family affair at the penny pearce barn

BY Dick Jerardi

Penny Pearce and her husband Augustin Solis had been working for other trainers, with the occasional horse of their own when she decided “I didn’t want to work for other people anymore.’’

So, now in Barn 27 at the end of the Parx stable area nearest the seven-furlong chute, it is Pearce, her husband and their two sons, Philip and J.D., working with their 12 horses.

“My husband and I got a couple of our own and it kept growing and growing and growing,’’ Pearce said. “Pretty soon, he stopped working for somebody else and we just work together now.’’
It was 2012 when Pearce first took out her trainer’s license.

“We had a really good year that first year and we said: `This is easy,’’’ Pearce said. “This job will humble you. You might have a good year one year and the next year might not be so good.’’
That is, in essence, the world of the race tracker. Horses are unpredictable.

“You take the good with the bad and you just keep rolling with it,’’ Pearce said.

The good would include the mare Natalie La Rose who was in and out Pearce’s barn three times because she kept claiming her back after losing her.

“She’s just got a heart,’’ Pearce said. She just a race horse. She’s not very nice to work with, typical mare, but she just loves her job.’’

Natalie La Rose was claimed off Pearce again on Nov. 30 by owner John Fanelli and leading Parx trainer Joe Taylor.
It might be a business, but Penny Pearce is one trainer who gets and stays attached to her horses, even when she no longer has them.

“You can ask my husband,’’ she said. “Sometimes, I can’t even go the paddock when they claim them. Like I’m tearing up now. That’s my main problem. I fall in love…You have to because if you didn’t love the horses, you shouldn’t be in this business. And if you are in this business and you don’t love the horses, you have no business being in this business.’’

A visit to the Pearce barn makes it obvious they all love the horses.

“My son Philip does just about everything,’’ Pearce said. “He walks, he grooms, he ponies horses in the afternoon. Hopefully, after this winter, he’ll be galloping too. He works really hard. It’s just the four of us. It’s nice.’’

When they go home, there is no horse talk. That is left for the time they spend together each day at the barn.
Pearce said her husband is the backbone of the operation. He is at the barn from 4 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. every day.
The family owns 70 percent of the horses in their barn which means they get to call all the shots.

“I decided over the years I’m just going to train for the people I like,’’ Pearce said. “The owners that I do have are really good owners.’’
The racing math works much better for owner/trainers when they win.

“If you win a race for your owner, you only get 10 percent of the pie.’’ Pearce said. “If you do it for yourself, you get it all.’’
Like so many around the track, Pearce was born into it.

“I’m a race track brat,’’ she said. “My dad trained horses. He was a blacksmith. My brother’s still a blacksmith down in New Mexico. That’s where I’m from. So you’re just kind of born and raised into this business and it’s kind of what you just do. You love the horses, you love the business. It’s like the biggest adrenaline rush in the world. There’s nothing like getting a horse ready, getting them to the races and watching them do good.’’

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