Outriders Provide Safety During Races at Indiana Grand

John Neal and Vinny chase down a loose horse during racing at Indiana Grand. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

It takes a village of individuals to run a successful racing program. Some of these people are very skilled at their positions, including Indiana Grand’s three outriders, John Neal, Tiffany Belden and Wesley Campbell. The trio ensures safety and coordination on the track at all times and each one is a vital part of the success of the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing programs at Indiana Grand.

Neal is the senior outrider of the group. He is now in his fifth season as an outrider in Indiana and brings several decades of experience with him, serving most of that time at Churchill Downs, including the Kentucky Derby. Neal now calls southern Indiana’s Charlestown home where he has a small farm to accommodate 22 horses of various disciplines that he works with. However, he only keeps three at Indiana Grand for his job as outrider.

“Vinny is my primary horse because I’ve had him the longest,” said Neal on his retired Thoroughbred whose racing name was Nice and Easy Does It. “He and Scottie (also a retired Thoroughbred) are both black and look just alike. Most people think I ride the same horse every day, but I rotate them every other day. And, Stoney is a Quarter Horse I use in the mornings that used to race here. My main focus is to just keep them fresh and sound.”

Neal has assisted with some of the greats in the business, so it’s no surprise he was called upon to assist with the Disney movie, “Secretariat,” when it was being filmed about a decade ago. Neal worked closely with the wranglers with the horses featured in the film.

“When they did the Belmont scenes for the movie, they filmed them at Keeneland and Jerry (the other outrider) and I were dressed in Belmont colors,” said Neal. “We are in the film a little. We worked with them for four days on those scenes. The other times, we just helped with the horses.”

Neal couldn’t ask for a better co-worker than Belden, who is a native of Michigan. Belden, who is also in her fifth season at Indiana Grand, was born into the business. Her mother, Sue, was a trainer and her dad, Lawrence Belden, was a jockey on the Michigan circuit. Belden took out her trainer’s license in 1996 but saw an opportunity to get involved in the official side of the business and worked on the gates at Great Lakes Downs which eventually led to an outriding position, taking her to Presque Isle Downs before relocating to Indiana Grand in 2014. In all, Belden has been serving as an outrider for 12 years.

Belden keeps two horses for her duties as outrider. Mister, who raced under the name The Bigger They Are, is her most noted horse, the grey gelding seen during races. Batman, who raced under the name Match A Bat, is now 14 and utilized during morning training hours. Belden recently added a third to her string, The Cartel Concept, a Quarter Horse she has a history with.

“I actually broke The Cartel Concept when he was a baby,” said Belden. “He ran third in the Born Runner here last year and ran once the first month of this meet. I’m working with him now and he’s doing really well.”

As far as winter for Belden, she will head home to Michigan before returning to Indiana next spring.

“I will go home and take care of our farm,” said Belden. “I’ll also break some babies. We have three to break this winter.”

Joining the team this year as an outrider is Wesley Campbell, who can be spotted on the track during racing aboard his Appaloosa, Bill. A native of Michigan, Campbell got a call from Belden earlier this year about relocating to Indiana, a job he eagerly accepted.

“Last year, I was an outrider at Presque Isle Downs,” explained Campbell. “I got a call from Tiffany (Belden) about this job. It’s closer to home for me, so it was a great opportunity.”

Campbell has also grown up in the business. He galloped and rode in Quarter Horse races when he was younger and developed skills as a blacksmith, a job he held for many years before becoming an outrider. In addition to Bill, who is his primary horse during racing, Campbell has a Quarter Horse, Toby, he uses in the mornings. Both of his horses possess a similar trait that he looks for in a good outriding pony.

“I always look for a horse that has a lot of speed and a good mind for sure,” added Campbell. “You need a horse that will relax in the down time, and there is a whole lot of sitting and waiting in this job. But, then you need a horse that can get into action really quick.”

Thanks to the hard work of Neal, Belden and Campbell, Indiana Grand is well covered in that aspect. The team of outriders can spring into action when needed and their expertise creates a more cohesive, controlled environment on the track. It’s a team that any track would be lucky to have.

(from Indiana Grand news release)