Day At The Track

'Wakizashi' providing big thrills for Truro group

07:09 AM 19 Jun 2015 NZST
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Wakizashi Hanover
Wakizashi Hanover, an altered son of Dragon Again
New Image Media Photo
Wakizashi Hanover

CAMPBELLVILLE, June 18 - For the harness racing Tri County Stable of Truro, Nova Scotia, their direct flight to cloud nine was a $23,000 ticket purchased at the Harrisburg Yearling Sale in 2013.

The six-partner syndicate will touch down at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday night, in the hopes of watching Wakizashi Hanover trip the timer first in the Pepsi North America Cup final.

Comprised of Percy Bonnell, Scott Bowen, David Bugden, Wayne Burley, David Chabassol, and Bruce Kennedy, the group pooled $20,000 in the hopes of jumping back into the racing game.

"Three of us have fifty years in the business," said partner Bruce Kennedy. "We had the yearning to get back into racing after some time away so we pulled a group together and hurried down to Harrisburg with the little Black Book in our hands."

The story of the Dragon Again gelding snowballs from there. Close friend and neighbour Brent MacGrath of Somebeachsomewhere fame spoke with his contacts at Hanover Shoe Farms, who compiled a list of their yearlings that were likely to fit the requirements of the group. Among the group was Wakizashi Hanover.

"We weren't looking for $100,000 yearlings; we were looking for something more reasonable. Everyone judges and grades yearlings differently and with the help of that list, we narrowed it down to 50 or 60 horses."

As the sale progressed, the group put in bids on nine yearlings but failed to emerge the winning buyer. This caused them some concern, having purchased a new harness and all the necessary gear for their new horse earlier in the week.

"There were around 1,118 yearlings or so in the sale and he was 1,104. We really started looking at the last fifteen horses; we paid a little bit over our budget for him but we were prepared to pay a bit extra over leaving without a horse at all."

The group had connected with Maine-based trainer Gordon Corey prior to the sale, having worked with him in the past. The gelding shipped directly to Pinehurst, North Carolina to learn the ropes under Corey's watchful eye.

"Corey was happy to have him; he was coming along pretty good from November to February. We kept a weekly record of him, tracking his progress every step of the way."

As February arrived, so did stakes payment season. Unsure of what to pay him into, they chose to focus on the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes program. The two-year-old was showing his potential and didn't fail to catch the eye of others.

Involved with a horse racing in Harrington, Delaware with Jim King Jr., Corey introduced King to the young hopeful.

"Jim was at the Fun Day at Pinehurst to wrap up the winter program. He came over and trained the horse a few trips and really liked him. He trained the horse in 2:19 and Gordon relayed to us how pleased Jim was with the horse.

"We made contact with Jim and said 'if you've got space for him, you've got him'. The plan was for Jim to keep him until July to see if he was good enough to bring home to race in our country. Long story short, he hasn't made it to Nova Scotia yet."

During his freshman campaign, he posted a record of 2-3-0 in six starts and bankrolled over $100,000 for his connections. Posting a mark of 1:51 over Pocono Downs in a Sires Stakes event, he always seemed to indicate that there was more left in the tank. Kennedy describes the group fondly as a family, united by their beloved horse.

"We've grown to have a great relationship with the Kings; Jim is a personal friend and a great partner with Tim Tetrick. We couldn't have afforded to look for a driver like Tim and yet he came our way.

"Our six people are really ecstatic about this guy, we've rolled into racing with the elite at three and we never thought we'd be here."

Wakizashi Hanover stormed home in his North America Cup elimination from sixth-place to claim victory in a career best of 1:49.2, holding off 1-5 favourite Artspeak in an impressive finish. Emerging from last Saturday fresh and in good spirits, Kennedy is confident in the horse's performance in the final.

"He gave us something he was hiding all along, after the race Tim said to me 'he was explosive today, he gave me more than anything I expected to get'. Tim has had a few drives on him and it couldn't have been any better for us, the strategy panned out perfectly.

"This morning (June 17) we were at the training center and he trained awesome, he looks as ready as can be. The way he was this morning proved that. He has never missed a meal, rests himself well every day and he's just a happy and healthy horse."

Staked lightly last year due to financial constraints and uncertainty, Tri County have an impressive dance card slated for their horse in the upcoming season.

"We took all his earnings from last year in Pennsylvania and we reinvested it all in the three-year-old stake program for him."

Wakizashi Hanover has many major events on his radar, with the Hempt, the Meadowlands Pace and the Milstein in the near future. The syndicate is also looking further down the road with the Breeders Crown the goal at the end of the season, back on Canadian soil.

"I don't know if the horse gets as tired listening to all of these things as I do listing them, but he's got a full place if he can handle it. It's a wicked schedule of fierce competitors.

"We're not the richest people in racing but we're the luckiest right now. This kind of a trip, I wish everyone could have this one day in harness racing, just once."

Wakizashi Hanover

Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications

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