by Chris Lomon
Justin Gould’s first win behind the wheel gave him more than just a sense of victory.
More than two years ago, the young renman pointed the filly to the starting car and prepared for the start of the Iowa Sire Stakes event at What Cheer, the half-mile Hawkeye State oval .
Gould was happy with his chances before the race, but felt decidedly different about the outcome shortly after the peloton was sent his way.
“I bought the horse and trained her, then rode her on her first start,” Gould said. “I was stuck the whole race. At the three-quarter pole [in 1:35.2], I had nowhere to go and I was trying to find my way. The guy outside of me didn’t give me a seat, so I just sat there. At the head of the stretch, the guy in front of me blew the corner a bit, and I snuck in and won by just over a length.
Courtesy of Justin Gould Justin Gould in action.
An eventful course, but also educational for the young rider.
In just over two minutes — 2:06.1. to be exact – Gould learned valuable lessons about patience, perseverance and determination.
To this day, these remain an essential part of his approach to racing repertoire, both as a driver and a trainer.
After joining the drivers ranks in 2019, Gould has focused more on training in the past two seasons, campaigns that have yielded impressive results.
In 2021, in his first year as a conditioner, he won seven races, along with 24 top-three finishes in 24 starts.
This season has been even better in all areas.
Competing again in Humboldt in his native Iowa, Gould posted career-best numbers, including hitting the six-figure mark in stock market earnings.
Unsurprisingly, he’s thrilled with how 2022 has gone so far. One of the main reasons for the strong campaign comes in the form of the 3-year-old stimulator Hes Special.
Bred and owned by Steven Huffman, the son of Hes Watching—Fiore Hanover is 6-4-1 in 15 runs to date.
“Things are going well so far this year. We have five yearlings which we are breaking down and training for next year. This year I have had eight or nine. I have had Hes Special, who has done so well done for us. The owner gave me the horse earlier in the season and he finished second in his first start with me and then won his next six starts in a row. I like him because he has that attraction “He was that horse. He wanted to be on the front. If he didn’t get what he wanted, he was a very difficult horse to sit behind.
Something Gould and his uncle, longtime rider, racer and trainer Mark Mintun discovered when he was recently on the race bike.
“After winning those six games in a row, being on the front, my uncle tried to give him a trip. When a horse came next to him and cashed him in, he swelled up and wanted to run over the horse in front of him, so he had to bring him in and we were disqualified. This is how the sequence ended.
Despite the end of the streak, Gould, as he does with any other loss, quickly put the big picture into perspective.
“I’m very lucky to be able to do this. It’s the one thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. The way it works is better than I could have hoped for. My uncle and others would tell me that you go back there every day. You can’t give up because you had a bad day. You must go back and try again.
It certainly helps when you have a familiar face for the ride.
Although Mintun has decided to call it a career, Gould enjoys the support, and in large part, of his twin brother, driver/trainer James Gould.
There are times when sibling rivalry comes to the fore.
And those moments aren’t limited to the race track.
“We do everything together. James ended up coming to racing and doing it full time, which is great. He helps and supports me, and I do the same for him. Me and my brother love to play to video games. We’re playing Call of Duty right now. We get competitive when we play video games and if we ever play against each other it gets really competitive. But that’s good because we bring out the best in the game. one another.
It looks like the best is yet to come for the 19-year-olds.
Working together in a different setting for part of the year is a common goal for the brothers.
And while that reality might be a little far down the road, the two are eager to see it come to fruition.
“I would like to start going somewhere in the winter. It’s hard to be just James and me in the barn. My uncle just retired. We don’t have anyone to help us with the babies in the winter if we were going for a run. So, I wish I could go to Pennsylvania or California to run in the winter. It may be a bit far.
“I would also like to have a horse in each division here, that’s what I would like to have. Right now we will have 10 for next year if they all make it to the races. It would be five 2-year-olds and five 3-year-olds, which is exactly what I want.
The pair certainly had some ideal role models to learn before launching their respective careers.
At age 11, the brothers began working for Humboldt coach Adam Hauser. Their grandfather had to retire from the sport after a heart attack, but their mother, Stevie Gould, and brother, Mintun, continue to be a valuable source of information, advice and more.
“We’ve both been very lucky to have people show us the ropes and always be there for us. We know that we can always count on them and we are very grateful to them.
Just as Gould is grateful to be part of an industry he’s admired for years.
These days, among his regular daily duties, he’ll be working closely with his pacers and trotters, preparing some for their final starts of 2022 and preparing others ahead of their hopeful debuts in the new year.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to work to develop them and bring them to the races. But you never know what will happen. The best horse I have right now might not race. That’s just the way this sport is. But I understand that.
Which makes trips to the winner’s circle, whether filled with drama or not, a treasured moment.
“Winning is never easy, including in a race. That’s what makes the good days so special. Sometimes you have to have those bad days to get to the good ones. »