Apprentice jockey Brandon Meier, left, breaks out the Arlington Park starting gate with his father, veteran jockey Randall Meier, next to him in the sixth race last Saturday. Earlier in the week the duo finished 1-2 in a race.
For many years, racing fans in the Chicago area have followed the career of jockey Randall Meier, a two-time thoroughbred riding champion at Sportsmans Park and Hawthorne Race Course.
Now they have another Meier to follow at Arlington Park.
Randall's 19-year-old son Brandon has hardly gone unnoticed in his first month as an apprentice rider. He is following in his father's footsteps quite well, notching 15 wins from 85 mounts in the first eight weeks of the meet.
Randall, who grew up in North Bend, Neb., will celebrate his 54th birthday July 20.
Brandon, born in Elk Grove Village and raised in Wheaton, will turn 20 on July 9.
Last week at Arlington, the father-son tandem finished first and second in a race, combining for a $438.20 perfecta.
"That was awesome," said Randall, who is the all-time leading rider at Sportsmans and Hawthorne. "But it's just awesome being able to ride in the same races with him."
If it were up to Randall, Brandon would not have started riding at all.
"I tried to talk him out of it," said Randall, who began riding in 1972 at Fonner Park in Nebraska. "Just look at my past performances. I've had 49 broken bones. But Brandon always said he wanted to ride."
One more Meier is at the track every day. Brandon's 24-year-old sister Emily works for Arlington's marketing department.
Emily and Brandon attended St. James School in Wheaton and graduated from Wheaton St. Francis High School. Emily received her marketing degree from the University of Miami (Ohio).
"Emily and Brandon grew up doing a lot of things together," Randall said. "Emily always rode horse when she was younger. She took riding lessons and was very good on saddle beds. She even rode one year in college. But she never wanted to ride race horses.
"Emily worries about Brandon every time he rides. She went to the hospital with him after he won his first race."
While in the starting gate for that initial victory, Brandon's horse (Houseboat) reared his head back and the apprentice rider took a smash that resulted in four stitches and four fractured teeth. His adrenaline allowed him to ride the race and guide Houseboat to a decisive win.
"It was great seeing him win that first race (for leading owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Wayne Catalano)," said Randall, who won his 4,000 career race last September at Arlington. "I would have loved to have ridden in that race with him that day.
"Brandon has adapted very well to things and acts as though he's been doing this more than a month. He's calm, cool and collected."