Day At The Track

Bettors Wish seeks Rooney win

01:50 AM 24 May 2019 NZST
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Dexter Dunn and Chris Ryder,Harness racing
Dexter Dunn and Chris Ryder
Ken Weingartner photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Chris Ryder pulled up his entries Monday evening and saw that Bettor’s Wish drew post six in the $300,000 Art Rooney Final, the harness racing trainer was dismayed. However, the isolated snippet of Bettor’s Wish’s post position didn’t tell the whole story.

After Ryder saw the full field, he was intrigued.

“When I saw I had the six hole on my USTA entry line, the full field wasn’t there, it just showed my horse having the six hole, I thought, ‘here we go again with a bad draw in the final, as usual,’ ” Ryder said.

“But then when the full field came out and I saw the good ones were outside of me, I thought, ‘well, maybe it’s not so bad.’ When you have the six hole at Yonkers, the good thing about that is it’s not the seven and it’s not the eight. I think it’s very interesting. It’s definitely opened up the race.”

Bettor’s Wish drew inside fellow Rooney elimination winner Air Force Hanover, who will start from post eight in the open-draw stakes. Blood Money, the runner-up to Bettor’s Wish last week, will start from post seven. 

“I’m sure there’s going to be action in this race,” Ryder said. “It’s going to be a very interesting race. I think it’s a driver’s race.”

Although Bettor’s Wish figures to be at the forefront of the action, the colt initially wasn’t eligible to the race. A $20,000 buy from the 2017 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, Bettor’s Wish didn’t stand out as a yearling or a 2-year-old and had limited stakes engagements, primarily in Canada.

“We bought him off of Brittany Farm,” Ryder remembered.

“I liked his video before I went to the sale, I liked his pedigree page. When I saw him, he was a bit small, but that didn’t really put me off.

“He didn’t particularly stand out,” Ryder continued.

“He’s always trained well, but did he really stand out? Not completely. But he qualified well straight away at Chester. Even now, you wouldn’t know he’s in the barn. He’s really quiet, he’s not a flashy colt. He just does everything pretty well.”

After starting his career with a pair of qualifiers at Harrah’s Philadelphia last June, Ryder sent Bettor’s Wish to Chantal Mitchell in Canada. The colt won on debut in a Mohawk overnight July 5 before placing in two Ontario Sire Stakes legs in the following weeks.

Bettor’s Wish won an elimination of the Battle of Waterloo at Grand River and was second in the final before notching a victory in OSS August 15. 

After a pair of placings in Kentucky Sire Stakes and a fourth in the final, Bettor’s Wish shipped back to Ontario, earning another win and finishing second in the Gold Final to cap his freshman season.

Ryder gave Bettor’s Wish a break before he returned to the barn to train down for his 3-year-old season. The colt had started to grow up and he made a good impression.

“He’s grown up a little bit, he’s physically filled out. He’s still not a big horse, but he’s big enough,” Ryder said.

“We gave him six weeks out in the field, left him alone completely. We trained him down normally. We were happy with him training back. He just trained really well.”

Ryder was so pleased with Bettor’s Wish, that when the February 15 deadline came to supplement the colt to the Art Rooney Pace, he pulled the trigger and paid the $6,000 fee, favoring the Hilltop stakes over an OSS leg.

“When I was doing the staking, I noticed there was a supplement to the Rooney,” Ryder said.

“I saw it was available and I thought, ‘you know what, we might as well take a shot.’ It’s $300,000 instead of $80,000 or $90,000 Canadian on the same day. So, we opted to cough up the extra $6,000 to make him eligible.”

After a qualifying win in 1:53.3 April 16 at Harrah’s Philadelphia, Ryder brought Bettor’s Wish to Yonkers to test the waters in a $20,000 overnight April 29. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Bettor’s Wish raced in the pocket, but driver Dexter Dunn edged him to the outside with five-sixteenths to pace. He advanced alongside leader Twin B Tuffenuff passing the three-quarters and extended through the stretch, winning by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:52.0.

"Obviously, I brought him to Yonkers to race him in that overnight race specifically because we were going to the Rooney,” Ryder commented.

“He’s been on a half in Canada in the Battle of Waterloo and he handled it, so that made it easier to supplement.”

Seeing that Bettor’s Wish was ready for the Rooney eliminations May 18, Ryder opted to qualify the 3-year-old at the Meadowlands May 11 rather than race again. Bettor’s Wish then cruised in his elimination, scoring a gate-to-wire win in 1:53.2 with a :27.1 final quarter.

“We just went to the Meadowlands to qualify because I really didn’t think he needed a race,” Ryder said.

“He was ready, just qualified him wanting to keep him fresh. That’s all he needed, particularly when you have an elimination and a final.

“I was really happy with his elimination,” Ryder continued.

“I was happy with the way he got away from the gate and happy with the way he finished. It wasn’t a particularly tough race, which I was pleased about. You’d rather have an easier race than a tougher race with the final coming up. The driver was happy and I think the horse is happy.”

Entering the final Saturday night (May 25), Bettor’s Wish is 7-for-14 for Bella Racing Ltd., Fair Island Farm, and Ken Solomon, who own in partnership with Ryder.

Dexter Dunn, who has driven Bettor’s Wish in each start so far this year, will take the lines again. Ryder is happy to be paired with the New Zealand transplant.

“He’s been dedicated to driving since he was a little fellow, and he’s always been good at it. I’m not surprised to see him doing as well as he is. And I’m very happy to have Dexter on the horse,” Ryder said.

“His father was a good friend of mine growing up. I kind of encouraged him to come over here. It’s not an easy decision for the guy who’s the leading driver in New Zealand to come somewhere where you might struggle for a few years. He’s done extremely well.”


The full field for the $300,000 Art Rooney Final is listed below.
1 – Captain Malicious – Mark MacDonald – Ray Schnittker – 8-1
2 – Rollwithpapajoe – Joe Bongiorno – Jenn Bongiorno – 7-1
3 – Branquinho – Tyler Buter – Ray Schnittker – 7-1
4 – Buddy Hill – Brian Sears – Marcus Melander – 6-1
5 – Price Hanover – Dan Dube – Tom Cancelliere – 12-1
6 – Bettor’s Wish – Dexter Dunn – Chris Ryder – 7-2
7 – Blood Money – Scott Zeron – Nancy Johansson – 5-2
8 – Air Force Hanover – David Miller – Brian Brown – 5-1

Saturday night’s card also features the $109,234 Lismore Final, along with the regular $44,000 pacing and trotting co-features. 

First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here.

 

By Brandon Valvo

for the SOA of NY

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