CAMPBELLVILLE, September 14 – After a victory and a pair of second-place finishes in his last three starts, Punxsutawney is certainly rounding into form heading into the $686,000 Canadian Trotting Classic, Saturday at Mohawk.
The talented son of Glidemaster finished second in his elimination, beaten only a neck, to Master Of Law in 1:53.4 at odds of 10-1.
Prior to last week, Punxsutawney finished second in the $75,000 Zweig Memorial Consolation before winning his division of the $100,000 Colonial Trot.
“He raced very well in his elimination. His first quarter was :27.3 and his final quarter was :27.3, you can’t ask for much more,” said trainer John Butenschoen. “He’s had a very good week. We left him in Canada at Ideal Training Center and he’s coming into the race as good as we can expect.”
Punxsutawney will leave post two with morning line odds at 12-1 for driver Corey Callahan.
Things didn’t go as planned earlier this season for Butenschoen and Punxsutawney.
“He started off the year so good,” said the veteran conditioner. “He won his first two races then he started making breaks and we didn’t know why. We tried everything to figure it out and later we found out it was his front feet. He played around with him, tried different shoeing and we settled on putting glue-on aluminums on, which seems to help, along with swimming him. We then put trotting hobbles on him too. That was more psychological than anything because he was so accustomed to making breaks.”
When Punxsutawney wasn’t putting his best foot forward on the racetrack, Butenschoen always had the confidence from owner Jerry Graham
“Jerry had a lot faith in the horse and was very patient, which is sometimes hard to do in this game,” Butenschoen said. “He’s been in the game for many years and trained so he knows what it’s all about. We didn’t feel the pressure or be under the gun to figure this horse out, which was a blessing because he always knew this horse had what it takes.”
The lightly-raced youngster will look for his biggest victory of his career in the 38th edition of the classic.
The bay has a 3-2-0 record from nine starts along with $113,639 earned this season.
“It will be interesting to see how it plays out and how much speed there is up front. Wheeling N Dealin raced a lot better last week and I expect him to be even better. Royalty For Life is a horse you can’t overlook as well as both elimination winners. There may not be a (1):50 (1) :51 trotter, but there are a lot of nice horses in this field. It seems like a fairly wide-open race and we don’t mind being a longshot.”
Butenschoen admires the qualities of his young trotter. “He’s a good, happy horse. His attitude is great and he always tries. As a trainer, that’s one thing that you have to admire. He’s got a lot of talent with a ton of speed, so hopefully that continues to show up. Obviously we thought enough of him this season because we staked him heavily. He started off the year so well, so hopefully we can end it the same way.”
Beginning from post position two is something the veteran conditioner isn’t going to argue about.
“I’m not complaining,” Butenschoen said with a laugh. "That’s just fine with me. Corey (Callahan) has done a great job with this horse and they seem to be a good match together. Corey can race him anyway he wants, which gives him options.“
Both elimination winners Master Of Law and Your So Vain were allowed to pick there post positions. Master Of Law picked post two with Your So Vain beginning from post three, respectively.
In his career Punxsutawney has banked $252,104 with a 5-4-0 record from 18 career starts.
The $16,000 yearling purchase was bred by Audray Farm of Punxsutawney, Pa.