Nuns Have a Stake in a Trotter’s Success

By VINCENT M. MALLOZZI
Published: Sunday, August 22, 1993

SISTER ELLEN KELLY of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd here carries a datebook filled with constant reminders. There are circles around special meetings, highlight marks over important phone numbers and asterisks beside coming horse races.

Harness races, to be specific.

“It’s a big part of our business,” Sister Ellen said. “It helps us pay the bills.”

The nuns have a stake in a 3-year-old filly named Colts Gait Kateri. Every time Colts Gait Kateri wins a race, Collier Services — which provides a broad range of social services for children and is run by the sisters — gets 10 percent of her earnings.

“We root for her all the time,” Sister Ellen said. “It’s exciting for all of us, and it’s also our way of saying ‘thanks’ to her.”

In the last two racing seasons, Colts Gait Kateri has earned $114,322 in purses, contributing $11,432 to Collier.

“I believe that God really wants these children to be helped,” Sister Ellen said. “And one of the ways He’s helping them is through this horse.”

Colts Gait Kateri is part of a stable owned by Howard Schoor in Colts Neck Township. He says the financial arrangement is appropriate since it was providence that brought both the filly and the sisters into his life.

Mr. Schoor, who heads an engineering company with offices throughout the state, first met the sisters 10 years ago, when he was called to the Collier retreat here in Marlboro Township to fix a leak in the water tower. When the time came to pay the bill, he found that the charity had a skimpy $9,000 in endowments and a heap of other bills.

“At that point we didn’t have an active fund-raising board,” said Sister Ellen, whose datebook then was filled with more problems than promise. “We didn’t have any funds to fall back on at all.”

While Mr. Schoor was getting acquainted with the sisters, a priest working with the nuns, the Rev. Thomas O’Connor, who owned several standardbreds, learned that he was being transferred to run his own parish at St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Freehold Township. But the horses had to find a new home. So just before his departure, Father O’Connor gave Mr. Schoor one of them, a little-known mare named Julia C, who had earned just $4,127 in her career.

Mr. Schoor eventually bred Julia C to his top stallion, Rule the Wind, and the result was Colts Gait Kateri. The filly’s name is a composite of Mr. Schoor’s Colts Gait Farm and the Kateri Environmental Center, the summer camp run by Collier Services.

Since Colts Gait Kateri did not come from strong racing bloodlines, it was originally thought she would fare no better than her dam, Julia C. To everyone’s surprise, she rose to stardom, winning the first five races of her career last season. Her biggest payday came when she captured the $60,000 New Jersey Stakes final for 2-year-olds at Garden State Park in Cherry Hill.

Sister Ellen and the other nuns and children at Collier often visit Colts Gait Kateri in her stable or even venture to various tracks to see the filly compete.

On June 15, two vans crammed with nuns and lay people from Collier traveled to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford to cheer her on in the $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes final for 3-year-olds.

In that race, Colts Gait Kateri led until the top of the stretch, keeping her fan club on the tips of their toes, until she broke stride and finished seventh.

“We felt so bad for her,” Sister Ellen said. “But we know she’ll bounce back.”

Despite the loss in the final, Colts Gait Kateri did win two of the three Sire Stakes preliminary legs worth $33,000 each, bringing Collier $6,600. And after a bout with a nervous condition, the filly came back on Aug. 5 to win a race at the New Jersey Sire Stakes Fair in Cowtown. At the New Jersey Futurity on Aug. 17 at Freehold, she finished fifth.

“So far it has worked out very well,” Mr. Schoor said. “The horse has won some money for the nuns, and the nuns have become good friends of the horse. I think some of them are even reading racing entries in some of the newspapers.”

There are plans to continue the benefaction, even after the trotter is retired. Colts Gait Sadie, a full sister to Colts Gait Kateri, will continue to race for Collier.

“Howard has been so wonderful to us,” Sister Ellen said. “His creativity has done more than just raise money for these kids — it has brought attention to their needs.”

Through annual benefits held on Mr. Schoor’s 45-acre farm in Colts Neck, he and his wife, Frances, have raised nearly $800,000 in the last 10 years for Collier.

Mr. Schoor, who is Jewish, said he just got “hooked” on helping the Roman Catholic charity.

“I’ve been pretty successful in my life,” he said. “I raised three good kids with no problems. When I see kids who don’t have a family or any other means of support, I just feel the need to give something back.” Support for Camp and School

His support is helping Collier send about 400 children, ages 7 to 12, to the Kateri summer camp for two weeks. About 140 others, between the ages of 13 and 19, are enrolled in high school classes at Collier.

“These kids would be dropouts without school,” Mr. Schoor said. “They just couldn’t get along in their local school systems.”

“There are so many reasons why I’ve pledged an awful lot of time and money to this organization,” Mr. Schoor added. “The sisters are the main reason, though, because they’re really beautiful people who are performing a truly beautiful service to their community.”

Sister Ellen said that human or horse, “not a day goes by when we don’t pray for one of our benefactors.” She added, “Believe me, they’ve helped change a lot of things around here.”

These days, when she reaches for her datebook, Sister Ellen searches for the first asterisk next to Colts Gait Kateri.

Photo: From left, Nicole Francis, former Kateri camper; Paul Wojtowicz, former trainer; Colts Gait Kateri, a 3-year-old filly; Sister Ellen Kelly and Joan Keeler, Kateri Camp director. (Equi-Photo)

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