Day At The Track

Heston Blue Chip ready for the Ben Franklin

09:27 PM 19 Jun 2013 NZST
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Heston Blue Chip Heston Blue Chip
Heston Blue Chip - Scored in a track record time of 1:49.2 last Sunday
Fred Brown photo
Heston Blue Chip - Pictured with caretaker Kim Foley
USTA/Ken Weingartner photo

Coming off a campaign in which he was the 3-year-old Colt Pacer of the Year, Heston Blue Chip was conspicuously absent in the early stages of this season. It turns out that the horse was having a reaction to his ulcer medicine, although it took owner Ken Jacobs and harness racing trainer Linda Toscano a while to discover that little problem.

"His blood wasn't 100 percent until last week," Jacobs said. "His white cells were down after we exerted him. I didn't start him back until late, a month and a half ago. After we trained him his blood would not come back to 100 percent. We kept playing with it; we didn't know what was wrong. We know when he's not right. His first race he should have won. He came in third, but he was bad.

"We have some of the best vets in the nation and none of them could figure it out. We went to another vet and he said ‘Is he on Gastrogard?' When we told him yes he told us to take it down to a half dose and see how the reaction was. We took him all the way off before the race and he raced very well."

Indeed he did. After his delayed start to the year produced a third-place finish in a 4-year-old Open at the Meadowlands, Heston Blue Chip won the Open Handicap June 16 in a Tioga Downs track record of 1:49.2.

"He was only 80 percent going into that race and we said ‘Let's go ahead and race him and see how he does,'" Jacobs said. "We scoped his stomach after taking him off it and he was free of any ulcers. They found another one, but that can be treated without using the Gastrogard.

"On Tuesday he was back to 100 percent. He's where we want him to be."

Health-wise, Toscano, Jacobs and driver Tim Tetrick have no worries. The concern now is to get him in racing form after the inactivity. Sunday's win was a positive sign and the next step is at Saturday's eliminations for the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

Heston Blue Chip is in the second elimination along with Sweet Lou, who won this year's Maturity at the Big M, and Razzle Dazzle, who won the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers. A 6-year-old, Razzle Dazzle is approaching $1 million in lifetime purses and is the 5-2 morning line favorite. Heston Blue Chip is 3-1 followed by Fred And Ginger, this year's fastest performer with a 1:47.3 win to his credit, at 7-2 and Sweet Lou at 9-2.

Last year, Heston Blue Chip won 14 of 18 races and earned $1.03 million. His victories included the Breeders Crown, Progress Pace and Matron Stakes.

"My thought is, and I talked to Tim about it, we have to get him race tight and we haven't been there yet," Jacobs said. "We're going to take it cautious and race him until he's race tight and then we'll go with the big boys. He might be there this weekend. If he gets in the final that's when we'll really go with it. But we've got to get there first."

Jacobs is taking a cautious approach to the season for several reasons -- one being the late start and the other being that Heston Blue Chip is going against older horses now.

"It's hard for a 4-year-old to beat 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, but we're gonna give it a shot," the owner said. "I'm going to keep him until he's 5. I've had offers to go to stud, but I'm not going to do that.

"I love the racing part. The adrenaline really rushes when he's in the race. I'm getting too old, I don't care about the stud fees; I want to enjoy this. I think we'll be all right. He'll be really race tight in about a month. He's staked in all the big races, this is the start of it."

Once he does get race tight, Heston Blue Chip seemingly has the ability to call his own shots on the track.

"He's got everything," Jacobs said. "He's just a nice horse, he doesn't bite, he's like a little baby in the stall and he only wins by as much as he wants to win by.

"No horse has ever passed him. That's unbelievable. He's been behind and come back to win but when he's in the lead no horse ever passed him. Now that's against 2- or 3-year-olds, that's going to maybe change. But he's that type of horse; he wins by as much as he wants to win by. I don't know how to explain it."

The only explanation Jacobs really needed was why his horse wasn't 100 percent.

Now that he got one, things are looking up.

"We have no concerns," he said. "We had six weeks of concern but right now we're where we want it.

"I like to say I have the best trainer and best driver for the best horse."

by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Courtesy of the United States Trotting Association Web Newsroom


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