Day At The Track

Moosonee thrills owner to no end

07:26 AM 06 Jun 2018 NZST
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Moosonee, harness racing
Moosonee and driver Aaron Merriman winning at the Meadows
Chris Gooden photo

Jim Kunkel celebrated his 71st birthday on Monday, but that wasn't the day this week he was most looking forward to enjoying. Not when his homebred trotter Moosonee is racing.

Moosonee, a 3-year-old gelding bred by Kunkel and his wife Sandra, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the first of two Currier & Ives Stakes divisions Wednesday (June 6) at The Meadows. Moosonee, who is eligible to August's $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes, has a win and a second in two starts this season for trainer Chris Beaver.

"I just want to get up and enjoy every day at this stage of my life," said Kunkel, who lives in south-central Massachusetts and breeds and races under Winterbeary Farm. "The greatest thrill will be sitting and watching that baby race tomorrow afternoon because if you're into horseracing there's nothing better. This has been such a pleasant surprise that we're numb. I'm just in awe of him.

"We're just two average country bumpkins here that probably don't deserve this kind of horse."

Moosonee is a son of Explosive Matter out of the Kunkels' stakes-winning mare Lady Andover. His second dam, Lost Lady One, was a New York Sire Stakes champion and Breeders Crown runner-up.

Last year, Moosonee won a division of the Keystone Classic, his only victory in 10 starts, and was second in the Madison County and divisions of the Bluegrass and Arden Downs stakes. The gelding hit the board a total of seven times and earned $64,710.

"Chris took him along slowly," Kunkel said. "He always raced good. He didn't have much racing luck, but he was always around the finishing line."

This year, Moosonee debuted at The Meadows with a win in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes over returning series champion Fashionwoodchopper and then finished second to You Know You Do, last year's Peter Haughton Memorial winner, in a division of the sire stakes at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

In his victory at The Meadows, driver Aaron Merriman made a three-wide move off the final turn to win by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:54 on a sloppy track.

"When you're racing against those horses, you're going to find out how good you really are," Kunkel said. "When (Merriman) took that horse off the turn that day and came three wide with him, he just blew by them. I just sat in shock watching it on the computer."

Kunkel's uncle Joe and father John were involved in harness racing and Kunkel, who is retired after working in the automobile, school bus, and insurance businesses, has enjoyed horses for as long as he can remember.

"I've been around Standardbred racehorses since I was born," Kunkel said. "I worked every summer when I was in high school at the old Foxboro Raceway. I went to college in Boston and spent more time at Suffolk Downs than I did in the classroom. Once you get hooked, you're hooked."

Moosonee is one of seven Hambletonian eligible horses in Wednesday's Currier & Ives. The others are Rich And Miserable, Patent Leather, and Banker Twentyfive in the first division and Meadowbranch Ricky, Crystal Fashion, and I Know My Rights in the second division.

Kunkel is not thinking about the Hambletonian at this point.

"I've been around this long enough to know you don't get too high, you don't get too low," Kunkel said. "I think he can compete. Whether he can dominate, that's a whole different story. But it's been a dream come true for us. It's been nothing but a tremendous thrill. I can't wait for tomorrow when he races again. The best driver, a great racetrack; what more could you ask for."

For Wednesday's complete Meadows entries, click here. Racing begins at 1:05 p.m. (EDT).

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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