It takes a special lady to compete against the boys on the racetrack. Harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter says undefeated See You At Peelers is just that kind of girl. Takter is sending the 3-year-old filly up against a field of five males in Saturday's $307,734 Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway. (Race 9, estimated 10:10 p.m. post.)
According to U.S. Trotting Association records, since the start of the 1992 season, there have been 31 races worth $100,000 or more in which a female pacer went against the boys. None of the fillies or mares won.
The last time a female pacer raced against the boys in a stakes event worth more than $200,000 was in 2001 when 4-year-old mare Eternal Camnation tried it in the $400,000 U.S. Pacing Championship at Meadowlands Racetrack. Eternal Camnation, the richest female pacer in history, with $3.74 million, finished eighth. That race also included Gallo Blue Chip, the richest pacer in history, with $4.26 million.won the race, with Gallo Blue Chip second.
The last time a 3-year-old filly pacer met the boys in a race worth more than $100,000 came in 2001 when Ma Belle Hall finished second in the $200,000 Nat Christie in Calgary. The last time a filly pacer beat the boys in a race worth $100,000 or more came in 1990 when 2-year-old Armbro Justify won the $100,000 Ontario Sire Stakes at Windsor Raceway.
Fan Hanover won the 1981 Little Brown Jug against the boys, becoming the only filly to capture the prestigious Triple Crown event on her way to Horse of the Year honors. See You At Peelers is eligible to the Jug, too.
See You At Peelers is the first filly to race in the Rooney since its inception in 1989. In November 1986, pacing mare Saccharum won the $250,000 William Haughton Memorial Series against male rivals at Yonkers. She was owned by former athletes Phil Rizzuto, Roy White and Dave DeBusschere.
In Saturday's Rooney, See You At Peelers will start from post five with driver Marcus Johansson. See You At Peelers is 2-for-2 this year and unbeaten in 15 career races. She is coming off a world-record-equaling 1:49.2 win in the $279,175 Empire Breeders Classic for 3-year-old filly pacers on May 29 at Tioga Downs.
Last year, See You At Peelers won the Dan Patch Award as best 2-year-old filly pacer, thanks to dominating the New York Sire Stakes circuit and capping her campaign with a victory in the Breeders Crown at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
She is 3-for-3 at Yonkers, including a track-record-equaling 1:54.2 win in the New York Sire Stakes final. See You At Peelers has earned $727,486 for owners Christina Takter, John Fielding and Jim Fielding.
"It will be a really interesting race," Jimmy Takter said. "She's tough. She can do a lot that makes her unique. It will be exciting."
Takter is no stranger to racing females against males, but on the trotting side. His filly Pampered Princess won one of the three elimination races for the 2007 Hambletonian and finished sixth in the final. Moni Maker, the 1998 and 1999 Horse of the Year trained by Takter, raced against the boys -- and won numerous times -- during her career.
Other female trotters to find success against the boys over the years include Continentalvictory, who won the 1996 Hambletonian, CR Kay Suzie, Peace Corps, Peaceful Way and Buck I St Pat.
"When you get a great filly like Moni Maker or Continentalvictory -- alll-time fillies -- they are more determined to win than maybe a colt with a lot of talent," Takter said. "Look at humans; females are more determined to do well than guys are. I think when you get a great one, like this one, she doesn't know what losing is. She has a hell of a lot of confidence. When she starts hearing somebody (approaching), she just wants to go."
In the Rooney, See You At Peelers will face Avenue Hanover, Rollwithitharry, Arockin Hanover, Line Officer, and Vincent Fra. Line Officer is 2-for-2 this year and last season finished second in the Woodrow Wilson at the Meadowlands.
"I can't say she's going to run off against the boys, but she's got speed enough to go with them," Johansson said. "She seems like she can go with anything. She hasn't been extended yet.
"She takes care of me. She does everything right. You can do whatever you want with her; she can race from behind, or she can leave like a rocket if you ask her to. She's very handy. She's push-button pretty much."
Johansson was not worried about See You At Peelers' unbeaten streak or chance to make history against the boys.
"Not really, no, because I want to win any race," he said. "I only have the pressure I put on myself, and that's more pressure than anyone could put on me. In this particular race, there are five other guys that want to win too. They're going to do everything they can to win. That's the pressure you put on yourself."
As for starting from post five, Johansson was philosophical.
"We knew the worst we could get was the six hole, so it was one better than the worst one," he said, adding with a laugh, "I'm ahead already."
Following is the field for the Rooney in post position order with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Avenue Hanover, Jason Bartlett, Steve Elliott; 2. Rollwithitharry, Ron Pierce, Jimmy Takter; 3. Arockin Hanover, George Brennan, Erv Miller; 4. Line Officer, Brennan, Noel Daley; 5. See You At Peelers, Marcus Johansson, Takter; 6. Vincent Fra, Brennan, Elliott.
Line Officer, Rollwithitharry and See You At Peelers will race as a common-ownership entry.
by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications