Day At The Track

Owner dreaming big for Pat Stanley

02:50 AM 18 Oct 2020 NZDT
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Pat Stanley, Harness racing
Pat Stanley
Stuart McCormick photo

YONKERS, N.Y. - Jamie Durnberger-Smith still remembers the day the harness racing pacer Pat Stanley caught his eye. The agent and co-founder of Summit Bloodstock was watching the races from Menangle, Australia at his Brisbane home Nov. 2, 2019 as Pat Stanley secured a pocket trip in the opener, a $20,400 overnight. 

After racing in the two-hole through the first three quarters, Pat Stanley was stuck in behind leader Brocks Territory turning for home as Team Tritton’s Foo Fighter kicked off cover three deep. With 200 meters to pace, Pat Stanley saw daylight along the pylons and although Foo Fighter had the jump on the field, Pat Stanley rallied for a second-place finish. 

“I saw him, I saw his point-to-point speed, and that was it,” Durnberger-Smith said. “I clocked his sectionals, his furlong splits. He had a :12.4 split, which is crazy. He’d run the second or third fastest split I had ever clocked at Menangle. His sectional was just unbelievable. When I found out the horse was sound and the camp that I was going to buy him from looks after their horses, I knew he’d be in great health and be ready, so we bought him.”

Durnberger-Smith and Summit co-founder Jake Webster enlisted South Carolina-based owner Ron Buker and made a deal for a hefty sum while retaining a minority interest in the horse themselves, much to the bewilderment of the racing community. Pat Stanley had 12 wins to his name at the time, but had never won more than $5,720 in any one victory. He had also never won a metropolitan class race. Undeterred, Summit and Buker sent Pat Stanley to Kerryn Manning and pointed their new purchase to a prestigious Group 2 stakes.

“A lot of people said we were crazy, but because he hadn’t won a metropolitan race, we knew that if he went to the South Australian Pacing Cup, he would get post one or two because of the way it’s preferential,” Durnberger-Smith said. 

Pat Stanley debuted for his new connections at Melton Jan. 17, finishing third in a $20,000 overnight. Pat Stanley finished third again in a Group 3 stakes at Melton Feb. 1. One week later, Pat Stanley was entered in the Group 2 South Australian Pacing Cup at Globe Derby Park, drawing post two as expected. Manning put the whip on the pacer’s tail leaving the gate and looked to her right, seeing four horses leaving to her outside. 

With the inside advantage, Pat Stanley made the lead and faced immediate pressure from Joes A Character. The tempo threatened to slow up the backstretch the first time, and entering the second turn, Little Peanut advanced to make it a three-wide battle for the lead. Joes A Character was first to waive the white flag, taking back into the pocket. Greg Sugars pressed on with Little Peanut, but soon retreated. Taking his place outside the leader, Rackemup Tigerpie charged three-wide to ensure Pat Stanley never got a breather.

Entering the final lap, Pat Stanley maintained the lead, challenged by Rackemup Tigerpie. The pair sprinted away from the competition, opening up daylight on the field as the pace quickened up the backstretch. Around the final turn, Manning went to the right-handed whip and yanked down the ear hood with her left. Despite bearing out and showing signs of fatigue from the onslaught he faced to hold the lead, Pat Stanley dug in and beat Rackemup Tigerpie to the wire in a 1:57.1 mile rate over the 2,645-meter trip.

“They just attacked him the whole race and he still won. It was just unbelievable,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Everyone thought we were going to lose our money. When we sent him to a really good trainer and placed him perfectly, everyone started to realize, wow this is a pretty damn good horse. He couldn’t win one metro race and all the sudden, he wins the time-honored South Australian Pacing Cup. You don’t see many horses do that. It really set Twitter and the harness racing world down here on fire when he did that.

“It was more of a relief than anything, only because I said to Ron that he will win it if we buy him and he doesn’t go to America straight away,” Durnberger-Smith continued. “It was more of a relief to us because we were so adamant that he would be able to win that race drawing barrier one or barrier two.”

Pat Stanley won a listed $24,000 free for all at Melton March 7 and placed in three other races before exporting to the United States July 6. After training down with Shane and Lauren Tritton over the summer, Pat Stanley qualified at Yonkers Sept. 18, winning in 1:54.2 with Lauren in the bike. After a second-place finish in his pari-mutuel debut Oct. 2, Pat Stanley captured a $17,500 overnight in 1:52.2 Oct. 10, improving his record to 50-15-11-5 with $118,521 earned and fulfilling Durnberger-Smith’s dream of winning a race in America.

“Dreamt of this moment for a long, long time!!!” Summit Bloodstock posted on their Twitter page. “When he won the other day, Jake and I, we’ve been dreaming of that moment since we were kids,” Durnberger-Smith added.

Bitten early by the racing bug, Durnberger-Smith worked with trainers Christopher Robinson and Gary Hall. About 10 months ago, Durnberger-Smith and Webster, each 32 years old, joined forces to create Summit Bloodstock, with the mission of introducing new owners to the sport. With the success of their first two horses, Westar Sam and My Bettor Lady, interest in the venture rapidly grew. The stable now boasts a roster of 42 horses.

“We said, ‘let’s start buying as many horses as we can and see what happens. We’ve been in the game for so long, we know who the good horses are, we know how to find them. Let’s have a go.’ ” Durnberger-Smith recalled. “We’ve got 152 owners with Summit Bloodstock now, so we’re not going to stop.”

In addition to their goals of continuing to grow their stable and selling more horses to America (such as recent exports Demeter, Deltasun and Need Luck), Durnberger-Smith and Webster have lofty aspirations for Pat Stanley’s Stateside career. If the 6-year-old Western Ideal son continues to pan out as expected, he could become a regular in the open ranks at Yonkers Raceway, compete in the Borgata Pacing Series in 2021, and more.

“When Pat Stanley is rock-hard fit in two or three starts time, he’ll go 1:47 at the Meadowlands if he has to, I’m certain. If he’s not a 1:47 horse, I’m a poor judge. He’s way better when he’s sitting behind a leader and he’s rock-hard fit. He’s just so blindingly quick,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Shane is taking his time with him, which is the best thing because he’ll be running good races for a long time.”

Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.

By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

 
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