down at all.”