Day At The Track

A reporter's notebook: Meadowlands Pace

08:12 PM 15 Jul 2012 NZST
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#1 - Harness racing trainer Homer Hochstetler was cautiously optimistic about his horse, Big Chocolate, before the start of the first division of the Dancer Memorial.

The horse has struggled with ulcer problems, but a trip to Cornell Vet School a month ago may have mitigated the problem. "I hope so," said Hochstetler. "I didn't ask him this morning. Cornell gave me some medicine to give him, he seems better. He's always cleaned up his feed, but he wouldn't hold weight. I think he has put some weight on. I didn't weigh him."

#2 - Trainer Erv Miller's east coast string is based at Win Gate Farm in Wind Gap, PA, where he says the temps are easy to take. "When we shipped down to Chester, I really noticed the difference." Miller says his Banker Volo, whose second place finish in the Dancer Memorial elim, was the first career loss for the colt. "We'll probably just train him and bring him back for the Hambo elims."

#3 - Ron Dancer, a New Jersey legislator, was on hand to present the trophy for the two Dancer eliminations, but he has plans to be back later this week. "We're going to hold public hearings here Thursday in the Hambletonian Room at noon. It's the New Jersey Assembly Gaming and Regulatory Committee," said Dancer. "That committee, of which I'm a member, will take testimony on pros and cons, but I believe here at The Meadowlands, it'll be mostly pro."

#4 -"Jimmy's brother Johnny is coming for the Hambletonian," said Christina Takter after Uncle Peter's win in the Dancer Memorial. Asked if he was coming to drive some horses, she laughed, "I don't know. He didn't come to drive last year and he ended up winning the Haughton (with Weingartner). He probably will bring his colors, just in case."

#5 - Asked if he might be writing an entry check for Dancer Memorial third place finisher, Frank Antonacci was circumspect, "I don't know. I have to talk to my trainer and driver. I don't need to race for a check."

#6 - "This horse is going to set every world record, with $25,000 on his card," joked Howard Klee, a co-owner of Hurrikane King Cole, after his 1:47.3 victory in the Meadowlands Pace Consolation. Asked if he thought his son, Jonathan Klee, was premature in pumping his first when the horse got the lead in the last turn. Not really. He saw him race at Pocono and he won by 9 lengths (actually 7 ¾ in a Hempt Elim). He got the record, 1:48.1 on a 5/8 mile track. The only time the horse wins (Klee lives in Boca Raton) is when I'm here, so now they want to pay for a ticket for me to go to Pittsburgh for The Adios at the Meadows."

#7 - Asked if it was a consolation to win the Meadowlands Pace Consolation with Hurrikane Kingcole, trainer John McDermott replied, "A little bit. It's not what I was aiming for, but I'm thrilled he's back and now we can head to the Adios and show we have a horse again. My timing is just real bad."

#8 - Kevin McDermott followed up the McDermott training double with a win by Major Look in the Mistletoe Shalee. "Woohoo. We really did (think she had that in her). This is all Bob Riddle's horse. I just babysat her this week. He got injured; he gave her to me last week. I went to visit him in the hospital. He got run over by her the other day and he got surgery on three parts of his body." Asked if she tried to do that to him. "No, she loves me," he laughed.

#9 - Sweet Lou waited patiently in the Meadowlands' front paddock, with caretaker Sarah Murphy. "When a horse has class, they go with the flow. He's OK around the barn. He's a bit of a hand full around the barn but on nights like this, I just love having a horse like this - he's all class." Asked about the secret to keeping him happy around the barn, Murphy said, "Just give him what he wants. If he wants hay, giove him hay. If he wants to go out, let him out."

#10 - "Surprised, really surprised," is how Teague Stable assistant trainer Clyde Francis characterized his reaction to Allstar Legend's third place finish in the Pace. Asked if he thought he had such a performance in him, "Yeah, really I did. I knew he could go like that, but leaving out of the ten hole, that's tough, but he kept going. I was satisfied."

#11 - Asked if he'd allowed himself to dream of such a horse in the past, trainer Jim Mulinix smiled, "Oh yeah, I've won the Jug a lot of times in training miles. You always dream about it. I hoped I'd just ever get a chance to race in some of these races, let alone have a horse that could win them possibly. I slept good last night. I didn't really get too nervous about this race. No one's undefeated this year. Get a little luck and things go your way, I was a little nervous because it's been hot. Shipping so much and going every week, but the horse, he seems to be handling up to it.

I have a farm in Wauseon, Ohio, west of Toledo, exit 34 on the Turnpike. We have a good farm so we ship home every week. He's got a 10 acre paddock and goes out twice a day usually. We usually throw him out for an hour or so before he jogs because he feels pretty good. He bounces around and we make sure he gets some green grass. He rolls over and over, time and time again. He's hard to catch some time. You turn him out before dinner and you take a little feed out. But he gets smart to that, too. We ship up here to Magical Acres. They've got a nice paddock they let him use, and he has his own stall. We're not familiar with even how to get around out here, especially in Jersey. I can see where I want to go, but you can't turn left. "

We've had some nice horses, pretty much where I race, when I get good horses, I just sold them out east. Obviously, I've never had a horse like him. I went to the sale with Denny Miller, he's been a partner of mine for several years. I told him I wanted to go to Harrisburg. In fact, I went to Lexington and I just couldn't get anything bought. I told him I was going to try to buy something, before I retired (he is 60), I wanted to compete with the guys out east. I looked at the first crop of Rocknrolls when they were at Lexington. I shoe horses, too, so I study conformation and when I go to the big races, I look at the horses and through the years you pick out why is this horse good? When I saw this horse, I thought he's got all the qualities horses need. It's hard to find them in an individual. I never thought I'd get him bought.

He sold on the third day (of Harrisburg) and I think what hurt him is that he had a full brother that didn't show anything, like a mark in 2.02 or something. That was the year Rocknroll Heaven was good so everyone was thinking Rocknrolls out of the Abercrombie line, that's what they were hot on that year. But I've always liked Cam's Card Shark. Every year I go to the big races and Cam's card Shark has top horses there. Roicknroll, I've never seen a horse put out so many horses - I don't think I've seen any that I didn't think would race.

Asked if he could have gone to $16,000 for the colt he paid $15,000 for. "Oh yeah, that's why I took Denny with me. I had right from the start, I had confidence and it's good I had a partner because I spent $15,000 to buy him but I think I spent about $18,000 staking him and at that time in my life that would have been hard to stake him and do it myself.

by Ellen Harvey, HRC

Courtesy of the US Trotting Association's Web Newsroom


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