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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 9, 2011 5 years ago

Neighbors: Rod Hartwick

by: Rachel S. OHara Staff Photographer

Rod Hartwick’s love of horses began at a young age when his father “got the bug” for racing, and the family began buying horses and traveling around to various racetracks in Michigan and Ohio. Although his home was in Berkley, Mich., Hartwick was rarely there.

“We were gone all the time, like gypsies,” he said.

On June 29, 1945, just after turning 13, Hartwick, a jockey, won his first race. By the end of his first year he had won 155 races and was the leading apprentice rider in America. But Hartwick was technically too young to ride — the legal age was 16.

“I said I was 16 every year,” Hartwick laughs.

Although Hartwick rode many of his family’s horses, he rode for other horse trainers, as well, including Lucien Laurin, best known for being the horse trainer to Secretariat, who Hartwick later treated.

In 1959, Hartwick graduated from veterinary school and made his way back to the racetracks.

“I was trying to get clients and was running around like an idiot,” recalls Hartwick, “but after a year or so, you build up a clientele and you become their veterinarian. There were certain stables where I did all their work forever.”

In 1992, Hartwick retired from his veterinary practice.

“I decided I wasn’t going to die on the racetrack,” he says.

Hartwick’s living a lifetime on the racetrack normal.

“It was a normal process of being raised on the racetrack,” he says. “Being a vet was a logical thing, and how neat to be able to work on the racetrack and make a darn good living — it was fun! Being involved in racing — I loved it.”

Contact Rachel O'Hara at

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