"Are you excited," I enthusiastically ask Michael when we arrive at the track.
"I think I might puke," he responds with a laugh, but in a way that lets you know that he is dead serious. His colt Goldenite, his very first racehorse, is just minutes away from his first start at Indiana Grand and just the 6th race in his career.
Michael has been waiting anxiously on this very moment for months. He spends every morning that he can at the track with this colt and his two-year-old filly Fashion Diva, watching their training and showering them with love and encouragement - the things he longs to do when his horses are stabled across the country at tracks like Fair Grounds and Aqueduct.
Race days are most special for Michael, as this is when he can best show his family all the joys of being a racehorse owner. His two young children have been picked up from school early to watch their horse run and quite a few of Michael's family members have made their way to the track to show their support.
The minutes between Race 3 and Race 4, Goldenite's race, seem to pass agonizingly slow. Eventually, it's time for Goldeniite and the rest of the field to go to the paddock to prepare for the race and the Klinglers excitedly make their way to the other side of the track to watch their horse get saddled.
Goldenite is the first horse to step into the paddock. His bay coat is perfectly clean and glistening in the May sunshine. He was cool, calm, and collected, so much so that he seemed like he had done this a million times before. The Klinglers hang onto the paddock fencing, their eyes fixed upon their colt as he is saddled up and trainer Jeff Greenhill stretches out the colt's legs.
Finally, the trumpet calls the horses to the track and that might-puke feeling in Michael's stomach grows ever stronger. Goldenite steps onto the track looking like a king with leading jockey Deshawn Parker perched upon his back. The pair looked picture-perfect, almost unbeatable.
A Love of Horses & Competition:
Michael Klingler’s story begins with a familiar line - he has been in love with horses since he was a child. He spent much of his youth at his Aunt and Uncle’s house enjoying their trail riding horses. “Any minute I could be around a horse, I would be around a horse - taking pictures of them, watching them run, riding them,” he recalled. “That’s where my passion for horses began.”
As Michael grew older, his time spent with horses turned into time spent with family and work. Still, he could never shake that feeling that called him to a life with horses, specifically to life in horse racing.
Michael Klingler has always relished in competition. He’s felt that though life is enjoyable without competition, the rush of competing against others for money or for bragging rights is what drives him. Being so, it only made sense for him to fall in love with horse racing.
“That passion for horses and the competition of racing - those two things combined just drew me in.”
Goldenite - The Horse That Made Dreams Come True:
Michael Klingler started his horse racing journey by purchasing micro-shares through ownership groups, but quickly realized that he wanted even more skin in the game. “I’m one of those guys that doesn’t dabble in anything. I’m either in or I’m not, and I wanted to get in and just see where this goes.”
The Ocala Breeders’ Sale of Two-Year Olds in Training led him to his first racehorse: a Kentucky-bred colt named Goldenite. Goldenite is sired by one of Michael’s personal favorite racehorses, two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents, out of the unraced mare Little MaryRuth (Badge of Silver).
In December of 2020, Goldenite made his debut at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana, finishing 9th. He raced at the track three more times from January through March, but was still unsuccessful at breaking his maiden. He moved to Aqueduct in New York for a single race in April but still didn’t get to the wire first.
Despite these losses, Michael Klingler and his family had fallen deeply in love with Goldenite. They enjoyed visiting him and showering him with love and affection. He had become a special and irreplaceable part of their family and they felt that he was more than capable of becoming a winner, so those losses never fazed them.
Finally, Indiana Grand Racing & Casino opened up for racing and Michael Klinger brought his colt home to Indiana. Under the careful guidance of trainer Jeff Greenhill and his team, Goldenite began to show more promise than he ever had before.
The colt finished second in just his first race at Indiana Grand in May and then snagged another second the following month. He finished third in another Maiden Special Weight in July. Finally on August 18th, 2021, Goldenite got the chance to prove that Michael and his family were right for trying again and again.
It was the 9th race of the colt's career, but his first time racing over the turf course. The change of surface turned out to be exactly what Goldenite needed to prove that the Klinglers were right in believing that he was going to be a winner; he burst out of post 6 and rushed to the front of the field, taking the lead as they went around the first turn.
Goldenite was determined to keep his head in front, fighting on as the race's post-time favorite Makai breathed down his neck. When the horses approached the top of the stretch, Goldenite's jockey Fernando de la Cruz asked him for more and the son of Goldencents responded beautifully. He bounded away from Makai and charged furiously towards the wire, crossing it just as another horse reached his flank.
Michael Klingler's dreams of owning a winning racehorse had finally come true.
Unfortunately, that high of racing was followed by a low. Goldenite had injured himself in that winning effort and had to undergo surgery. Though Goldenite's surgery was successful and he was recovering well at Springcliff Farm, Michael felt that the colt was more than deserving of retirement. Goldenite would never race again.
Fashion Diva - The First Indiana-Bred:
Goldenite's retirement did not signal the end of Michael Klingler's journey in horse racing. Not long after purchasing Goldenite, Michael began to learn of the incredible program that Indiana offered to owners of Indiana-bred racehorses.
"We found out that the Indiana program was a pretty good deal," he recalled. "I started doing the research on it and had a lot of people explain to me how the Indiana program worked and I said, ‘Hey, I’m an Indiana guy! I gotta get involved in this.’”
He purchased an Indiana-bred daughter of Alternation out of Fashionably Cool (Tiznow) and named her Fashion Diva. The beautiful filly came along nicely under the watch of Jeff Greenhill and made her debut on August 18th, the same day that Goldenite won his race. Though her result wasn't as good - she finished 5th - it was still a promising debut.
She has raced two more times since then, even finishing third at the end of August, but has yet to break her maiden. Similar to Michael's story with Goldenite, her losses have not discouraged him. He adores Fashion Diva and knows that she is a capable racehorse - the hope is she will meet Michael and his family in the winner's circle too.
The Breeder's Program:
During Michael's research on the Indiana program, he found that the incentives for breeding an Indiana-bred racehorse were hard to ignore. He doesn't dabble in anything, so he purchased a mare already in foal to Bird Song and took her to Springcliff Farm in Martinsville, Indiana. There she foaled a gorgeous chestnut filly, officially giving Michael the title of "breeder".
This mare is now back in foal to Skylord, one of Indiana's most celebrated stallions. In just a few years' time, Michael hopes to have his name listed as the breeder of a winning Indiana-bred racehorse.
In The Name of Love:
Michael Klingler is the perfect representative for new breeders and owners here in Indiana. He does not run a big-time operation with horses stabled all across the country. He doesn't spend millions of dollars at the sale. He doesn't give up on his horses after just a few losses.
Michael views his horses as more than just assets - he loves them as if they were a member of his family. Though he praises Indiana Grand for their top-notch facilities, he is most happy to stable his horses at the Shelbyville track because it is close enough for him to come to visit them often.
"The key to my horses being here is the location, because of my connection with these horses. I have to have them close," he said. "Any day I have a free day, I wanna come here and check on them, visit them, snap a few photos, and go watch them gallop around the track once for their exercise...Talk to the trainer, the grooms, about how they are and ‘how’s their attitude?’ and ‘what’s it been like this week?’. If I'm gonna put the money out to be involved in all this I wanna be involved and be hands-on and know the horses myself.”
Michael Klingler's journey in horse racing has just begun, but his love for horses and passion for competition will surely take him to all the places he has dreamed of.
This article is part of our project #TreasureoftheMidwest. Champions of the Track has partnered with the Indiana Thoroughbred Alliance, Indiana Horsemen's Protection & Benevolent Association, and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino to shine a spotlight on Indiana's vibrant Thoroughbred industry. We will be highlighting the state's farms and successful horses and horsemen through written stories, a YouTube video series, and social media content.