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Monday, February 16, 2015

Small Horses That Have Contributed To Harness Racing In A Big Way

Small pacers and trotters that have overcome their size disadvantage, and shown themselves to be superior to horses that tower over them, have always been accorded an extra measure of respect from the fans. Good Time, known in his day as “The Mighty Mite,” was only 13.1 hands when he began his racing career, but he was Horse of the Year twice and retired as the richest Standardbred ever. Frank Ervin thought the public felt sorry for him because he was so little, but he consistently embarrassed his larger foes. The son of little Hal Dale was fast and tough. At age five he broke a thirty-seven-year-old record at The Red Mile when he won the Almahurst FFA in 1:57.4 for Ervin, who refused to his dying day to say that 16.1 hands Bret Hanover was a better horse than pint-sized Good Time.

Good Time’s son Race Time, a half-brother to average size Storm Damage (15.2), was also small, fast and tough. He won 30 of 43 lifetime starts, including the Messenger, Cane and Adios. Race Time was also a potent and reliable stallion. His son Temujin, who won a heat of the 1982 Little Brown Jug, was also on the small side. He looked like his mom, Silk Stockings, who was petite and delicate looking.

Obviously, the mare and her connections have as much to say about a given horse’s stature as the sire does.  Vulnerable looking Silk Stockings and Tarport Hap, who was a bigger, more rugged filly, were both by Most Happy Fella. And Tar Heel, the dam sire of that pair, produced Tarquinius, the winner of the 1964 American Pacing Classic and Nassau Pace, who was so big that little George Sholty looked like a bug on a bike sitting behind him, and had to peek around his big butt. On the other hand, that one’s paternal brother Laverne Hanover, the winner of 43 of 51 lifetime starts and the richest son of Tar Heel, was small.

Along the same lines, Albatross was compact and only 15.1 hands tall, yet his most famous son, Niatross, stood 16 hands and that one’s son Nihilator stood 16.1 hands and was also very long. And another son of Niatross, Barberry Spur, who was 16.2 hands tall, is remembered for his loss to itty bitty Robust Hanover (Warm Breeze) in the 1985 freshman Breeders Crown Pace at Rosecroft.

Most Happy Fella’s son Tyler B stood more than 16 hands and that one’s son Magical Mike was the same. While the rugged Most Happy Fella looked after his king sized dad, paternal brother Albatross was something of an anomaly. So was 15 hands tall Western Hanover, Most Happy Fella’s great grandson, and perhaps the most influential pacing stallion of the modern era. The division winner at two and three, and sire of Western Ideal and Well Said, is another giant in a pint-sized body. Western Hanover’s grandson Rocknroll Hanover was a good size, but that one’s premium son, Rocknroll Heaven, is on the small side.

Most Happy Fella’s grandson On The Road Again, un undersized chestnut, won 44 of his 61 starts, including the Meadowlands Pace, Cane and Breeders Crown. He possessed the same sort of chip on his little guy shoulder as Good Time and Race Time. His sire, Happy Motoring, was much bigger than he was.

Bettor’s Delight, the leading all-age money winning sire in 2014, is a smaller horse. His daddy Cam’s Card Shark is bigger than he is and more in step with his granddad, Most Happy Fella, and great granddad, Meadow Skipper.

Adios, another small—15 hands—son of the diminutive Hal Dale, ruled the roost on the pacing side throughout the 50s and early 60s. His son Henry T Adios—a solid but small individual—has kept his name alive on top via Abercrombie, who was average size at 15.2 hands, and Artsplace. Falcon Seelster, at 16.1 hands, has kept the Bret Hanover line open via his son McArdle, sire of sophomore division champ Mc Wicked.

On the trotting side, Rodney was a big rugged horse and many of those that followed him were the same: Speedster, Speedy Rodney, Arnie Almahurst, Prakas, and on and on, were all at least 16 hands; Crysta’s Crown was 16.3 hands tall. Moni Maker was a large mare. Bob Marks says Muscles Yankee, the modern day progenitor of that line, takes after Speedy Crown, who was 15.3 hands. His daddy Speedy Scot was 16 hands.

 A significant exception was Speedy Somolli, a high strung and nasty, but very fast, son of Speedy Crown and the Stars Pride mare Somolli, who won the Hambletonian and captured his division at two and three. Howard Beissinger said that without a doubt he was the fastest trotter he ever sat behind.

Speedy Somolli’s son Baltic Speed was only 15.1 hands, and his son Valley Victory was also a small horse. So, just as the Adios line soldiered on through undersized but solid Henry T and his similarly built son, Silent Majority, the little guys kept Rodney alive and well on top.

The great Varenne is by the Speedy Somolli stallion Waikiki Beach. And Speedy Somolli’s son Mr Lavec, who had a measure of French blood in him, and starred on both sides of the pond, towered over daddy, standing 16.1 hands.

Foundation stallion Stars Pride was average size and he produced winners across the spectrum. Triple Crown winner Super Bowl was 16.1 hands and many of his sons followed suit. Cumin, Supergill and Super Pleasure were all about the same.

On the other hand, Stars Pride’s son Ayres weighed in at a mere 900 pounds when he whipped the field in the Hambletonian, on his way to a Triple Crown win and a spot in the Hall of Fame. His sons Christopher T and Timothy T—both from the Victory Song mare Flicka Frost—won the Hambletonian, and the latter also won the Elitlopp twice.

 American Winner (Super Bowl), who took the 1993 Hambletonian, is average like his granddaddy, Stars Pride, but his son Credit Winner, who is out of an Armbro Goal (16 hands) mare, is large. And Credit Winner’s son RC Royalty, who is from a Balanced Image mare, is all of 17.1 hands. That one’s son, Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life, is also a big horse. More often than not today’s trotters and pacers are 15.2 or 15.3 hands.

Conway Hall is smaller than his brothers Andover Hall and Angus Hall. Conway’s little son Wishing Stone, who earned more than two million dollars, now stands in Ohio, while his grandson Chapter Seven, another pipsqueak, finished his career a mere $45,000 short of two million, and won Horse of the Year honors in 2012.

The great Mack Lobell was on the small side. He came down from Noble Victory, who was so polished and aesthetically pleasing to the eye that he looked more like a mare than a stallion. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover: he was the fastest trotter ever bred to that time, and produced sons and daughters that were long wearing. Tough guy Balanced Image was his grandson.

Timely Beauty, the Good Time filly who finished third behind Meadow Skipper and Overtrick in their historic clash in the 1963 Cane Pace, was tiny. The same goes for 2002 Hambletonian winner Chip Chip Hooray, who was by Pine Chip, a good size horse, and out of a Valley Victory mare. Another tiny dynamo was Henry T Adios’s son Hammerin Hank, the winner of the 1968 Sheppard.

The Hal Dale mare Overbid was tiny. Her little son Overcall (Capetown) won all 22 starts against the iron on the FFA circuit as a six-year-old. His brother Overtrick (Solicitor), who is in the Hall of Fame, wasn’t very big either.

So just as Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb have lifted folks from their seats while playing in the NBA; Yogi Berra and Kirby Puckett in Major League Baseball; Brian Gionta and Patrick Kane in the NHL; and Darren Sproles and Wes Welker in the Natonal Football League; some of the best and most influential trotters and pacers in harness racing have been undersized champions.

Joe FitzGerald


1 comment:

Andy said...

Hi or hei Joe, in fact make that both, nice piece on breeding, you are indeed knowledgeable, size isn't everything, speed comes in different forms, I have trained some nice smaller sized hroses that when cruising could just about through anyone out the back of the sulky. Global knockout, and Zico h. Limburgia are both good examples, boy could they sit and sprint with those little legs, trained some larger Love You horses that could really cruise at high speed one such horse was View Love, however, with this horses size came some knee problems. There are many reasons to purchase horses conformation wise, but I have never seen a top liner without short cannon bones in relation to what looks to be a larger distance from the hock to the sacroiliac joint. This affords 2 things, 1. a generally lower action accomodating for economy of action. 2 short cannon bones usually allow for increased leverage from above the hock. Of corse short cannon bones result in shorter tendons which should increase strength of the tendon. Average size horses therefore, at least for me with short cannon bones have been good value for money over the years, of course there are other things to take into account, and whilst I have never trained an out and out world class horse, a horse called You do Kievitshoff is as good a representation of the average horse where in local competition would win his 8 or so races a year with many places accruing some nice prizemoney and trophies over the years. He would win horse of the month a couple of times a year and never the best local horse, but has won most winning horse in the year. I would have him ready for the big races then keep him in the local competition. Maybe the highs were not quite as high, but week in week out they lasted longer, so heres to the average horse with the right attributes. Another such horse Shinning Lantern, 200,000 a year and just retired with over 1 million in prize money, 2 like that in the backyard suits just fine.Average size fish are sweet, at least for me.

Hope you enjoyed my rant.

Andy, English born, ex Australian and currently Norwegian trotting / trav - trainer.