OK, you’re driver Daryl Bier, known from Cal Expo to Dover and Pocono, from Pompano to The Meadowlands. You’ve had experience with really good horses before, as you currently guide the top FFA trotter Modern Family, and have had former world champion Special T Rocks, $900,000+ winner Higher And Higher, and others.
You’re sitting behind a four-year-old who only has six months of actual racing experience and you are in the $36,000 Open Handicap feature race at Dover on closing day, April 10, but you know he’s a very fast horse who’s getting better. Your even-money main opposition broke early, so you decided to go to the point with the 6-5 second choice, and you rate the half in 56.1.
Then it gets fun.
You open him a notch to get away from your remaining rivals, and he responds instantly – he’s not a big horse, but he’s quick as can be. You whiz past the ¾ (“I didn’t think to look at the time; I was thinking about my $18,000 winners share); then, early on the final turn, you kick the earplugs out on your horse, test him a little more. He visibly downshifts on the TV monitors, and Daryl feels it in the bike – we’re going FAST! Through the lane, Bier takes him in hand, but he still destroys his field that has collective earnings of $1.9 million lifetime, by six (or more) lengths.
Daryl gets to look at the timer past the finish – it says 1:48.2. Quick math tells him that’s a last half, on a five-eighth-mile track, in 56-degree temperatures, with nobody around him, for a horse in his 16th career start, in 52.1. He gets a chance to look at the ¾ time – it was 1:22.3, which means he paced in 26.2 down the back, and then when he downshifted, his horse came the last quarter (on a 5/8-mile track) in 25.4!
Daryl returns to the Dover winners circle with a big smile. His brother Sean, a veteran of the racetrack game, is jumping and hollering – “DID YOU SEE THAT?” (probably not intended at Daryl, who of course did see that). The Dover paddock is abuzz after the race.
Oh, did we mention that in his previous start, coming from behind wicked fractions, he had tied the all-time Dover record of 1:48, first set by his year’s 3YO champion, Heston Blue Chip?
Unraced at two in 2012, the son of Ponder-Sody’s Home Brew was brought to the races by veteran Florida horseman Warren Harp, and Daryl got a call from an agent he had worked with, Gary Brown. The horse fit a pattern Daryl has used with much success – buy promising horses who didn’t race or didn't race much at two: Modern Family didn’t start as a freshman, and Special T Rocks only raced twice at 2 – and the price was right. So he was brought into the Bier stable, with Daryl’s brother David making the initial purchase while agreeing that if the horse was good enough to make the Kentucky Sire Stakes in the summer, Daryl and longtime stable patron Charles Dombeck would join the ownership.
Bandolito came north, where he came under the care of Team Bier, which includes caretaker Brad Sawyer (“He has Modern Family, too, so he’s a top man”) and horseshoer Chuck Crissman Jr., the father-in-law of Daryl’s brother Sean (Crissman comes more into the story later, and then again right at the very end). Third in his first northern start, the unheralded sophomore then rips off six straight between Harrah’s and Pocono, including a 1:51.3f-27 triumph (in his fourth lifetime start). Off to Kentucky under the new Bandolito partnership.
The Ponder colt wins his two prelims with ease at the famous Red Mile, both with sub-27 last quarters, and Bandolito is 1-10* in the final. “I decided to use Tim Tetrick that night,” Daryl said, “because Tim obviously knows good horses, and I wanted to see what he thought of the horse, whether he was for real.” 1:49.4 later (26.2 on the end), Tetrick turns to Bier and says, “I like him. He’s a real good horse.”
And thus basically ended Bandolito’s first campaign. Oh, the calendar will say he started back in December 2013, but this was really round two for Bandolito.
And he didn’t come out of his corner strongly. A hard-closing fifth in a 1:51 mile at Dover just six days before Christmas was a good start, but then Bandolito caused some concern – while winning a race.
“He was second-over, but won by only a head in 1:52.3, and I was worried,” Bier recalled – his people were considering nominating him for the Levy Series around then, but that kind of mile wouldn’t do. “And then he quarter-moved in his next race, for $18,000, and was caught and beaten almost two lengths.”
The answer came quickly. Bandolito was dead lame the next day, one foot obviously distressing him. “But Chuck (Crissman) saved us right then and there. He figured out the foot problem, got him straightened away. He didn’t walk for three weeks after the lameness,” but things progressed well for Bier/Crissman/Sawyer and the other owners, so well that with their careful nurturing Bandolito qualified on March 19.
Two weeks later he equaled the all-time Dover record of 1:48 on April 3 – his 15th lifetime start.
Came home in 52.1-25.4 a week later – start #16. “We were more excited about that race, because nobody was pushing us and because of the sheer speed.”
What’s next for Bandolito? Good question. Perhaps the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial on Kentucky Derby Day (a race in which Bier and Special T Rocks equaled a 1:48.2 world record two years ago) at Pocono, where Bier recently re-established his base, maybe after an overnight start this weekend if Daryl can get one for him. Afterwards? … But they are fun question marks to have!
Daryl: “We got a copy of the race, and I watched it with Chuck on his big screen TV. And you can see things pretty good on it, and the eighth, just into the turn, from when I kicked the earplugs, we timed him in 12 seconds. We both timed that, and did it a couple of times. A 12-second eighth … that’s a 24-second quarter…”
How good IS Bandolito?
By Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com