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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pleasant Surprises In 2015

It’s always nice to see horses, drivers and trainers exceed expectations. Obviously there are many that have done that to one degree or another during the 2015 season, but here are a few who caught my eye.

A number of horses have focused attention on harness racing in Indiana over the past two years, but Freaky Feet Pete stands out in this regard. Unlike Wiggle It Jiggleit, Pete raced in the state’s sire stakes program, without incurring a single loss, from beginning to end. And his sire, Rockin Image, is a pivotal player in the state bred program. Pete, who won nine of his ten starts at two, is 15 for 17 this year. His two losses were to Wakizashi Hanover and Wiggle. Pete’s most prominent win was in the Breeders Crown, but he also took the Monument Circle and the American National. His $854,000 in earnings places him fourth in the division.

State Treasurer, the richest son of Real Desire, has been a very productive pacer since his three-year-old campaign, but he stepped it up a notch or two this year. He attained millionaire status when he won the Molson for the third consecutive year. And while the handy little six-year-old is right at home on the small London, Ontario track, he also took the Roll With Joe and Dayton Pacing Derby on 5/8 ovals and the USPC, Canadian Pacing Derby and Mohawk Gold Cup on the big tracks.

Krispy Apple, an eight year old daughter of Western Ideal, had the misfortune to be born the same year as the great See You At Peelers. And this month she finally passed that one in lifetime earnings; KA earned almost $347,000 on 12 wins in 26 starts this year, primarily in the F&M open at Yonkers, and she’s earned more than a million and a half dollars lifetime. She was handicapped with the outside post in many of those races, but overcame that stumbling block on a regular basis. She only won three times last year and earned half of what she has thus far in 2015, but never count her out.

Wiggle It Jiggleit, who will win Horse of the Year honors, is a pleasant surprise first and foremost because he’s the first crop product of a stallion nobody seemed to want any part of. Mr Wiggles is still one of only two NA based male millionaires by Badlands Hanover, so he was no slouch on the track, but his first three years at stud resulted in only 21 registered foals, so the breeders weren’t exactly beating down his door. The situation is somewhat analogous to that of 2013 Horse of the Year San Pail and his sire San Pellegrino. The latter didn’t leave too many productive trotters on this side of the pond when he was relocated to Sweden a year after San Pail was born. Double millionaire Wiggle It Jiggleit, who started his season near the end of January, is still going strong. He got his twenty-first win in the Progress Pace elimination on Monday and will call it a season after 26 starts in the upcoming final.

Mach It So, who is second to State Treasurer among aged pacers in earnings, has had an excellent year. Many horses that meet with success in a sire stakes program struggle to maintain that in the open ranks, but that has not been the case with the five-year-old son of Mach Three. Two years after winning three Ontario Sire Stakes Gold legs as well as the Canadian Breeders Championship, Mach It So edged out State Treasurer in the William Haughton at 17/1 and did the same to Foiled Again in the Quillen. Last week he won the $50,000 TVG Open and on Saturday he was second to Bettor’s Delight in the $400,000 TVG FFA Final. He has earned almost $648,000 this year and $1.2 million lifetime for Bamond Racing. Tim Tetrick drives more often than not.

Dog Gone Lucky, who recently won the Valley Victory (dead heat) and Matron, just like his daddy did, is the best trotter Lucky Chucky has produced. The latter had a tough year on the track and at the sales, but his son Dog Gone Lucky blossomed in the fall with a win in the $191,500 Kindergarten Classic Final at Vernon Downs on the last day of October and has followed that up with a very productive November for Hall of Fame trainer, Chuck Sylvester. The only trotter in his class with a larger bankroll is budding superstar Southwind Frank.

Luminosity, a five-year-old Cash Hall gelding, acquired by the Burke Barn in February, has come alive under Burke and driver George Brennan. After winning 16 times and earning $106,000 during his first three years of racing, he won 14 of 33 starts thus far in 2015, three quarters of them in the tough Yonkers Raceway open—generally from the outside post.

George Napolitano Jr has been making them go for a while now, but the Pennsylvania mainstay stepped it up this year. He won 100 races in July and got his 7,000 win on the 15th of that month. And beyond that, he has owned the fall of 2015. The winner of the dash title in 2010 moved ahead of rivals Aaron Merriman and 2013 and 2014 champ Ronnie Wrenn Jr when he won eight races at Harrah’s on October 25. George finished third, 168 back of Wrenn, last year, but he’s currently 18 up in the dash race. He’s 41 ahead of his own winning total in 2010. He’s number seven on the earnings list with more than $8 million. Napolitano won seven races on closing night at Pocono Downs. His other Pennsylvania home, Harrah’s, is open until mid-December, after which he’ll probably move on to Pompano Park.

Steve Elliott, best known as the trainer of seminal stallion Valley Victory as well as Donato Hanover, is having his best year since the latter was voted Horse of the Year in 2007. Doo Wop Hanover is the fastest four-year-old pacer in North America, thanks to his 1:47.4 win in a leg of the Graduate Series at Tioga. And he’s also banked almost $455,000. Fellow four-year-old Rockeyed Optimist won a Graduate split in 1:48 and has earned almost $200,000. Classic Martine has not duplicated last year’s campaign for Elliott, but she won the inaugural Miami Valley Distaff in track record time and has earned almost $190,000. Stacia Hanover won the Shady Daisy over Bettor Be Steppin, Divine Caroline and Sassa Hanover. And best of all, Elliott’s Rocknroll Hanover colt Boston Red Rocks recently won the Breeders Crown and the Governor’s Cup, positioning him to win his division.

Joe FitzGerald


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