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Pride and Joy of Burfordville Makes it in Chicago

Pride and Joy of Burfordville Makes it in Chicago

By M. Scott McMannis

They say it’s a long way from Burfordville to Chicago, but how would “they” know?  They probably don’t know where Burfordville is!

Dee Poulos does.  She was born and raised in Burfordville, Missouri, located near Cape Girardeau, in what locals refer to as the boot of Missouri, the far southeast corner that’s shaped like, well, a boot.  “Burfordville had a population of 100 then, and still does,” Poulos explained with a smile.

After graduating from Jackson High School, Poulos attended South East Missouri State (now University) and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Education degree.  Her first teaching job was at Herculanean High School in Herculanean, Missouri, south of St. Louis. 

Poulos later moved to the Chicago area and taught at Lake Zurich High School.  From there she moved to Forest View (Arlington Heights) and Buffalo Grove High Schools.

While teaching in the northwest suburbs Poulos attended Northern Illinois University and earned a Master of Business Education degree.

One evening in 1973, while dining in a restaurant, Dee met eventual husband Ernie Poulos.  Later that year Dee went to work for Ernie.  “I would work before school, after school, on weekends, and in the summers,” explained Poulos.  “I had grown up around horses and it was a natural for me to get back to working with them, and I really enjoyed it.  Then, because of my background and training, I began doing the accounting for the stable.”

In 1984 Dee Poulos made the big decision to leave the teaching profession.  “The stable had grown, my responsibilities had grown, and I just couldn’t continue with two professions, so I chose the full time position with the stable,” Poulos explained.

In 1989 Ernie and Dee became Mr. & Mrs. Poulos in a ceremony conducted by Father Smith at Merryville Academy where Ernie had contributed much time and resources.  “I’ll never forget that day, or the next,” Poulos stated definitively.  “The next day we had three wins and a second.”

One would think the Pouloses had gotten married several times in 1991.  That was the year that trainee Black Tie Affair won several big races in Chicago and around the country, culminating in his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and his Eclipse Award.

“One can’t say enough about a horse like that, and the experiences he gave us,” Poulos reminisced.  “That’s why I worked so hard, with others, to get him back to the U. S.  He had been sold to Japanese interests and was standing at stud over there.  When we learned that Ferdinand, who also had gone to Japan, was sold to a slaughterhouse there, we didn’t want the same fate to befall Black Tie Affair.

“Our efforts were successful,” said Poulos thankfully.  “Black Tie Affair is now standing at stud at O’Sullivan Farm in West Virginia, and, even though he’s 20 years old, was bred to 80 mares last year!”

Ernie Poulos passed over in 1997, but his Ernie Poulos Racing Stable lives on under the directorship of Dee Poulos.  The stable currently has 20 horses in training, many in partnerships.  Two high-profile owners from years past continue to be active:  Jeff Sullivan, owner of Black Tie Affair, and Nick Polydoros of Hat Trick Stable.

Dee Poulos also has a knack of retaining employees as well as owners.  Her staff of 12 has three 20-year employees:  Alvaro, Reuben, and Remedios.

And Ernie’s famous bench, a present from Richard Duchossois?  “It’s been retained, and will be back at the Poulos barn at Arlington,” Poulos assured.

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