Day At The Track

Art Official: The best is yet to come - Jesk

11:12 PM 07 Jul 2009 NZST
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Jim Jesk (centre) is flanked by trainer
Jim Jesk (centre) is flanked by trainer - Joe Seekman (left) & driver Ron Pierce last July 19.
Ken Weingartner photo

The only pacer to beat harness racing's almost invincible Somebeachsomewhere could end his racing days in New Zealand and Australia. Art Official will race in North America as a 4-year-old this season but at the end of the year could be sold to 'Down Under' interests.

"It's a possibility but by no means certain. If he does race 'Down Under', I won't be the owner. There has been some negotiating but at the moment we are concentrating on all the Stakes races up here," owner Jim Jesk told Harnesslink today (Wednesday).

Jesk, a 76-year-old construction company manager specializing in cellular towers based in Chicago, owns his own training establishment - Sawgrass Farms - less than a mile from Balmoral Park. He owns about 20 standardbreds and also rents out stalls at his complex. His stable trainer is Joe Seekman.

Jesk deserves all the good things that come his way. He said age was catching up on his wife Joyce, while his daughter Kristi was in hospital seriously ill.

"I don't want to talk about my wife or Kristi. Joyce is doing okay but Kristi isn't well. All I can tell you is it's very personal and something I want to keep in the family. I will however talk to you all day about Art Official. He's by far the best horse I have owned since entering the game in 2001," Jesk said.

He said he would consider selling the son of Art Major when the Stakes season was finished. He said he was also looking forward to breeding with him, but if the money was right he'd probably let him go.

"It has to be a sensible offer because he is one of the world's best pacers. He's better than good. Nearly everyone says that Somebeachsomewhere was the best racehorse in North America, but I honestly believe my colt was better. We proved that in last year's (July 19) Meadowlands Pace.

"Just wait until the end of this Stakes season and you will see just how good he really is," Jesk said.

Art Official started his career on May 30, 2007 and has won 14 of his 38 starts and placed in 17 others for $1.6m in stakes. He recorded his fastest mile time of 1:47 was a world record when downing Somebeachsomewhere.

He missed the opportunity to race against 'The Beach' in the Breeders Crown in the fall because of a muscle tear in his left front leg. However he and driver Ron Pierce ran second to Won The West at The Meadowlands on July 4 in a preparation race for this Saturday's $688,000 William R. Haughton Memorial. He had previously won a free-for-all at Balmoral Park and was third behind Mister Big and Winbak Speed in the $200,000 Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park in Indiana on June 20.

"According to Joe he's improving all the time. He copped a rough run last start when the horse in front of him came back on him causing him to lose momentum. He still managed to beat Mister Big, who was the race favourite. I don't think he will have too many problems winning this Saturday," Jesk said.

Meanwhile Seekman said Art Official got all the time he needed to recover.

"He had a little time off from the injury. He got four months off and started jogging through the winter. We stall rested him for a month and then hand walkied him for another month in preparation for June and July. Everything seems good with him. He looked real good the other night (with a 26.2 final quarter to finish in 1:48.4)." Seekman said.

Meanwhile Jesk's promising 3yo pacer Annieswesterncard will miss this year's Meadowlands Pace at the Meadowlands on July 17 due to ongoing leg problems.

"He's going to sit out a couple of races until he starts improving. He's a really nice son of Western Hanover and has a bright future but he wouldn't be the second best racehorse I have owned. That would be Brianna Jay, who has left two foals," Jesk said.

Annieswesterncard finished ninth behind Well Said in the recent North America Cup. He has won seven of his 19 starts and placed five times for $358,560, while Brianna Joy, a now 7-year-old Sportsmaster mare, won 18 of her 35 starts and placed in five others for $342,514. Her quickest mile time was 1:49.3 compared to Annieswesterncard who went 1:50.3.

Closer to 80 than 70, Jesk still works in his construction company specialising in building telephone towers, but insists his heart is in harness racing.

"I love the sport. It has been good to me. It's an absolute privilege to have a top trainer like Joe and a top horse like Art Official at 'Sawgrass'. He is the best pacer in North America and we haven't seen the best of him yet," Jesk warned.

Duane RANGER (editor)

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