Day At The Track

Harper Blue Chip better; Sunshine Beach to miss Jug

07:18 AM 12 Sep 2013 NZST
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Harper Blue Chip, harness racing
Harper Blue Chip
New Image Media photo

Harper Blue Chip might not be as speedy as his father, former trotting star Majestic Son, at this stage of his career, but trainer Mark Steacy thinks he could become one of his majestic sons.

The 2-year-old Harper Blue Chip is among the 10 finalists in Saturday's C$365,000 William Wellwood Memorial at Mohawk Racetrack. The colt has won three of six races this season, including his most recent two. Last weekend, he won his Wellwood elimination in 1:56.1 and on Aug. 30 he won a division of the Champlain Stakes in 1:56.

Saturday's card also includes the C$374,000 Peaceful Way Stakes for 2-year-old filly trotters and the C$686,000 Canadian Trotting Classic for 3-year-old male trotters.

Harper Blue Chip and driver Sylvain Filion will start the Wellwood from post three. Once-beaten favorite Father Patrick, who won his elim in 1:55.3 from post 10, starts from post four with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Jimmy Takter.

"He's had a good week so far," said the Ontario-based Steacy, who owns Harper Blue Chip with Landmark 6 Racing Stable, David McDonald and David Reid. "One thing about him, he's always full of himself. He's a good-feeling horse and seems to enjoy life.

"Father Patrick is one talented horse. Unless he makes some kind of mistake, he looks pretty much unbeatable. But it's a horserace and anything can happen. The way my horse has been getting better and better every week, I'm hoping we're not at the bottom of the well with ours. If we get a good trip anything can happen."

Steacy trained Majestic Son, who was Canada's Horse of the Year in 2006. Harper Blue Chip's mother, Winning Jonlin, produced stakes-winners Medusa Blue Chip and Vibe Blue Chip and is a full-sister to stakes-winner Myolin. The family also includes two-time Horse of the Year honoree Mack Lobell and Hambletonian champion American Winner. Harper Blue Chip sold for $40,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale.

"He had fairly decent conformation," Steacy said. "He might have been just a little bit toe-out, but nothing drastic. I don't mind that on a trotter anyway. He had a nice rear end on him and a good shoulder and I really liked that. I could see similarities in a few respects to what his father had.

"I thought this one was probably bred better than most Majestic Sons on the mother's side. That's what Majestic Son has always lacked; he's never bred these kinds of mares before. The ones I've had have all been decent horses with lesser pedigree. I figured this one has got a little more pedigree and a little more body to work with, so maybe he could be OK. After that you've just got to get lucky."

Steacy saw other similarities between Harper Blue Chip and Majestic Son.

"They're both very smart horses," Steacy said. "Majestic Son was just a little more than ordinary training to get to the races, but he always did it right. Just as Majestic Son did, this guy seems to be getting better with every start. I think Majestic Son showed just a little more raw speed than this one does at this point.

"(Harper Blue Chip) was good gaited and didn't make very many mistakes at all. He didn't show any big speed training down, he was just kind of the same quarters all the time; nothing flashy. But after he got started to race, the speed started to come. And it's coming a little bit more with each start. You like to see a little go to them, but with a young trotter at that point I'm just as concerned about seeing a good gait."

Steacy brought Harper Blue Chip along slowly and gave him his first three starts in the Ontario Sire Stakes Grassroots Series. He didn't face open stakes company until the Champlain.

"That's kind of my policy; I try to give them as many easy starts before I start getting in against tougher competition," Steacy said. "I always believe they're a better horse if you can get a couple easy starts into them, get them brave and make them think that they're good."

Following is the field for the Wellwood Memorial with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Massive Talent, Scott Zeron, Nifty Norman; 2. Raise The Curtain, Tim Tetrick, Dustin Jones; 3. Harper Blue Chip, Sylvain Filion, Mark Steacy; 4. Father Patrick, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 5. Il Sogno Dream, Paul Macdonell, Chris Beaver; 6. P L Hercules, Chris Christoforou, Matthew Dupuis; 7. Odds On Amethyst, Dan Daley, Daley; 8. Credit Fashion, Brian Sears, Jim Campbell; 9. Damfoolrmillionair, Randy Waples, Brad Maxwell; 10. Muscle Midas, John Campbell, Gates Brunet.

SUNSHINE BEACH TO MISS LITTLE BROWN JUG

Trainer Mark Steacy said Wednesday that Battle of the Brandywine winner Sunshine Beach would miss the Little Brown Jug because of a health issue.

Sunshine Beach, ranked third in the current Road to the Little Brown Jug Top 10, has won five of 12 races and $494,885 for owners Hudson Standardbred Stable, Conrad Leber and Diane Bertrand. He handed Captaintreacherous his only loss this year with a world-record-equaling 1:47.4 mile in the Battle of the Brandywine on Aug. 17 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

He was eighth against older horses on Aug. 31 at Mohawk and second to Vegas Vacation in a division of the Simcoe Stakes last weekend at Mohawk.

The Little Brown Jug, the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown, is Sept. 19 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio.

"We made the call last night," Steacy said. "We thought hard about it because we really wanted to go. We just felt it was too much for him. I wouldn't say he's been sick, but his blood has been a little low the last week or two; I think he was just a little anemic for the last two races.

"I just don't think I can get him healthy enough to race in the Jug and then Lexington and the Breeders Crown. I'd like to win the Little Brown Jug as much as anybody, but we have to put the horse before ourselves. Something had to give and I thought I'd take an extra week to make sure he's real healthy for Lexington."

Vegas Vacation, who won his Simcoe division in a stakes-record 1:48.3, is the No. 1-ranked horse in the Road to the Little Brown Jug ratings.

Sunshine Beach, who led the Simcoe from the start until yielding to Vegas Vacation in the stretch, has won six of 18 career races and earned $531,565.

"After he came back from Pocono, I think it did take just a touch out of him," Steacy said. "That said, I thought he raced really good in the Simcoe. I think if we can get him back to 100 percent, like he was, he's going to race that much better. You've got to be at your peak for sure."

by Ken Weingartner for USTA

 

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