Day At The Track

Just Plain Loco targets Lawrence B. Sheppard Final

04:44 AM 15 Jul 2018 NZST
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Tom Fanning, harness racing
Tom Fanning co-owns and trains Just Plain Loco

YONKERS, N.Y. – The Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace is one of the first major Grand Circuit events for 2-year-old pacers, and according to trainer Tom Fanning, it takes a special kind of horse to win the $100,000 stakes. 

“I think it’s a good value race if you think your horse is going to be handy on a half and they happen to be ready, I think it’s a good race to go in,” Fanning said. “I think you have to have a certain kind of horse. They have to be handy, good on the turns, and athletic to do well early on a half-mile track.”

Fanning thinks he may have that certain type of horse in Just Plain Loco, a 3-1 morning line chance to capture the 54th edition of the Sheppard Pace tonight (July 14) at Yonkers Raceway.

The son of Well Said out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Symphony in Motion didn’t turn many heads at last year’s Harrisburg sale due to his small size, but Fanning and co-owner Paul Lang liked what they saw and were the top bidders when the hammer fell at $15,000.

“The owner liked him very much. I think he liked the pedigree and he was dual eligible. He was big on that, he was eligible to some races in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. He was a real small horse, but I think his brother was also small. He wasn’t my top selection, but there were some things I did like about him,” Fanning said.

Although Just Plain Loco was small in stature, Fanning was surprised by how athletic the pacer is. He wears a much longer hopple than would be expected for his size and proved to be a very nice mover on the racetrack. However, he was also full of energy and unfocused, so the decision was made to geld Just Plain Loco early in his training.

“We actually gelded him pretty early. He really wasn’t focused in on his work. Once we cut him, he got better and better. He trained down pretty well then,” Fanning said. “He’s very good in a race. On the track, he’s very squirrely, looking at everything. We always joke, he never jogs in a straight line. But when it’s time to do his work, once we turn him to go a mile, he would straighten up. He was good about things, but he likes to fool around a lot too.”

Although Just Plain Loco was training down well and making his times, Fanning felt because of his size, the gelding was having to work harder to keep up with the group. Fanning began training Just Plain Loco by himself and let him develop at his own pace.

“He didn’t get beat in his training miles or anything, he just had to work at it a little bit more,” Fanning explained. “We had him in company until about March, but because of his size, I took him out of company and trained him by himself just because I didn’t really want to put any pressure on him. He would just do his thing, he’s go the time, he’d be willing enough to do it. I put him back in company in the middle of May or so when they were ready to qualify almost.”

Just Plain Loco qualified twice in June. He made his debut at Gaitway, where he finished fifth in his first trial June 18. Although he was beaten 19 ½ lengths, Fanning was pleased with the effort; Just Plain Loco went 1:56.2 with a :28.0 final panel. He returned with a fourth-place finish, timed in 1:57.0 with :27.4 last quarter, in a Harrah’s Philadelphia qualifier June 26.

“I was happy with both of them,” the trainer opined. “We had trained him before his first qualifier in 2:01 and he got beat pretty good his first race, but he came home in :28.0. I was standing about halfway up the stretch and I could see he had some go to him, he was pacing right along. It was deceptive because we weren’t going to push him. The second qualifier, he came home in about :56.0 and paced pretty good on the end of it again. He was wrapped up.”

Just Plain Loco made his pari-mutuel debut in a $13,000 overnight for 2-year-olds at Harrah’s July 8. Although bettors dismissed him at odds of 14-1, Just Plain Loco worked his way to the lead and scored a length victory in 1:54.0. The tactics, if not the win, were even a surprise to his trainer.

“It didn’t surprise me he won, it was surprising he went to the front,” Fanning said. “He got a little bit aggressive. When the gate opened, he got surrounded. He’s not a real aggressive horse, but he was right in the middle of the pack and he got a little excited, so (David Miller) just sort of paced out of there and he ended up on the front.”

After posting a pair of inspiring qualifiers and a strong debut, Fanning decided to enter Just Plain Loco in the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace. He will start from post three with driver Jim Marohn, Jr. in the sulky. 

Just Plain Loco’s five rivals include 3-2 morning line favorite World On Edge. The Ron Burke-trainee qualified in 1:55.0 at Gaitway June 4 before debuting a winner in New York Sire Stakes at Yonkers June 26. He will start from post five in the Sheppard. Hickfromfrenchlick posted a 14 ½-legnth victory in his debut at Goshen June 29 when beating one rival in a 1:57.3 (27.1) mile and drew post two in the Sheppard for trainer Ray Schnittker. Hurrikane Kinglee, Treasure Tom, and Can We Dance complete the lineup.

“It’s hard to say. Two-year-olds on a half, it’s really hard to get a read on it. It’s hard to make a prediction,” Fanning said. “I think our horse will be good on the turns and if he races back to last week, he should be pretty close with these horses.”
Saturday’s card co-features the weekly $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.

by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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