Judy Pryor didn’t know much about thoroughbred horse racing.
She knew about quarterhorses and show horses and rodeos, but she didn’t know horse racing.
Pryor was a barrel racer while her husband was a calf roper and steer dogger.
It wasn’t a profitable hobBy.
“We ate a lot of peanut butter, believe me,” Pryor said. “Lots of peanut butter.”
But Pryor, who has a farm just outside of Omaha, jumped into thoroughbred breeding it feet first. The results have been quite satisfying for her.
First, she obtained a stallion named Gold Schleiger who she got for free after an injury ended his racing career. She bred a mare named A Wish for My Lady to him, and the union provided her with a filly named P R Odds Setter.
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“This mare is the reason I’m into racing,” Pryor said of P R Odds setter. “Nobody bought her, and I always thought she had a lot of talent. She always wanted to be out in front when she raced in the field. So I told (trainer Jason Wise) we’ll get her broke there at the track and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll bring her home.
“The first year of racing, she had three races and three wins. That got me very, very spoiled.”
That was in 2021 when P R Odds Setter was a 3-year-old. She won a maiden special weight race at Fonner Park, then the Fantango Lady Stakes and the Nebraska Princess Stakes at Horsemen’s Park.
P R Odds Setter won the Orphan Kist Stakes at Fonner in 2022. This year, she had two seconds to her credit before winning the Orphan Kist Stakes again last weekend.
“Nobody would buy this mare,” Pryor said. “And the other one, Caleb, they’re full brother and sister. I probably could never sell them. I couldn’t separate them.”
Caleb is one Caleb on the Go. The 4-year-old gelding has three wins in six career starts, including the Buzz Bar Stakes last year at Fonner.
Pryor isn’t a nuts and bolts kind of owner when it comes to the actual races. She leaves that to Wise, who trains her horses.
“What I am is a rah-rah person,” Pryor said. “I bring in new people to racing.”
That’s at least part of what led to one Nebraska horse racing insider to say, “She is the reason Nebraska is going to survive and thrive.”
The breeding industry in Nebraska is certainly awakening after a rather long dry spell. The purses for Nebraska-bred races have been too low to encourage the breeding industry in the state.
That appears to be changing. The addition of casino gambling and its promises of added purse money has energized the breeding industry in Nebraska.
Pryor purchased a pair of stallions in 2021 — five-time Grade 1 winner Court Vision and multiple Grade 2 winner Giant Expectations for her 400-acre Pryor Ranch.
The year before casino gambling passed, there were just 40 mares bred in the state of Nebraska. There were 190 bred in 2021 and 150 in 2022.
“We haven’t seen those types of numbers in probably 15 years, maybe 20,” said Zach Mader, president of the Nebraska Thoroughbred Breeders Association. “I think we’re looking back closer to similar numbers this year, back to the 180 range.”
There are two types of Nebraska-bred foals. There are ones that are sired by a registered Nebraska stallion, and the ones that are sired by out-of-state stallions whose mothers are registered in state.
For a foal to be considered a Nebraska-bred it must be born here in the state. The mare must be in the state for a certain amount of time before giving birth.
Those Class A foals, those from in-state stallions, are eligible for more money in breeders awards than the Class B foals, those from out-of-state stallions.
“We’ll see what the next couple of years bring, but I think from the breed program standpoint, I kind of see maybe a quicker turn-around and we’ll be able to add a little more money for the breed races,” Mader said.
The extra money will be nice for all the horsemen in the state, but Pryor isn’t doing it for the money.
“The amount of money that you make, no matter if the purses are big or small, doesn’t compare to the joy with the chores and the hands-on at home,” Pryor said. “When you bred them and raised them from beginning to end, and then all these (friends) who came and joined in, there’s no price you can put on that.”
Fonner Park Standings
Kevin Roman 93;24;14;16;$145,216
Jose Angel Medina 78;18;14;12;$131,164
Adrian B. Ramos;63;5;8;9;$53,786
Scott A. Bethke;46;5;3;6;$46,573
Isai V. Gonzalez;76;23;12;16;$126,749
Mark N. Hibdon;65;15;22;8;$107,060
David C. Anderson;59;8;8;11;$72,296