Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘Lucky’ Jake Olesiak Working Overtime At Fonner

The national attention focused on Fonner Park over the past month hasn’t encouraged the Nebraska racetrack’s perennial leading rider Jake Olesiak to quit his day job.

Olesiak works 40 hours per week as a supervisor at an ethanol plant, E. Energy Adams, located near his home in Firth, nearly two hours away from Fonner in Grand Island. The 32-year-old works overnight shifts, and then makes the two-hour drive back to Fonner to ride on race days.

“I really count on Megan when it comes to that,” Olesiak said, referring to his wife, former trainer Megan Olesiak. “She drives me back and forth so I can get some sleep. … I’m lucky, I’ve got a really good boss (at the plant) who understands my second job and is willing to work with me on the schedule.”

In the past eight years, Olesiak has been the leading rider at Fonner six times. The other two years, including the recently concluded meet (considered separate from the 12-day extension recently granted Fonner by the racing commission), he finished second in the standings.

“I’m lucky to ride for well-known trainers,” said Olesiak. “These are guys that aren’t just well-known in Nebraska, but all around the country, like David Anderson and Marvin Johnson. You know, I was a jockey full-time for 10 years, I put in my time, and these guys, they respect that.”

Now a winner of over 1,000 races in his career, Olesiak first took the job at the ethanol plant five years ago. He has three daughters, from 18 months to 11 years old, and the benefits and insurance offered by a steady job were hard to pass up when he considered the girls. Additionally, he was starting to get older, and just felt like it was the right move at the time.

“Most everybody around me knows my job at the plant is very important to me,” Olesiak said. “Still, there’s the thrill of winning a race. Fonner only runs three or four months out of the year, and I do so well there. It’s not even a second job, I’m just having a good time!”

Megan Olesiak is still involved in the sport as the breeder and owner of several horses under the MGM moniker, but she also owns and operates a spa in Lincoln, Neb. Hard work and doubling down on jobs seems to run in the family.

Normally the Olesiak daughters would travel with their parents to the racetrack, spending the day watching the horses around the bull ring and hanging out on the backside. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic and resulting quarantine has meant that the girls have stayed at home. They still like to watch dad ride on television, however, especially now that Fonner is regularly shown on TVG.

“They keep sending me snapchats and videos every day,” Olesiak said, the smile on his face evident in his voice. “My youngest is always watching the races, and she’s cheering for Daddy even if I’m right there next to her. I think she’s into it much more than the other two already.”

Olesiak’s great-grandfather, Wilson House, was a trainer in Minnesota and South Dakota, and he introduced Olesiak and his three older brothers to the sport. The real passion for the game, however, was born at the Carlton County Fair in Barnum, Minn.

Following the boot prints of his brothers, Jake Olesiak first mounted up for the small pony races at just six years of age. By high school, he was skipping class on Fridays to go racing at Canterbury Park all weekend.

“I’d come back from the weekend with maybe $1,000 in my pocket, and I thought that was pretty cool,” Olesiak said. “I just decided to make a career of it.”

Now, the Carlton County Fair in August is an annual affair for Olesiak and his brothers, with nieces and nephews all participating and cheering each other on in the pony races. Even Olesiak’s youngest daughter “rode” in the leadline pony race last year, earning her first racing trophy.

“It’s basically become like a big family reunion,” Olesiak said. “We all camp out in campers, hang out together. We really make a point to be there each year.”

For now, Olesiak is grateful Fonner was granted a meet extension through the month of May. As one of the only tracks in the United States hosting live racing on Monday through Wednesday, Fonner has carved out a special niche in the gambling market and been able to capitalize on some of the national attention.

“You know, the track isn’t for everybody,” Olesiak summarized. “It’s a five-eighths of a mile oval, so the turns are a lot tighter, and we don’t race for really big purses or anything. But it’s like a family out there, and there’s a lot of good people working hard to make a living every day.”

The post Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘Lucky’ Jake Olesiak Working Overtime At Fonner appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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