Day At The Track

James Atkinson eyes Charles Singer Memorial

05:50 PM 01 Mar 2012 NZDT
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Connie Lauxmont
Connie Lauxmont

Despite being a third generation harness racing horseman, James Atkinson was a heavy equipment operator up until 10 years ago when the lure of his roots became too hard to resist. The 57-year-old Jackson, NJ native now resides on a farm in Georgetown, DE and will send out Connie Lauxmont in Friday's $44,500 Charles Singer Memorial Final at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

His three-year-old colt by Conway Hall has drawn post 10 (program number seven) and has been rated as the 7-2 third choice in the morning line in race four.

“My grandfather and father were both in the business, yet I wasn’t,” recalled Atkinson. “When my father passed away several years ago, I got asked to start out as a groom, but I refused at the time. I decided to go to school to be a welder, and then I was a heavy equipment operator. Eventually, I got more interested in the horses again, but I had to get some capital in order to get started. I began with a couple of $10,000 claimers and I had very good luck with them here in Delaware. However, there were some good times and some rough times.

From humble beginnings, Connie Lauxmont blossomed into a New York Sires Stakes contender for Atkinson. “This colt was a $4,100 yearling a friend of mine purchased, and I bought him off my friend for $17,500. I had followed the horse, took him for a test drive and bought him early last spring. We were patient with him as a two-year-old and he got sick a few times. I just didn’t want to push him and he’s come along nicely. He’s eligible for the New York Sires Stakes. He raced in it a bit last year and he’ll do fine again. The key is he’s been doing it now quite easily and you want him to build confidence.”

Connie Lauxmont shipped in on a three-race winning streak at Dover Downs before making it four in a row in the first leg of the Charles Singer Memorial Series. “Last week, he cut the mile and just got beat by a nose, so we’re very proud of him. He improved almost two seconds from his win in the first leg and kicked home strong. We couldn’t have asked for any more. He’s very level headed and anybody could handle him. Post 10 is going to be tough, but we’ll have to leave that up to Brian Sears. He’s got his work cut out for him. My theory is if we get a four or five-hole trip we can make a race out of it.”

Atkinson and his wife, Carol, have 18 horses stabled on their farm just outside Harrington, DE. He has a dozen in training, along with several broodmares and one stallion, Impel Hanover, who won a division of the 2010 Horse & Groom and finished second by a nose in the final at the Meadowlands. Atkinson works his horses over a red clay training track.

“What I do with all of our horses is train them by themselves with nobody else here. I try to train a decent trip and pick up speed coming the final quarter. My track is six-tenths of a mile with five-eighths turns, and it’s all red clay. When I purchased the farm the track looked like a wagon path and it was about a foot deep with sand. I had an excavator dig it all up and found a vein of red clay. It’s absolutely perfect and really helps take out the shock on their feet.

“Plus, I shoe all of my horses, and that’s important to me. I watched somebody do it once and I decided I could do it myself. We bought all of the equipment and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

MAN’S TREASURE HUNTS FOR RICHES IN SINGER FINAL

A trip to the chiropractor has Man’s Treasure re-aligned and ready to line up behind the starting gate in Friday’s $44,500 Charles Singer Memorial Final

Man’s Treasure, trained by Don Niccum, goes for his second straight win at the Meadowlands Racetrack when he leaves from post six (program number five) in the fourth race feature. The three-year-old gelding by SJ’s Caviar looms large fresh off a wire-to-wire lifetime best of 1:58.1 in the second leg and picks up Hall of Famer John Campbell in the sulky.

“The owner and breeder, Bob Key (of Leechburg, PA), and his trainer Richard Gillock were looking to send this trotter out here for this series,” explained Niccum. “Fortunately, I got a couple of good references, so here he is.

“He’s a nice, honest little horse. He was coming off a win when he shipped in, he’s lightly-raced and on the improve. Last week, he was the favorite, so he kind of dictated the race and he’s certainly going in the right direction for the final.

“I haven’t made changes or adjustments, just gave him a treatment from the chiropractor. I do that mostly with trotters for proper alignment. It’s nothing major, mainly for maintenance, and I personally recommend it. They basically manipulate their spine. You can tell a horse likes it when they go over him and find a sore spot.

“I don’t do a lot of work with this horse between races. He’s kind of wound up and a bit hard on himself. I just try to get him a lot of time outside. He goes back to Pennsylvania after this for a series at The Meadows.

“It feels good to have a shot in a series final. It looks like Trouble is the one to beat since won in both series legs. I think we can step out of there, but I’ll leave that up to John Campbell.”

Niccum is looking to enhance his reputation as a go-to trainer for out-of-town barns who want to send a horse to race in a series at the Meadowlands. A former assistant to Joe Holloway and Joe Stutzman, Niccum, 52, opened his own stable in 2006 at Showplace Farms in Englishtown, NJ.

“I’m actually pretty busy right now,” Niccum noted. “We got eight to ten horses this month.”

IN THE SULKY: SCOTT DIDOMENICO

Trainer Scott DiDomenico will be the featured guest on Meadowlands Racetrack’s Saturday night pre-card show. Watch the broadcast live at the Paddock Level television set or online at MeadowlandsRacetrack.com beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Amy SILVER

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