Day At The Track

Ohio champion Feelin Lika Winner is ready

07:29 AM 02 Apr 2016 NZDT
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Feelin Lika Winner
Two-time Ohio Sire Stakes champion Feelin Lika Winner has earned $278,796 in his career.
Conrad Photo

Considering the Major League Baseball season is two days away, harness racing trainer Scott Mogan chose the appropriate analogy for Feelin Lika Winner.

“He’s not the best hitter in the lineup but he always seems to come through in the clutch times,” said Mogan, who trains and co-owns the horse with Diamond Chip Stable, AWS Stables and Charles Guiler. “If it’s a 7-1 game, he’ll strike out. But if it’s a 2-2 ballgame in the bottom of the ninth, he’s the guy you want coming up to the plate.”

He also sounds like he could steal a base or two.

“He’s a very fast horse,” Mogan added. “Off the right trip for an eighth-mile or quarter-mile, he’s probably got as quick a burst of speed as any horse I ever trained.”

As Mogan noted, he doesn’t hit for average, having won 11 of 62 career races. But he was a power hitter early in his career, blasting tape measure home runs each of his first two seasons.

The 6-year-old gelding pacer was the Ohio Sire Stakes champion as both a 2- and 3-year-old, beating favorite That Friske Feelin both times. After being purchased at the 2011 Blooded Horse Sale for $16,000, Feelin Lika Winner has earned $278,796.

“The sale was kind of short on the yearlings, both number wise and quality wise that year, but he was one of my top three picks,” said Mogan, who has a stable of 26 horses at Scioto Downs in Columbus. “I got outbid on the first two, luckily I snagged him for $16,000. I knew the family, and also conformation wise he was probably one of my top three picks that I looked at that year for pacing colts.”

Feelin Lika Winner makes his season’s debut Saturday in the $20,000 Open at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio. Kayne Kauffman will be in the sulky, as he has been for all but three of Feelin Lika Winner’s career starts.

“He’s training down real well,” Mogan said. “He had an issue with a bone bruise and ankle as a 4-year-old. It was kind of a disappointing season. Last year he started off a little slow. He actually was as good at the end of the year as he was at any time.”

The horse was shut down in December, however, as the trainer is not a big fan of winter racing. In fact, he limits most of his horses’ races, as 25 races in a season would be considered a lot.

“I usually shut down from December to the first of March,” Mogan said. “I probably should have kept him racing, but he’s trained down very well.”

The Lockbourne, Ohio, resident isn’t looking for big things on opening night, mainly because of Feelin Lika Winner’s mindset on the track. He’s pleasant in the barn, but cantankerous upon seeing a starting gate.

“He’s a nice horse, a very fast horse, but he’s kind of a tough horse to drive,” Mogan said. “If he was a good horse to drive and you could leave with him and get position I still believe he’d be an open type pacer. You could turn somebody loose and know he would settle in and relax. He’d be a lot better horse. But to leave with him a few times, he’s a handful.

“He can grab into you so bad. When he decides to grab into you, he can feel like he’s just going to run over the top. When you leave with him he gets really fired up. We duck him four out of every five starts off the gate.”

For that reason, Mogan would rather have started him a little lower in class this season.

“Unfortunately we have to go right into the Open our first start,” he said. “I’m not expecting a whole lot this week. But you never know. We’re always racing to win. We’re going to race him off the pace. And if they go fast fractions you never know, he might pick them up at the end of it.”

Feelin Lika Winner always has the potential to surprise, just as he did by beating That Friske Feelin in two straight Sire Stakes finals. He got a second-over trip near the stretch as a 2-year-old and a pocket trip the following year.

Kauffman was the driver both times, as he has shown a knack for handling a horse that’s hard to handle.

“He’s a great handler,” Mogan said. “He can get a horse to relax pretty good. He’s done a really amazing job, not just with him but the rest of my horses. He’s been driving everything for three years.”

Kauffman took over for the late Chip Noble, who was Mogan’s main driver for 15 years. The 56-year-old Mogan has been in the business since age 15 and has had a public stable since 1983. Until recently, he mostly dealt with younger horses and made it a point to try and have the same driver for every race.

He and Noble teamed up on K F Pro Sam, Ohio's 2- and 3-year-old Horse of the Year in 1999-2000. The pacing male was typical of Mogan’s aversion to over-working his horses, as he raced just 60 times in five years and earned $635,578.

“K F Pro Sam kind of set the bar for me,” Mogan said. “He built my house and everything else. But J J Hall is still my favorite. He’s still in my barn and will probably be in my backyard when he’s done racing.”

J J Hall was Ohio’s 2011 Horse of the Year, also driven by Noble. Not long afterward Chip, who died of cancer in 2014, had some young horses with a lot of potential that he wanted to drive. He gave his friend some advance notice and suggested he might start looking for another driver.

Mogan began to check out the talent in Ohio and found what he was looking for in Kauffman.

“I tried to look for somebody a little conservative, like Chip was,” Mogan said. “Kayne kind of impressed me as much as anybody, as far as being as close to Chip as I could go and get. He started driving him (Feelin Lika Winner) as a 2-year-old and of course it worked out.

“Kayne has been driving for me as much as he can. He trains a stable of his own so we have a few conflicts, but he’s always going to be the first choice for my horses. I guess the biggest thing is his loyalty. He stays pretty loyal to me. It’s kind of a working relationship.”

As for how the relationship will work between the racetrack and Feelin Lika Winner this year, Mogan is staying fairly confident.

“We’re just taking things as they come,” he said. “I have great partners, they’re very loyal. They love their horses, they like to come to races. We’re just hoping he has a good year.

“Like I said, I don’t really think he’s an open type pacer. If he was more controllable, maybe. But we’re just hoping for a nice Saturday night, conditioned racehorse that they can come watch. Hopefully we’ll have a little luck, make a little money.”

So there you have it. Play ball!

by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

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