"Horse of the Year" ready to return

07:47 AM 02 May 2014 NZST
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Nifty Norman
Nifty Norman

Bee A Magician brings an 18-race win streak into this season, but harness racing trainer Nifty Norman is relaxed as he prepares the 4-year-old female trotter for her upcoming campaign.

After seeing Bee A Magician capture 2013 Horse of the Year honors in both the U.S. and Canada, the trainer feels like he is playing with house money now.

"Pretty much, I think so," Norman said Thursday morning, two days before Bee A Magician is scheduled to return to action with a qualifier at Meadowlands Racetrack. "This year, I don't feel any pressure at all. She's accomplished a lot and hopefully we can accomplish some more. She's a good horse. I don't think she'll let me down."

Bee A Magician, who finished her 2-year-old season with a win and then went 17-for-17 last year, returned from a well-earned respite to resume training in early February. She is expected to qualify twice before heading to Canada for the first round of the Miss Versatility Series on May 19.

"She looks really good; I'm really happy with her," said Norman, who trains Bee A Magician for owners Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman, and David McDuffee. "She's pretty naturally fit. We did lots of jogging and lots of slow miles and she really only trained fast one time, and that was last week. She gets herself ready, pretty much."

Bee A Magician has worn trotting hobbles throughout her career, but will begin this year without them.

"We're going to try her without the hobbles and I think she'll be fine," Norman said. "I put them on her when she was (age) 2 and it's hard to change things when it's all going so well. But I don't think she needs them."

Bee A Magician became the first 3-year-old filly trotter to receive the U.S. Horse of the Year Award since Continentalvictory in 1996. Only five other horses have posted undefeated seasons and been named Horse of the Year: Muscle Hill (2009), Artsplace (1992), Forrest Skipper (1986), Niatross (1979), and Bret Hanover (1964). Muscle Hill and Bee A Magician are the only trotters on the list.

Last year, Bee A Magician earned a divisional record $1.54 million and became the only filly in history, either pacer or trotter, to surpass $2 million in lifetime purses. Her winning time of 1:51 in last year's Delvin Miller Memorial at the Meadowlands is the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old filly trotter.

A daughter of the stallion Kadabra out of the mare Beehive, Bee A Magician has won 27 of 30 career races and $2.31 million. She has won 25 of her last 26 starts dating back to August 2012.

With her move into the ranks of older horses, Bee A Magician will face a group of trotting mares led by Maven, who captured last year's Dan Patch Award as the division's best. Maven won 10 of 14 races, trotted the fastest race mile in history on a half-mile track (1:51.4), and finished her season with a second-place finish against the boys in the American-National Stakes.

"We'll just take it as it comes and see how she handles it," Norman said about Bee A Magician's road ahead. "If she can handle the girls, we'll try the boys. We'll just see how it goes.

"We saw Maven last year and she was competitive with the boys. I think she'll be able to step up. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out."

Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications

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