Day At The Track

Looking back to Matt’s Scooter

07:00 AM 25 Feb 2015 NZDT
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Matt's Scooter
Matt's Scooter
Matt's Scooter

In the 1980s there were a number of memorable race track confrontations on the local harness racing circuit and one that has always stuck out in my mind came in the latter part of 1988 at Sportsman’s Park.

It was the $384,000 American National on the first Saturday of November, a 3-year-old pacing stake that was billed nationally as the “Showdown of the Tear. A victory by Matt’s Scooter would clinch 3-year-old of the year honors and put the Direct Scooter colt in strong positon to win Pacer of the Year Honors.

However the task wasn’t going to be easy for Matt’s Scooter. All the big guns in the sophomore division came to town and each one wanted to leave with the winning $192,250 check

Unfortunately the weatherman didn’t co-operate on November 5, 1988. The evening was very chilly and the track was sloppy from a steady day-long rain but that didn’t put a damper on the race or the enthusiasm of a jam-packed crowd in attendance at the Cicero, Illinois facility.

Matt’s Scooter and driver Mike Lachance earlier that year became the fastest harness horse in the sport’s history with a 1:48.2 time trial at Lexington, smashing the old record of 1:49.2 set by the great Niatross 8 years earlier.

In The American National showdown Lachance got Matt’s Scooter to the top on the rain-soaked racing strip and put away a bid from Camtastic, one of his chief rivals, at the three-quarter pole. He then held off a spirited rally from another major rival, Albert Albert, finishing 1 and 1/2 lengths ahead in the 1:55.3 mile in the slop.

Matt’s Scooter would go on to earn $1,783,588 in his second season winning 11 of 22 starts with 7 seconds and 2 thirds, failing to hit the tote board only once in 1988, earning both Three-Year-Old and Pacer of the Year honors.

A season-later as a 4-year-old Matt’s Scooter was named the 1989 Harness Horse of the Year when he captured 23 of 30 starts. often against the very best pacers in the U.S. and Canada for trainer Harry Poulton while adding another $1.14 million to his bankroll for his Canadian owners Illa Rumpel and Charles Juravinski.

Matt turned in at that time the fastest mile ever in Canada when he captured the Mohawk Gold Cup in 1:51. He also won the Breeders Crown, William Haughton Memorial, Driscoll Free-For-All, and legs of the U.S. Pacing Championship, George Morton Levy Memorial, and Graduate Series.

In a 1989 media interview his trainer Harry Poulton had this to say about Matt’s Scooter:

“He never really did anything bad. He didn’t break any carts, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. He was always bucking, kicking or doing something. We shipped him home 12 hours one day, and the next day he was on his hind legs in the yard. I don’t know where he got his energy.”

Matt’s Scooter was retired at the end of his 4-year-old campaign and went on to be an splendid stallion.

In his 22 years at stud—all but one standing at Perretti's flagship farm in New Jersey—Matt’s Scooter sired the winners of more than $76.3 million, with five millionaires. His greatest legacies as a sire were Mach Three (1:49, $2,376,700), who won the 2002 Meadowlands Pace and produced the great Pacer of the Year and world record holder Somebeachsomewhere (1:46.4, $3,221,299), Royal Mattjesty (1:48.4, $1,840,681); the 1996 Three-Year-Old Filly of the Year Mystical Maddy (1:50 $1,436,325) and His Mattjesty (1:50 $1,038,861).

As a broodmare sire, Matts Scooter's credentials include the million-dollar winning mares Glowing Report, Economy Terror, Yellow Diamond and Drop The Ball. The horse was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1992 and into the U.S. Living Hall of Fame in 1996.

Matt’s Scooter was euthanized on June 30 of 2014 at the age of 29.

1989 Breeders Crown

1998 Meadowlands Pace

1998 Confederation Cup

By Mike Paradise

The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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