The rules of harness racing—unlike those of the thoroughbred sport—require artificial insemination, and as a consequence most standardbreds are doomed to make love to the equivalent of inflatable mares. But Mr. Fred, always the special case, actually gets to mount a living, breathing thing. It's a little hard on his back, but toujours l'amour. "Some horses bite or get rough with the mare," John says, "but not Manny. He's a gentleman." At the height of his passion, Manfred is diverted by John and ejaculates into a leather-covered receptacle, the contents of which will be used to impregnate as many as 15 mares.
So far this year Manny has thrived on his demanding schedule. A typical day for him begins at 2 a.m., when he's trotted out to breed to a mare by the moonlight; then he's put into a van and shipped a couple of hundred miles to a track, unloaded long enough to go out and win a race, loaded into the van again and sent back to the farm. As his record performance at Saginaw attests, none of this has managed to dull his competitive edge. Still, there are those who think Walter and John are crazy.
How, the doubters ask, can a horse have the stamina to race and breed at the same time? It's impossible, they huff, for the Szczepanskis to deliver on Manny's many commitments to tracks and mares. Beyond that, there are those who simply believe that a breeding stallion should not be permitted to race.
Walter and John replied to these critics with a notice in the April edition of The Michigan Harness Horseman: "Manfred Hanover will not leave Michigan until July first, and will breed a mare every 2 days even when he races. If he races out of state, he will return to the farm to take care of his harem regardless of what some people will say."
The Szczepanskis insist that they would do nothing to jeopardize the well-being of their valuable star (they've already turned down an offer of $2.7 million from a would-be buyer). "We'll syndicate him eventually," says Walter, "but I really think he should stand out east next year." There, one presumes, he would have the opportunity to meet a better class of mare.
Meanwhile, the Szczepanskis plan to have Manny keep all his appointments, both at the track and in the breeding shed, no matter what anybody thinks. He took a brief layoff from racing this summer for minor surgery to repair a slight crack in a splint bone, but Manfred Hanover's next serious test will come on Sept. 26 at Louisville Downs in the $450,000 Breeders Crown trot. By then, of course, the breeding season will be long over and Manny can concentrate exclusively on his racing.
At midnight, some 26 hours after the Saginaw race, John returns to the farm from an evening out and goes straight to Manfred Hanover's barn to check on his horse. Mr. Fred is standing in his stall doing his mule impersonation again, frantically bobbing his head and twitching his big ears. John goes into the stall and, still in his suit and tie, mucks it out, fluffs up the hay and feeds the star a snack.
It's been a long, hard day for Manfred Hanover, but hey, what the heck, it's a living.