CLASSIC PHOTO FAVOURED

11:22 PM 19 Jul 2005 NZST
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Classic Photo
Classic Photo
LISA PHOTO, INC. - 2005 Stanley Dancer Trot Final winner

Last year, trainer Ervin Miller entered the season with one of harness racing’s more highly regarded 3-Year-Old trotters, Photo Color, but failed to make it to the Hambletonian as the colt struggled with consistency.

This year, Miller began the campaign with a relatively unknown trotter, Classic Photo, who now is one of the favourites to win the upcoming Hambletonian.

"That’s one thing about trotters, they can get you a little frustrated, but it’s pretty rewarding when they do well," Miller said.

Classic Photo won once in eight starts last year and was 90-1 in the season-ending Valley Victory Trot at the Meadowlands in December, where he finished second to Diesel Don.

This year, Classic Photo has won five of eight races, including the $350,000 Stanley Dancer Trot on July 15, which is the final prep for the $1.7 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack (eliminations on July 30, final on August 6).

He has won four straight races and earned $431,976 (U.S.) lifetime.

"As a 2-Year-Old, he was a little immature and kind of a petite horse," said Miller, who has never had a Hambletonian entry.

"He just wasn’t filling out the way you like to see them. That’s what took me so long to get him going; I was trying to let him grow up a little more."

In the Stanley Dancer Trot last Friday, favourite Classic Photo won by a length over Strong Yankee while longshot Vino Camielle was third, another length back. Diesel Don went off stride at the start of the race and finished 10th.

"Strong Yankee raced well the other day," Miller said, referring to the Trond Smedshammer-trainee who won last year’s Matron Stake for 2-Year-Old male trotters.

"He’s kind of a bigger horse and might take a little longer to get ready. He might be rounding into shape at the right time, too."

Classic Photo, owned by Bill Wright, Jack and Peggy Hood and Mystical Marker Farms, also won the $342,100 Goodtimes at Woodbine Racetrack.

Ron Pierce has driven Classic Photo in all five of his wins this season. Classic Photo won’t race again until the Hambletonian elimination races on July 30.

"Let’s knock on some wood and hope he stays good for another three weeks," Miller said. "I think he’s got a shot to do some good if he stays healthy. It’s hard to hold them (in form) for a long time, but we haven’t had to do a whole lot with him so far.

“Hopefully, in the next couple weeks, he’ll sharpen a little more. Some of the others can go the other way, too. But I think he’ll stay as good as he is.

He’s raced on a sloppy track, raced up in Canada, had a couple different things happen to him, and been okay. He’s as sound as any horse I’ve had. It doesn’t take much work to keep him going."

Classic Photo was purchased as a yearling for $87,000 (U.S.) at the Kentucky Standardbred Sale in 2002.

He is a ½ brother to Classic Response, who won the 2002 American-National for 2-Year-Old male trotters. He is considered undersized compared to most of the other trotters that are eyeing the Hambletonian.

One exception would be Ken Warkentin, the 2004 O’Brien Award winner as best 2-Year-Old male trotter, who also is considered small.

"He’s actually a little taller than that other little horse that’s probably going to be the favourite," Miller said, alluding to Ken Warkentin.

"He might not be as thick. I’d say he’s medium, maybe a little under medium, in height. He’s not a broad horse, though, but maybe that works to our advantage.

“He is so flawlessly gaited. He’s kind of got a spring to his trot, which might be because of his size. He’s got an attitude that’s unbelievable. He loves his work and he loves to race."

Ken Warkentin, who was scratched sick from the Dancer eliminations, returned to action in the 3-Year-Old Open trot on Friday night at the Meadowlands and won in 1.52.3 from post 10.

The time was the second fastest of the year for a 3-Year-Old, trailing only Great George Two’s 1.52.1. Great George Two is not eligible to the Hambletonian.

As for being considered one of the horses to beat in the Hambletonian, Miller is comfortable with the role.

"I’ve won a lot more races that way than any other way," he said with a laugh.

Courtesy Of Standardbred Canada

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