Harness racing trainer Steve Elliott sends three hopefuls into Friday's (July 29) Peter Haughton Memorial eliminations at Meadowlands Racetrack, but he trains only two of the 2-year-old trotting colts. Elliott, who won the 2006 Haughton with Donato Hanover, trains Quit Smoking Now and Yankee Royalty. He co-owns Power Play, but the horse is trained by Julie Miller.
Undefeated Quit Smoking Now and first-time starter Power Play, both in the second of the two Haughton elims, are sons of, who won the 2007 Hambletonian and was named Horse of the Year. Yankee Royalty, who is in the first elim, is a son of . The top five finishers from each elimination advance to the $500,000 (est.) Haughton final on August 6.
"You never know at this stage; you just hope they keep doing everything right," Elliott said. "We'll just keep our fingers crossed. It's nice to have a few of them in there, anyway. It's going to be a long year, but we'll have some fun along the way hopefully."
Power Play is the first foal out of the world champion mare Mystical Sunshine. He was purchased as a yearling for $87,000 (under the name Sir Arthur Nourrir) and is owned by Power Play Stables, which includes Elliott, Angelo Frassetto and Ken Klein, as well as Carter Racing Stable and Old Block Stables.
The colt is the only unraced Haughton entrant, although he won two qualifiers. His best time was 1:56.3, with Andy Miller in the sulky, on July 14 at the Meadowlands. The mark is the best in his eight-horse elim and second best among the 15 other total horses entered in the event. Blomkvist, from the stable of Jimmy Takter, has a 1:56.1 win time to his credit.
"I think Power Play is a pretty good colt, but only time will tell," Elliott said.
Elliott gave the horse to the Millers because Power Play would go off stride on the final turn on the five-eighths-mile track where Elliott trains. He thought the horse would benefit from training on a larger oval.
"Every time I would come out of the last turn at Showplace he would run, like the turn was too tight for him," Elliott said. "I asked Andy and Julie if they had room for him because he needed to be on the big track. They were very accommodating. My partners kind of looked at me funny when I did it, but I told them that I do what's best for all of us. I've got no ego; I just want to make money.
"I think (the Millers) thought I was going to take him back, but I told them to go ahead and race him. They've done a heck of a job with him. It's one of those deals that's kind of funny, but everything has a way of working out."
Elliott, who has recovered recently from a fractured elbow suffered in a training incident, had hoped to buy Quit Smoking Now with his partnership group, but was unsuccessful. The colt, owned by Norman Smiley, Gerald Smiley, TLP Stable and Theresa Silva, ended up in his barn anyway.
Quit Smoking Now, who sold for $75,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale, is the first foal out of the mare Smokeslikeachimney, who is a full sister to 2008 Hambletonian winner. Quit Smoking Now won his debut in 1:57 on July 14 at the Meadowlands and made it 2-for-2 by winning in 1:58.2 last week.
"He's still not where I want him to be, but he's getting better," Elliott said. "I'm playing with his shoeing a little bit. Every time I go with him, he seems like he gets a little bit better. His gait is not where I want it yet, but he's getting there. He's a work in progress, kind of like Donato when he was 2.
"He's wound a little tight, and Donato was like that early. Once () got racing, he settled down, and I think when I get enough miles under this guy he'll do the same thing."
Yankee Royalty, who is owned by Thomson Sisters Racing Stable, is the first foal out of the mare New Royalty and sold for $25,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale. New Royalty is a half-sister to 2005 Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo. Yankee Royalty's sire,, won the 1998 Hambletonian.
In his debut, Yankee Royalty was second in a division of the Tompkins-Geers at Tioga Downs. Last week, he finished fourth as the favorite in an overnight at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
"He's a nice colt, too," Elliott said. "For some reason he was slipping at Pocono, so I changed his shoes. I'll train him tomorrow (Tuesday). Hopefully we have him going in the right direction."
Following are the fields in post position order for Friday's Peter Haughton Memorial eliminations, with listed drivers and trainers.
1. Lightning Storm, Yannick Gingras, Jonas Czernyson;
2. Weingartner, Jimmy Takter, Takter;
3. Duluth, D.R. Ackerman, Ackerman;
4. No Frosting, David Miller, Richard "Nifty" Norman;
5. Trojan Horse, Trond Smedshammer, Smedshammer;
6. Possess The Will, Tim Tetrick, Jim Campbell;
7. Yankee Royalty, Brian Sears, Steve Elliott;
8. Blomkvist, Ron Pierce, Takter.
1. Quit Smoking Now, Brian Sears, Steve Elliott;
2. Astarsborn Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker;
3. Nothing But Class, Takter, Takter;
4. Guccio, Ron Pierce, Takter;
5. Big Chocolate, Homer Hochstetler, Hochstetler;
6. Power Play, Andy Miller, Julie Miller;
7. Map Of Hawaii, Sears, Jim Campbell;
8. Markz Moose, Oyvind Hegdal, Hegdal.
by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications