Day At The Track

Hunch leads to big year for Charles Iannazzo

07:07 PM 05 Oct 2011 NZDT
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When harness racing owner Charles Iannazzo looked at Check Me Out as a yearling, he saw Deweycheatumnhowe. Not due to any physical resemblance -- Deweycheatumnhowe was a colt and Check Me Out a filly -- but because both horses lost their mothers soon after being born.

Deweycheatumnhowe went on to become a champion. He earned divisional honors with an undefeated 2-year-old season and as a 3-year-old was named Trotter of the Year in 2008 after winning the Hambletonian and earning $3.15 million lifetime.

Iannazzo was one of the owners of Deweycheatumnhowe. He thought, maybe, Check Me Out could write a similar story. So rather than sell Check Me Out, he bought out partner Steve Jones, with whom he had shared ownership of the filly's dam, Illusion Bi, and turned over the horse to trainer Ray Schnittker (Editor's note: see video for more with Charles Iannazzo).

Jones bred and raised Deweycheatumnhowe and was part of the Deweycheatumnhowe Stable. Schnittker trained Deweycheatumnhowe and also was among the owners.

"I thought maybe somehow or another she'd turn out to be like Dewey," Iannazzo said. "It was just a hunch. It was just a stroke of luck."

Check Me Out has won nine of 11 races and earned $468,007 for Iannazzo and Schnittker. Her wins include the $333,200 Merrie Annabelle -- in a stakes and track record 1:54.2 at the Meadowlands -- and divisions of the Bluegrass, Champlain, Tompkins-Geers and Reynolds stakes.

On Thursday night at Lexington's Red Mile, Check Me Out will face seven other 2-year-old fillies in a $93,000 division of the International Stallion Stakes. She will start from post four with driver Tim Tetrick.

"With Timmy Tetrick driving and Ray training, I'm in good company," Iannazzo said. "And Steve is a great sport. He's one of her biggest supporters and roots her on."

Schnittker was impressed with the Donato Hanover-sired filly from the early stages of her training and asked to buy into the horse. Check Me Out's second dam is millionaire No Nonsense Woman, who was a division champ at age 3, and her family also includes Napoletano (another millionaire and division champ) and, from the early 1900s, Hall of Fame trotter Peter Volo.

"She had a great gait and a lot of speed," Schnittker said. "She was real tough to break, but once we got her over that she was very good. She just does everything right. Right now she's very sound, which is a great quality. She's just a nice horse. Most of the good ones are that way."

Said Iannazzo about Schnittker's initial reports, "I thought maybe what I had planned was really going to turn out. Ray doesn't get excited very often because he trains so many horses, and so many good horses. So when he called me and said he thought she was a special filly, and was doing everything right, that really excited me."

Both Iannazzo and Schnittker pointed to Check Me Out's six length Merrie Annabelle win as the year's highlight, so far.

"She just exploded from the pack," Iannazzo said. "We all know how many great mares previously have raced in that. That's really something special on her resume, that she holds the track record for the Merrie Annabelle. That was tremendous.

"That was my most exciting race because it was Hambletonian Day and the stands were full of people and everybody that's anybody in this game was there. The way she raced was just exciting. It was just a great day for me."

Check Me Out's only losses came in the Peaceful Way Stakes at Mohawk, where she finished second by a half-length to Win Missy B in her elimination race and then finished second to Win Missy B from post 10 in the final.

Last week, Check Me Out turned the tables on Win Missy B by posting a two length win in their Bluegrass Stakes division. Check Me Out won in a stakes-record 1:53.3.

"I really was hoping we would be in the same race with (Win Missy B)," Iannazzo said. "I'm not taking anything away from her, because she's a very nice filly, but if we were in different divisions and won people would say you still haven't beaten her. It was a very exciting race."

Check Me Out will race in the International Stallion Stakes and then the Breeders Crown in Canada before calling it a year.

"We'll tuck her away for the winter and hope she comes back as good as she was this year, or even a little better," Iannazzo said. "I consider myself very lucky."

Charles Iannazzo, co-owner of Merrie Annabelle winner Check Me Out

by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Courtesy of the US Trotting Association's Web Newsroom


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