With six Breeders Crown titles trainer Joe Holloway knows what it takes to make a champion. His Jennas Beach Boy captured Crowns in three consecutive years between 1994 and 1996.
On Saturday, despite having the fastest pacing filly or mare of all time in Shebestingin, Holloway will be trying for win number seven as somewhat of an outsider looking in.
“I Luv The Nitelife has been a lot like Captaintreacherous,” said Holloway. “Horses get close but they don’t go by.”
Earlier this season Holloway was extremely high on his Bettors Delight-sired filly and expected her to be among the elite in the division. Entering the $500,000 Breeders Crown 3-year-old filly final on Saturday Shebestingin has yet to defeat division leader I Luv The Nitelife.
“You really can’t make excuses,” said Holloway, “She just hasn’t gotten it done yet.”
But if there is ever going to be a time for Shebestingin to step up it would be now, off the most explosive mile in the sport’s illustrious history.
The last time the slick filly raced competitively she shattered the world mark for three-year-old pacing fillies winning the Glen Garnsey Memorial by open lengths in an astonishing 1:47. The victory came a week removed from a 1:49 victory in the first week of Grand Circuit action at Lexington’s Red Mile.
“I thought the first week she’d have a chance to break the world record but she was three deep in the turn and off the turn and that doesn’t help over that track,” said Holloway.
“To be honest I thought she could beat it the second week but I never thought she would pace a mile in 1:47,” Holloway said. “I mean David (driver Miller) was hollering at her down the stretch but she was very strong to the wire.”
Since Lexington Shebestingin returned and trained a mile last Saturday at Pocono to keep sharp and will mostly jog miles heading into Saturday’s key confrontation.
On paper there’s really not that much separating the two fillies. Shebestingin has won nine of 15 starts this season and has gone some seriously fast miles winning races against every other filly in the division with the exception of I Luv The Nitelife.
With post five inside I Luv The Nitelife on Saturday one might think that Shebestingin has an advantage. That may not be the case. I Luv The Nitelife started outside Shebestingin in the Lynch Memorial in June at Mohegan Sun at Pocono.
In that mile I Luv The Nitelife actually got to the front before Shebestingin did and parked her rival to the half before she made the front.
The two fillies have contrasting styles with I Luv The Nitelife far more comfortable on the lead or in the pocket. Shebestingin has managed to beat the top fillies in the division on the front end when I Luv The Nitelife was not in the race, but at other times she’s been a tiger stalking and exploding off cover.
What does Holloway hope happens on Saturday?
“I’d like to see both horses get a good trip and for us to win,” he said.
The last time the two fillies met was in the Valley Forge at Pocono in August, a race that Shebestingin never was involved in. The filly acted up behind the gate and broke stride leaving the decision to her rival without a fight. At The Red Mile the same thing almost cost her a chance at a world record. She caused a recall before getting her act together the second time around and becoming the fastest female pacer of all time.
Earlier in the season Holloway was concerned that his filly would ease up in the stretch once on the lead. He cautioned driver Miller to keep her mind on business and not to let her lose focus. It was evident in her record mile that the filly had learned from her mistakes with a startling :27 final quarter.
On Saturday Shebestingin will not be racing against a teletimer and Holloway seems to know that. Ideally he’d love to see I Luv The Nitelife get used a little while his filly gets to relax.
“I think Authorize is coming into the race in great shape,” said Holloway perhaps alluding to a potential early speed horse that could at least make the pace more honest.
Of course the field also includes last year’s Breeders Crown winner Somwherovrarainbow. “She’s got a lot of talent and could decide to leave,” said Holloway of the defending champion.
With $438,664 banked this year it’s hard for Holloway to consider the season less than successful. At the same time adding another Breeders Crown victory to the five he’s already won for owners Lee and Linda DeVisser would be special. Long time patrons Val D’Or Farms and Ted Gewertz also share ownership in the world champion filly.
“You’ve got to show up and race well even when you’re not at the top of your game,” said Holloway generalizing what it takes to be considered a champion racehorse.
He does however expect Shebestingin to be at the top of her game on Saturday.
By Jay Bergman for the Breeders Crown