Day At The Track

Ehrhart's problem pupil to stakes contender

06:36 PM 15 Apr 2010 NZST
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When harness racing trainer Neal Ehrhart purchased Brandon's Colt last spring, he knew he was taking on a challenge. Under Ehrhart's patient handling, the 4-year-old pacer has progressed from problem pupil to stakes contender in the $54,000 Art Unger Final on Friday night at Meadowlands Racetrack.

Brandon’s Colt will start from post eight with Tim Tetrick at the lines in the Art Unger, one of three stakes finals on the card. The race shares the spotlight with the highly anticipated Lucky Jim-Enough Talk showdown in the $125,000 Su Mac Lad, along with the $65,800 Jersey Girls for fillies and mares.

Ehrhart and partner Gary Papa, a former driver-trainer, purchased Brandon’s Colt from his previous owner, Chad Aaron, on May 11, 2009.

“Everybody that had him had trouble getting him to the races,” Ehrhart said. “My friend had suggested I could deal with his issues. He qualified, but he didn’t race as a two-year-old. He made a lot of breaks and they tried to qualify him at Freehold, but the half-mile track is not his cup of tea. It’s not that he’s a very big horse or a knee-knocker; it’s just not his style of racing.

“When I first got him he just didn’t have a lot of skills on the track,” Ehrhart continued. “He still needed to learn how to race. He just wanted to go around fast and didn’t really know how to do it. So, I kind of had to go back to square one and treat him like a young, green horse.”

After a few minor setbacks in training, Brandon’s Colt made his debut for Ehrhart on May 27, 2009 at Pocono Downs. He finished fifth in that race and went on to post his first win for his new trainer the following week in 1:57. Brandon’s Colt completed his 3-year-old season with a record of three wins, four seconds and three thirds in 27 starts and earnings of $24,684. The son of Red River Hanover has two wins this season, including a career best 1:52.3 on March 11 at the Meadowlands.

Ehrhart feels Brandon’s Colt’s eyesight may be limited, making the kind of trip he receives in a race all the more critical to his success.

“I don’t think he sees well,” he said. “Unfortunately, the technology is not out there to test a horse’s eyesight. I don’t believe it’s a mental thing with him. I’m pretty good at assessing that sort of thing. That’s why he can finish well if he’s able to fan wide and has clear sailing. I warmed him up a couple of weeks ago and there were seagulls on the track. They were maybe 100 feet ahead of me and he was going to pull himself up. He couldn’t make out what it was. I’ve tried goggles and screens, and that made him worse. I just open him up so he can see as much as he can.”

After a perfect pocket trip, Brandon’s Colt nearly caught Eragon at the wire in the first leg of the Art Unger Stake on April 2. In the second round, he finished sixth, 2 1-2 lengths behind 60-1 upset winner Who What.

“Last week, he got interfered with,” Ehrhart said. “[Driver] Brian Sears said he had to grab him up and shut him down when he got pushed wide [early in the race]. He’s not an easy horse to get back into full stride. He’s not much of a leaver, although he kind of proved me wrong two starts back.

“We drew an outside post [eight] in a very tough final, so we’re hoping for a trip and some quick fractions,” he continued. “He’ll come from off the pace, and he’s almost better without cover. He doesn’t like to track a horse up close, to ride up tight on the helmet. Sometimes he gives you the impression he doesn’t have anything left, but that’s not the case. He’s just doesn’t like being in tight quarters. He’ll always give you a good late burst right to the wire if you give him clear, open track. Tim Tetrick understands how to drive him.”

Ehrhart, 53, of Manheim, PA has 30 horses based on his property called Keystone Driving Force. In addition to training Standardbred racehorses, Ehrhart has also dabbled in showing Arabians and Thoroughbreds.

“I’ve gravitated to primarily trotters,” he noted. “I’m this active because the sport is thriving in Pennsylvania, especially when it comes to trotters. There are a lot of good stallions standing here. I’ve had to upgrade our stock and had a couple of good years as a result.

“I’m still involved a bit in the line driving and show horses,” he added. “I periodically get show horses from other trainers that have them just to get them going, but I’m not actively on the road with it anymore.”

The field for the $54,000 Art Unger Stake, race seven on Friday night:

PP, Horse, Driver, Trainer, Odds

1, Bet The Town, Brian Sears, Ray Schnittker, 5-1

2, Who What, Ron Pierce, James Clarry, 15-1

3, Allamerican Chief , Yannick Gingras, John Bavosi, 4-1

4, He's Redhot, Andy Miller, Erv Miller, 7-2

5, Tamayo, John Campbell, Adrian Wisher, 8-1

6, Eragon, George Brennan, Peter Kleinhans, 3-1

7, Be Quick About It, Daniel Dube, Gary Machiz, 15-1

8, Brandon's Colt, Tim Tetrick, Neal Ehrhart, 12-1

9, Spectacular Man, Richie Silverman, Thomas Lail, 15-1

10, Sun Moon Lake, David Miller, Bill Mac Kenzie, 15-1

Amy SILVER

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