YONKERS, NY - When Devil Child makes her 2017 debut Friday night at Yonkers Raceway, she will also make her first start for trainer John Butenschoen, who was tasked by owners Crawford Farms Racing and Susan Oakes of prepping the daughter of American Ideal for the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series.
"We had a little bit of luck last year for the Crawfords," Butenschoen explained. "Chris (Oakes) is still in South Florida training the horses and this filly had the series coming up. They asked if I would take her."
Butenschoen accepted and delegated the daily care and training of the multiple-stakes winner and $604,549-earner to his son, Tyler. The 27-year-old manages Butenschoen's northern string in the winter while the bulk of the team, John included, head to Florida to prepare the 2-year-olds for the coming year.
This season, the Butenschoen stable has swelled with nine horses in training in Pennsylvania and about 50 2- and 3-year-olds prepping in Florida. The lineup of about 60 trotters and pacers is about 10 more than Butenschoen is used to conditioning at any given time.
"We're really lucky. We've got a lot of good help down here in Florida and I've got a lot of good help up in Pennsylvania, so we were able to take it on to where it really didn't affect anything other than we've got to work a little bit more," Butenschoen said with a chuckle.
His dedication to the 2-year-olds means Butenschoen has spent limited time with Devil Child. What he has seen first-hand impressed the conditioner.
"When I went up there to the Meadowlands sale, she was in the barn. I looked at her and she was in great shape " he admired. "Physically she looked great. I mean great flesh, her legs were all clean, so we were able to put her on a pretty recommended schedule and the weather thankfully cooperated to where we were able to get things going."
Although she hasn't raced since finishing second in a $26,000 overnight at Yonkers November 18, Devil Child's break at Crawford Farms in Durhamville, NY served her well and made the comeback process easier.
"She was just freshened up. From what the Crawfords told me, she was out in the field, they have an Equicizer, they have exercise wheel, they have things that you can keep the horse in training without being in training. So, all we were trying to do was get her back racing, fit, and let her talent take care of it."
Devil Child's final preparations for her return to racing began March 3 when she qualified at Yonkers. With Mark MacDonald at the lines, she showed speed from post seven before finishing third in 1:55.0 with a :28.4 final quarter. A week later, she qualified again. This time, she finished fourth in 1:56.0 with a :29.2 final panel for leading driver Jason Bartlett, who will drive Friday night.
"We trained her in :58 at the farm before we took her in to qualify. Both of her qualifiers were encouraging. Mark was happy with her the first week and Jason was happy with her last week," Butenschoen said.
Devil Child is a 6-1 morning line chance in her $40,000 division of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series. She drew post position four and avoids some of the series favorites in week one as Mach It A Par and Bedroomconfessions will start in division two.
"She got into a good spot. It worked out where if we would've been in either of the other divisions, the horses that Jason is driving in those divisions are obviously a little more accomplished this year. We're able to retain him to drive her, so that's a plus. The four hole is a plus. It looks like probably on paper it's the right division," Butenschoen reasoned.
"We'll see where we're at. The first start it will be interesting to see what she's up to, but I think she's capable of going along otherwise we wouldn't have put her in there," he continued. "We're hopeful. I'll be watching from sunny Central Florida here and hoping that she does a little good."
The first of five weeks of preliminary competition in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series features three $40,000 divisions, each with a full field of eight. First post time is 7:10 p.m.
by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY