Leland Decker (photo) and Bill Absher, a pair of longtime horsemen from Chowchilla, California, have a gem in the aptly named Chowchilla Chickadee, a Foose filly going after her fourth win in a row in Saturday’s Corona Chick Handicap.
“We had no idea of how good she would be,” said Decker, an Oklahoma native with a strong racing and ranching background. “We had somewhat of an idea that she was a nice filly as she was growing up, but it’s still been a surprise. You just never know about a horse until they race.”
A dedicated horseman and skilled trainer, Decker graduated from California State University of Fresno with a B.A. in Agricultural Business and a Minor in Animal Science. He and Absher are partners not only in the horses they’ve raised and raced, but also in the Green Valley Training Center in Chowchilla.
“I was at a training farm when I first met Bill. We hit it off. We both had strong interest in the horses,” Decker said.
“Leland was in Sanger and I used to take my yearlings to him to break and train,” said Absher. “I was in construction and had some property in Chowchilla. One day I told him, I’ll build a training center day, but you have to run it. That was in 1990.”
“We claimed a filly together by the name of Gottabegoing and that was our start in racing,” Decker continued. “She turned out to be a good producer.”
The 1984 mare Gottabegoing was out the sire Native Creek. She went on to produce several Quarter Horses of note including Gottobes Cat, a winner of seven races and $83,014 at Los Alamitos. Gottobes Cat was a four-time stakes winner at Los Alamitos with her most notable wins being the Holiday Handicap and California Breeders Freshman Stakes in 2005.
Chowchilla Chickadee is of no relation to Gottabegoing, but her dam is Buzz Chick, a daughter of the stallion Buzz Word, one of the last sons of the great stallion Special Effort. Owned by Decker and Absher, Buzz Word stands at Green Valley Training Center. “We don’t buy too many horses,” Decker added. “We race what we raise and raise them to race.”
The partners have done well over the years. Another one of Gottabegoing’s daughters is Firebaugh Filly, a Buzz World daughter and a winner of 12 races and $115,451. Oh, and four stakes races to boot. Aries Man is another one they’ve raced. The winner of the Ghost And Goblins Handicap was also second in the 2005 El Primero Del Ano Derby and fourth in the 2004 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. Chowchilla Dreamin is a more recent standout. She won her first three career starts.
However, Chowchilla Chickadee could be the one.
“I’ve been breeding horses for 40 years,” Absher said. “Chowchilla Chickadee is the best I’ve ever had. She’s been absolutely great. I can’t walk anymore and I’ll soon be 80-years-old so to have one like her now, that’s something to really enjoy.”
It’s a great feeling to see a runner that grew up here at Green Valley do well,” Decker added. “Her first win was special. All wins are special. With Chowchilla Chickadee, when she went to John Cooper at Los Alamitos that was the first time she had left the farm. I plan to be at the track on Saturday night. It’ll be the first time I’ll get to see her run in person.”