In scanning the list of the leading North American drivers in terms of winning races so far in 2014, quite a few familiar names are at the top. The first four at press time read, , , and , all of whom were among the top ten in this category in 2013 ...
...and then you get to the fifth name. "Alfred Carroll." Hmmm ... never heard of him ... wonder what his story is? And when a writer has a thought like that, it's like waving a red cape in front of a bull. (Well, not really - bulls are colorblind, and it's the motion of the cape that sets them a-runnin' - but that's for another day.) So we went in search of the story behind this "Alfred Carroll."
To begin with, to find out what's it all about, "Alfie" is the name you better call the 28-year-old from Iona, Ontario, about 20 miles west of London. "My father (the well-known horseman Richard Carroll) was given the middle name 'Alfred,' but I don't like that much at all. I probably could have done better than 'Alfie,' too, but that's what everybody has called me since I was in school, so I'm used to it."
Where the youngster is being called to most these days is Ontario winners circles, as his total of 60 visits to Victory Lane already this year - 46 times at London, 14 at Flamboro - puts him fifth in North America, as noted, and #1 among all Canadian-based sulkysmiths. (If you think you might have heard a story something like this before, you have, but wait a couple paragraphs - let's give Alfie his well-deserved due.)
Sporting green-and-white colors as did his father, a longtime success on the Detroit-Windsor circuit, Alfie has done about everything right on the track so far this year - on and off the pace, with cheaper horses and top-class animals, with trotters and pacers, and at both the tighter confines of seven-wide Western Fair (London) and eight-wide-with-passing-lane Flamboro.
His success with the best horses racing in Ontario outside the WEG is especially intriguing. Carroll has taken eight Preferred events already this year between the two tracks - the first seven with different horses, finally repeating on Tuesday at London with trotter Here's The Magic. This horse was stepping up from Open-3 to Open-2, but he'd drawn post two (from which he showed three wins on his lines) and has the ability to race as the unfolding dictates. The London crowd didn't miss the horse guided by the hot hands, did they? Well, um ... Carroll may not be as well-known as the area veterans (the over/under on when he'll get win #1000 is March 15), but the in-form horse survived going first-over into a 1:28 3/4s to win handily ... and pay $23.40! "The groom and I were shaking our heads over him paying so much," Alfie noted with a chuckle.
Here's The Magic comes from the hot barn of trainer Vic Puddy, who has been a big springboard to success for Carroll - he trains three of the seven different Preferred horses with which Alfie has won. Another good source of quality horseflesh is his dad, who turned 78 just this past Monday, but teamed with his son to win a London Preferred with Slots Of Fun (sorry for the irony, Ontarians) earlier this year.
There's no doubt thatis a worker - as we've seen in other recent stories, there's a lot of kilometerage (Canadian equivalent of mileage) on both Alfie's '03 Ford 350 truck (which he uses when he hauls horses or his race bike, and "it has about 500,000km on it," or over 300,000 miles) and his '04 Jetta (at 300,000km, or approaching 200,000 miles). When it was noted that those figures signify tremendous machines, and ones that had to be well-maintained, Carroll admitted, "Well, I did give some thought to being a mechanic, but then I went with the horses." It's evident he can rev up either kind of horsepower for maximum performance.
Carroll was second in the London driver standings last year - and that brown-and-gold shadow we mentioned a few paragraphs back? That belongs to Trevor "Howie" Henry, the leading Canadian-based driver last year with 529 triumphs, who has been on vacation the last few weeks but by reports is ready to return to regular action - at his home base of London. "I may lose a few drives to Trevor when he's back," Alfie notes realistically, "but I hope that I've been doing a good enough job for the trainers I've been driving for that they will keep using me." With a .365 UDR, and behind only the most select of company in 2014 North America driving wins, here's betting (and at less than 10-1) that we haven't seen the best ofyet, and that he'll hold his own against most anything he'll have to face.
By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com