Day At The Track

Partners 'crazy' about Coffee Addict

01:33 PM 11 Feb 2016 NZDT
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Coffee Addict
Coffee Addict has won 23 races and earned $463,779 during her career.
Chris Gooden Photo

When Jim Clarke Sr. invited longtime friend Andy Altobelli to join him in buying a harness racing yearling a little more than four years ago, he set their budget at $35,000. After Clarke exceeded that number by two grand to purchase female pacer Coffee Addict at the 2011 Standardbred Horse Sale, he joked the toughest part of the day was calling Altobelli with the news.

"I was quite happy, but the hardest thing for me was telling Andy that I had to go a little bit above what we intended to spend," Clarke said, adding with a laugh. "He said don't worry about it, that's all right. I said, 'good.'

"We've been crazy about her ever since. She's a really nice mare."

Now a 6-year-old, Coffee Addict has won 23 races and earned $463,779 during her career. Clarke has owned horses off and on since the late 1970s, but Coffee Addict was Altobelli's first racehorse.

"Maybe it was just beginner's luck," said Altobelli, a 63-year-old pharmacist and pharmacy owner from York County, Pennsylvania. "She was just a good horse right from the get-go."

Coffee Addict, a daughter of stallion Dragon Again out of the mare Kahlua Queen, wasn't on Clarke's list of horses when he went to the auction. Clarke attended the sale with Zan "Pete" Kaiser and Kaiser's son, Zach, and Pete suggested Clarke take a look at the filly after Clarke was unsuccessful in buying several other horses. Kaiser was unfamiliar with Coffee Addict, but had seen her full brother Mudslide race recently and thought he was a nice colt.

"When I got back to see her, she was being prepped to go up to the ring," Clarke said. "I looked at her and couldn't see a pimple on her. Then I sat down in a chair and just watched her demeanor for about 20 minutes. She stood perfectly. She didn't even flick her ear. She was just so attentive. She was showing me that she was a smart horse. She had a head on her shoulders.

"I thought I had to buy her. I was so glad Pete suggested I go back and look. I probably wouldn't have looked at her going through the ring."

Kaiser trained Coffee Addict through the middle of her 3-year-old season, when she moved to trainer Bruce Saunders and captured a Keystone Classic division at The Meadows in 2013 and later became a top performer in the Fillies & Mares Open Handicap ranks at Yonkers Raceway.

Last September, Coffee Addict joined the stable of trainer Norm Parker at The Meadows. She has raced almost exclusively at the western Pennsylvania oval since then, winning seven of 17 starts and hitting the board a total of 14 times. She has won back-to-back races in the top-level handicap division for filly and mare pacers at The Meadows and is entered again for Monday (Feb. 15).

"Pete is great at starting up horses, bringing along the young ones, and Bruce did a great job with her too," Clarke said. "At this point in her career I decided I wanted her to race where she lives, and I had done business with Norm a few years ago with Fionavar Hanover. He's been doing a terrific job."

Added Altobelli, "We've had people right on through who have done a very good job with her. We've been very fortunate, very lucky. It's been a thrill, for sure."

The calm demeanor Coffee Addict displayed while Clarke watched her prior to the yearling sale is not always evident these days on the racetrack.

"She's relatively calm, but when she gets on the track she turns into a whole different person," Clarke said. "She had two personalities, I feel. But one thing about her, she's always trying."

The 76-year-old Clarke is the retired former owner of a chain of building supply/home improvement centers in southcentral Pennsylvania. He also worked for 84 Lumber for a number of years prior to starting his own business. He was hired at 84 Lumber in 1966 by company founder Joe Hardy and went on to manage several stores.

Clarke's interest in harness racing goes back to his days growing up in western New York. He worked as a groom at Buffalo Raceway when he was a teenager and also had a cousin involved in horse ownership.

"I've always loved the sport," Clarke said. "I was transferred to Atlanta many years ago for work and we would travel to Hawkinsville to watch the horses at the winter training center and I would talk with all the horsemen. I couldn't wait to get back north and get back involved in harness racing because I could afford to own horses. I came back in 1975 and in 1978, I believe, I bought my first horse. I've been on and off owning horses since then."

Altobelli grew up in New Jersey, but spent time as a teenager helping out at his grandfather's dairy farm in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In 1985, Altobelli bought his own farm in Pennsylvania and raises beef cattle in addition to working as a pharmacist. His interest in harness racing was fueled in part by living near renowned breeding facility Hanover Shoe Farms, as well as his own interest in breeding and genetics.

"There were many times we would stop over at Hanover Shoe Farms and see the foals and just look around," Altobelli said. "I really study the stallions and the classic families. I'm trying to get a better background. Even though I've been in it for five years I feel like I'm an amateur. Jim has been kind of a mentor to me and I'm always wanting to learn more."

Clarke and Altobelli own three more horses together now: 5-year-old female pacer Adelita Hanover, 4-year-old female pacer Picksync Hanover, and 2-year-old male pacer Gossip Boy (who is a half-brother to millionaire McCedes).

"It's a great partnership," Clarke said. "I don't know where it will go, but I'll be doing it for as long as I can. For us to have a horse like Coffee Addict, it's meant a lot. I've gotten a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction out of her. It's just satisfying for us to have what we consider a pretty nice one for just two guys from the York County area."

Ken Weingartner

Harness Racing Communications

 

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