For Immediate Release, March 16, 2017
Steve Anderson's Article - Monte Hehnke
Everything is black and white in Monte Hehnke's world.
Indecision is taboo. Shades of gray simply don't exist.
I've described him as a 'mover and a shaker.' A guy that gets things done, and he wholeheartedly agrees.
"If you have an idea you stick to it, no matter what," said Hehnke, "and when it comes to Fonner Park, it's neat to see things happening around here. I love this place."
Currently, the 49-year-old Grand Island native is the President of the Hall County Livestock Association and it's Board of Directors, which oversees Fonner's day-to-day operation. It's been that way since day one-64 years ago-dating back to 1954.
The 'Triple Crown Club' is one of Hehnke's latest brain storms. It opened on the mezzanine floor, underneath the grandstand at the south end of the complex, during live-racing hours only.
"It's the old Board of Directors Room," said Hehnke, "which evolved into a place where the horsemen hung out. Over time it just wasn't getting used."
"Designed in the 1960's, it was getting old; so, I suggested turning it into an upscale bar combined with a simulcast facility."
As co-owner of Jerry's Sheet Metal, Heating and Cooling, Hehnke offered to underwrite part of the expense of the remodeling job. Ten big-screen TV's went up. All new stools, tables and chairs (for 40) were purchased. Throw in a new ceiling, an upgrade in the bathrooms, plus pictures hanging on the walls of every Triple Crown winner, and you've got yourself a nice, cozy environment.
Hehnke explained, "When you don't feel like being out in a crowd, this is the perfect place. You get your own personal bartender with automatic tellers. People need to try it out."
Above and beyond his duties as President, Hehnke is stone-cold passionate about thoroughbred horse racing. As he puts it, "I've been coming to the track since I was four-years-old and started reading the racing form by the time I turned seven."
It was just a matter of time before owning horses would come into play. Creating syndicates so that many of Hehnke's buddies could get involved, became a priority.
If you see Seven Arms Stable listed as a horse's owner, Mr. Hehnke is behind it.
"If you've had (business) partners in your life, you know you're going to get good ones as well as the bad," counseled Hehnke. "I've found a niche over 20-years of doing this. I do all the picking of horses for my guys and decide where they're going to run. Most partners own less than a 5% interest so they don't have to get licensed. They just want to be involved, not win or lose a lot of money; yet, it gives them, and their families, an opportunity to own a horse."
Hehnke's go-to trainer is Marvin Johnson.
"Marvy is just like me," cautioned Hehnke. "He's not afraid to say what he thinks and I trust him. The key is it's become more about friendship rather than business. Turning a profit for the syndicate is always the main goal, but I hope our (personal) relationship continues to grow as a result."
Despite Monte Hehnke's many successes in life, there's still one major obstacle out there, a 'carrot' if you will, that dangles just outside his grasp.
This guy has never been able to win Nebraska's premier horse race, the $75,000 Bosselman/ Pump & Pantry Stakes.
And not because he hasn't tried.
"It's almost gotten too expensive, even for me, to try and win it. We brought a horse in from Phoenix a couple of years ago, Surplus, who got his legs torn up in the van while shipping back to Nebraska. He couldn't run," said Hehnke.
"My first Bosselman starter, Our Main Man, blew a shoe in the race and finished fourth.....and the one horse we didn't expect a lot out of, Rub, with Dennis Collins on board, showed up eight or nine years ago. He went off at 27-to-1 and ran second."
Hehnke added, "It's just tough to find a horse that likes Fonner's conditions; but even moreso, you've got to have a lot of luck."
Now, there's nothing black and white about luck, unless you subscribe to the theory that you either have it or you don't.
I'm betting that an obsession to win the 'Boss Cap' will never subside. Remember, there's no gray area.....in Monte Hehnke's world.