For Frac Daddy, it all started on a muddy track at Belmont Park last October.
The 2-year-old gray thoroughbred, with a couple of Billings oilmen as owners and veteran jockey Alan Garcia aboard, made his racing debut in an $87,600 maiden special weight race on the rainy afternoon of Oct. 4 in Elmont, N.Y.
Frac Daddy made somewhat of a splash — literally — in finishing second in a spirited duel with Indy's Illusion at the finish of the one-mile race.
Now he is back in New York, this time with owners Carter Stewart and Ken Schlenker tagging along, and will be running in Saturday's $1 million Belmont Stakes, the third and most demanding leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.
The Kentucky-bred Frac Daddy, starting on the rail with the No. 1 post position, is one of 14 3-year-olds entered in the 1 1/2 mile race. The field includes Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness victor Oxbow, with $600,000 going to the winner of what could be a wet, wide-open race.
Stewart and Schlenker weren't there when Frac Daddy debuted at Belmont Park in the fall, but they watched the race live on TVG from Billings.
"It was fun to watch," Schlenker recalled. "He was out of it, then he was in it. It looked like kids running around on a playground."
Frac Daddy got trapped behind some horses, but kept weaving through traffic before settling for second.
"He never ran a straight line the whole race," Stewart said with a laugh. "He was all over the track, but he did well. We thought he was going to end up in the back of the pack, but once he got around the clubhouse turn he took off and ended up in second place.
"We were extremely proud. The announcer called a very good race. We've replayed it many times."
Nine months later, Stewart and Schlenker can't wait to see their tall, fast colt, now a 3-year-old, mix it up with many of the country's other top thoroughbreds in front of 50,000 spectators.
"To be running in the Belmont and then drawing the one position, which is the winningest post position in Belmont history, is absolutely fabulous," Stewart said. "We're very excited to be able to go and to be able to represent Montana again."
Post time is scheduled for 4:36 p.m. Mountain time. The race will be televised nationally on NBC.
Frac Daddy placed 16th out of 19 horses at the muddy May 4 Derby at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, and didn't run in the Preakness on May 18.
His early odds in the Belmont are 30-1. Orb is the morning-line favorite at 3-1, followed by Revolutionary at 9-2 and Oxbow at 5-1.
Last summer, Golden Ticket, another horse also owned by Stewart and Schlenker and trained by Ken McPeek, won the $1 million Travers Stakes in New York in a dead heat with the 2-1 favorite Alpha, despite having 33-1 odds.
"Kenny (McPeek) said recently that Frac Daddy was starting to act like Golden Ticket did before the Travers," Stewart said. "That really makes your spine tingle, so we're cautiously optimistic this time.
"We'd sure like to win a bunch of money back for the Montanans who supported us and bet on him in the Derby. This time will be another long shot, and if we can strike the board we can get a real nice payday."
Stewart and Schlenker, of Magic City Thoroughbred Partners, have owned Frac Daddy since September 2011. He was purchased for $50,000 at the Keeneland, Ky., sale.
A petroleum geologist in Billings, Stewart founded Stewart Geological Inc., and runs Cardinal Oil, while Schlenker is an independent petroleum land man. Both are heavily involved in the Bakken oil boom.
Frac Daddy’s catchy name is Stewart's way of paying homage to the oil industry and its workers, especially those involved in fracking (a drilling technique) for oil and gas.
"A lot of the blue-collar workers of America really took a liking to Frac Daddy," he said.
Garcia, 27, a native of Peru, last rode Frac Daddy on that October afternoon at Belmont Park, where second place was worth $17,520.
In starting from the rail on Saturday, it sounds like McPeek wants to have Garcia push Frac Daddy quickly into the lead and go for a gate-to-wire victory in a race that's 440 yards longer than the Derby.
"I hope it unfolds where he can get into the first turn with the lead and possibly force the other horses wide," Stewart said. "But as you know in horse racing, they open the gates and all of the plans change."
According to www.Belmont-stakes.info, the starting slot closest to the rail has produced 23 Belmont winners. However, only two gray horses have ever won at Belmont.
One thing is for certain, as No. 1, Frac Daddy will likely get more TV exposure at the Belmont than he did as No. 18 at the Derby.
"He'll be the first one out of the paddock, and the first one on the track," Schlenker said. "They're going to have to show him now."
Frac Daddy's racing resume includes seven races, with one win, three seconds and $288,116 in earnings.
Nearly a month after his runnerup finish in the slop at Belmont Park, he went on to have a much clearer, drier run in his next maiden race — at Churchill Downs — and triumphed by a staggering 9 3/4 lengths.
But it's that tape of Frac Daddy's debut at Belmont Park that still tops Stewart's and Schlenker's playlist.
"As a matter of fact, when we go and show our business deals to other oil companies, we started using that film at the beginning of the presentation so everybody could see our new thoroughbred, named Frac Daddy, which they all appreciate," Stewart said. "Everybody got a kick out of it. It would really break the ice for the business meetings and start things out on a positive note."
While the way that first race unfolded was almost comical, Schlenker said McPeek, for one, saw a lot of potential in Frac Daddy, even referring to him as a "super freak."
"So to the extent that he went to the Derby and the Belmont, it's kind of awe-inspiring, but I can't say it was a total shock," Schlenker said. "I mean, that's what we wanted.
"Now we just have to show the true horse out there. We think he is as ready as he can be."
NOTES: Garcia rode 38-1 shot Da'Tara to a Belmont win in 2008. ... In 2002, McPeek won with Sarava with odds of 70-1, which ranks as the biggest upset in Belmont history. ... Rain showers are in the forecast for Saturday.