Day At The Track

Another white horse! Breeders Crown notes

05:35 AM 24 Oct 2015 NZDT
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Sergio Carfagna with Via Lattea with the Basilica of St. Francis in the background Via Lattea Via Lattea Solar Sister D'One and David Miller Frost Damage Blues Mission Brief
Sergio Carfagna with Via Lattea with the Basilica of St. Francis in the background
Via Lattea
Via Lattea
Solar Sister
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D'One and David Miller
Mark Hall - USTA photo
Frost Damage Blues
Mission Brief
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TORONTO --- Owner Tristan Sjoberg will be watching Dupree in Saturday's $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male trotters at Woodbine Racetrack, but regardless of the horse's performance he is already feeling out of this world.

Sjoberg, who is among the owners of rare white pacing colt White Bliss, said this week via email that he has bought another rare white horse --- this one a filly trotter born on April 4, 2014 in Italy. The filly, bred by Sergio Carfagna in Assisi, is named Via Lattea, which translates to Milky Way.

Via Lattea is a daughter of stallion Gruccione Jet out of the mare Melodiass. Both parents are described as dark bay. Gruccione Jet's sire is two-time Breeders Crown winner Pine Chip and his dam is the Valley Victory mare Petite Victory, who made $210,647 in the U.S. at ages 2 and 3.

White Bliss, owned by Sjoberg and his brother Michael Knutsson under the Knutsson Trotting Inc. banner, is a son of the bay colored stallion Art Major and bay mare Coochie Mama. He was the first white Standardbred born of bay parents since 1998. He sold for $240,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale.

Via Lattea will be trained in Sweden, initially by Andre Eklundh before moving to Stig H. Johansson next summer.

"She is the only white trotter I know of," Sjoberg said. "As you know, there is very little 2-year-old racing in Sweden so we are targeting a 3-year-old debut. She will compete in Europe and after her racing career is over I will breed her to White Bliss."

The 3-year-old White Bliss has won one of 14 races in his career. He broke his maiden on July 25 at Vernon Downs and had picked up two more top-three finishes in his next four starts, but has been sidelined by a minor ligament issue. Sjoberg hopes the pacer will return to action by April.

"It's a shame because he was just starting to race really well on the New York circuit," Sjoberg said. "The plan is to keep him racing as a 4-year-old and we also plan to offer his stud services to any interested parties. He will combine stud and racing duties if there is a demand. We will also freeze some semen and ship to Europe for breeding to some of our trotting mares there and possibly any interested third parties."

As for Sjoberg's Breeders Crown hopeful, Dupree is 20-1 on the morning line. He enters the race off a seventh-place finish in the sole elimination race for the 2-year-old male trotters, but had posted stakes wins in his previous two starts at The Red Mile. He starts from post eight with Svanstedt driving.

"He scoped bad after the elimination, so we are expecting a better effort in the final," Sjoberg said.

* * * * *

D'One, who has won three of four starts in North America since arriving from Sweden during the summer, is the 7-5 morning line favorite in the $250,000 Breeders Crown Mare Trot. She is trained by Roger Walmann and will be driven by David Miller, who guided the 5-year-old daughter of world champions Donato Hanover and Giant Diablo to a two-length victory over Harley Momma in 1:51.3 in the Allerage Mare Trot on Oct. 10 at The Red Mile.

"She was awesome again," said Malin Boman-Friberg, who is the caretaker of D'One and also was the caretaker of Giant Diablo. "Before the race, she wanted to go. I think David (driving her for the first time) just has to get to know her. But he didn't have to use her at all and she raced very good.

"We're looking forward to the Breeders Crown. Everything comes down to the Breeders Crown. We just hope she likes the Woodbine track. But it's exciting. It's a big race."

Classic Martine, who was beaten by a head by Bee A Magician in last year's Breeders Crown Mare Trot, is the 7-2 second choice Saturday. She is coming off a win over male trotter Intimidate, who won a Crown in 2012, by a neck in 1:54 in a prep last Saturday at Woodbine.

"I thought it was a good race for her," driver Tim Tetrick said. "She's coming into (the Breeders Crown) better than she's been in the past. We tried to change tactics a little bit and let her race from the back and I think she likes that better. Her last couple starts she was stuck on the front. I think she will look good in the final. She got a good draw and she was very good (in her prep)."

Charmed Life finished third in the prep race, making up nearly four lengths in the stretch.

"I was really happy with the way she closed up," trainer Dave Menary said. "She's better in the cooler weather. Maybe it didn't look like it on paper, but I think last week (Oct. 9) was the most life she's showed in the last couple months. Hopefully everything is pointing in the right direction. She did the same thing last year, got real good at this time of year. She fights bad allergies all summer. Everything has aligned itself pretty good right now and she's in good shape and hopefully we'll have some luck next week."

Also in the field is Shake It Cerry, the 2014 Trotter of the Year and a Breeders Crown winner at ages 2 and 3. With a win Saturday, the Jimmy Takter-trainee will join Peace Corps, Grades Singing and Mack Lobell as the only trotters in history with three or more Breeders Crown titles.

* * * * *

Ron Burke's Southwind Frank is the 2-5 morning line favorite in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male trotters. The colt brings a nine-race win streak to the final and has won 10 of 11 races overall. His connections turned down a bye to advance straight to the final. Southwind Frank won the single elimination by five lengths in 1:55.2.

"He was well in hand and just jogged, for lack of a better word," Burke assistant Shannon Murphy said. "We were either going to race him or train him hard, so you might as well go for the purse money. And he seems a little sharper when he's working. He likes his work."

* * * * *

Jimmy Takter's All The Time is the 7-5 morning line favorite in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female trotters. She won her elimination by four lengths over Caprice Hill in 1:56.1.

"She was amazing," Takter said. "I was very impressed with her. That was a helluva performance; (1):56.1 and the way she did it, never pulling the plugs. She's the one to beat. I don't know what happened (when she made a break in the Peaceful Way). She got terrible on the left line. She had a bad day. But she's got the right attitude."

The division's other elimination winner, Haughty, also comes from the Takter Stable. She is 7-for-7 this season and won her elim by three lengths in 1:59.

"She's undefeated, so you've got to respect a horse like that," Takter said. "I didn't like her much early. She was a pain in the (butt). She couldn't trot; she was terrible. I don't know how many times she was close to being put on the truck and sent back to the farm. Very close. But she got out of it. She was just extremely immature."

Caprice Hill, who has won seven of nine races and never finished worse than second, is 2-1 for trainer Tony Alagna. She will start the final from post 10 with Tim Tetrick in the sulky.

"She ended up having to come first up over a lighter half and the other filly got the jump on her, but she raced well," Alagna said. "We just had the misfortune to draw the 10 hole (for the final), but I'll just have to leave that up to Timmy. Things will have to go her way. It makes it a tougher task, that's for sure, but she can overcome it if everything goes right. She's been wonderful. She hasn't put a bad race in."

* * * * *

Tymal Tempest is 30-1 on the morning line for the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female trotters, but trainer Ervin Abdulov is just happy to be in the race. Tymal Tempest finished fourth in her elimination, which was won by All The Time. For the year, she has won one of 10 starts.

"This is my biggest race and I know for my owners, John and Shelagh McKinley, this will be their biggest race also," Abdulov said. "It's overwhelming, to be honest with you."

The 42-year-old Abdulov, who is from London, Ont., has trained horses on a part-time and full-time basis over the years. He was introduced to harness racing through a friend whose father, Wayne Bloomfield, was a longtime horseman.

"I got the bug by going over there and hanging out with them," Abdulov said. "I bought a couple horses with Wayne and here we are today. It started out by just wanting to be a part of it, but then being on the sidelines wasn't good enough. I wanted to be in the driver's seat, jogging them and training them.

"I was 19 when I bought my first horse. As many downs as I've had, I just can't walk away from this. I do it fulltime now. I did it part time and would send the odd horse to Gregg McNair and try to get out there on the weekends and whenever else. There was a layoff at the plant where I worked at, and I decided this was my opportunity to do this fulltime again. I'd done it fulltime, I got away, and then I came back again to do it fulltime. I hope to stay this time."

* * * * *

Mission Brief and Wild Honey have split their last two meetings --- with Mission Brief winning the Elegantimage Stakes and Wild Honey taking the Kentucky Filly Futurity --- and they will see each other again in the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female trotters.

The Ron Burke-trained Mission Brief had won four consecutive races, by a total of 28-1/2 lengths, since finishing second against the boys in the Hambletonian on Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands. She won the 2014 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female trotters in a stakes-record 1:51.4 at the Meadowlands.

Mission Brief, who has won 17 of 24 career races, is the 2-5 morning line favorite in this year's final, followed by Wild Honey at 7-5. Jimmy Takter's Wild Honey has won 16 of 25 lifetime starts.

One does not have to go back far in the record book to find the last female trotter to win Breeders Crown trophies at ages 2 and 3. It was Takter's Shake It Cerry in 2013-14.

'CINDERELLA STORY' FROST DAMAGE BLUES HEADS TO BREEDERS CROWN

Bill Augustine is the proud owner -- and you can underline the word proud -- of a horse that is good for both of his businesses.

In his harness racing world, Augustine's Frost Damage Blues is going off at 12-1 at Saturday's Breeders Crown championships at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. In her first year of racing, the 3-year-old filly has earned $51,750 by winning her first seven starts in overnight competition at Saratoga, Yonkers and Pocono.

Making her stakes debut in her Breeders Crown elimination, the daughter of 2000 Open Pace champion Western Ideal was driven to a second place finish by Brian Sears, finishing one length behind Solar Sister.

When he's not focusing on horses, Augustine is a blueberry farmer and owns a 150-acre farm in South Jersey and a 1,200-acre farm in North Carolina. Between them both, Augustine Farms Inc. is the largest single owned and operated blueberry production and packing enterprise on the East Coast.

And his business gets a boost from his filly.

"She loves blueberries," Augustine said. "She tears my hand off eating them. After each race I bring a little pack and feed her."

The horse's name is a reference to farmers battling frost damage to their crop.

"I name them all after blueberries," Augustine said. "The next one is going to be called Hail Damage. I was real excited to come up with (Frost Damage Blues). All my buddies in the blueberry business kind of laughed when I called her that, but now she's a superstar."

She didn't start out that way. Augustine bought her on opening night at the 2013 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for a modest $6,000 under the name Media Matters. She is a full sister to stakes-winner Ideal Matters. Augustine attributed her final price to an ankle that had blown up at the auction.

"Her ankle wasn't broke, she was just skinned up," he said. "On opening night, they're all bluebloods; everyone is looking for the cream of the crop. I checked her out, there were no broken bones. Horses get skinned up all the time. She was a nice little gamble."

Frost Damage Blues had some health issues and didn't race as a 2-year-old. She was turned out for three months and brought back slowly under trainer Tom Fanning.

"Tom does an outstanding job," Augustine said. "I told him don't rush her, that her biggest races are at the end of the year. And here we are, at the end of the year."

There is a forecast for rain in Toronto on Saturday, which would please Augustine since Frost Damage Blues is a medium-sized horse going against some bigger fillies.

"The rain usually bothers bigger horses," he said. "Other than that, she's always been on the front or near the front. I'm hoping Brian goes out with her. He'll do a great job. Brian's the best in the world and he's a good friend of mine."

One thing is certain, Frost Damage Blues won't be stressing before the race.

"This horse is so perfect," Augustine said. "She goes to sleep before the race. She's very easy to manage. She jogs around the track real nice and easy, but when she gets behind the (starting) car, she turns into a rocket."

Augustine has been around successful horses before as he shared ownership of 2012 Hambletonian winner Market Share, who finished third in the 2012 Breeders Crown and was the Open Trot winner in 2013. The farmer paid the horse back by putting his picture on more than six million of his Winners Circle blueberry cups around the world.

"This one means a little more to me because I'm her only owner," Augustine said of Frost Damage Blues. "She's a Cinderella story, a very classy horse. I bought her with the hopes of being in the Breeders Crown."

And if she wins on Saturday?

"Oh," Augustine said, "she'll definitely be on a blueberry cup."

* * * * *

Divine Caroline, who won her Breeders Crown elimination by 2-3/4 lengths over Bedroomconfessions in 1:51.3 is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the 3-year-old filly pace final. She has won three starts in a row and hit the board in a total of 17 of 19 races this year.

"I'm pleased with her," trainer Joe Holloway said. "She's blossomed over the last month and gotten real good. She's always been there, she just wasn't firing. Now she's putting it all together. Sometimes it takes some longer than others, but she's always had speed. Hopefully she stays good."

Holloway also sends out Bettor Be Steppin, who is 9-2 on the morning line. Bettor Be Steppin is seeking her first win since capturing the Valley Forge Stakes on Aug. 22, a span of four starts. She finished fifth in her Crown elimination, beaten 2-1/2 lengths by Solar Sister.

"I said (in the days prior to the elimination) we've been on the front, we're going to race from behind," Holloway said. "She had to come from a ways back, she paced her last quarter in :27, and fortunately she got in there. But I thought she needed it. It's tough whenever you tell a driver one way to drive a horse. I told Corey (Callahan) no more, but I just thought she needed that. Fortunately it worked out enough where she got in."

* * * * *

Solar Sister, who won her elimination by one length over Frost Damage Blues in 1:52.1, is 7-2 on the morning line. Solar Sister won the Ontario Sire Stakes championship for 3-year-old filly pacers on Oct. 10 at Woodbine after finishing off the board in her two previous starts. She has won eight of 15 races this year.

"I raced her in the Simcoe (on Sept. 5) and she came first up through a pretty good half," trainer Gregg McNair said. "We were a little bit disappointed because she faded badly, which was the first time she did that. The next start at Flamboro, she made the front easy and then came to a stop.

"The next morning she was hobbling around her stall and you could tell there was (an abscess) in her foot. We worked on it and the Tuesday before the Super Final it broke out and she won, and she was good again (in her Crown elim). I think that was maybe bothering her for the Simcoe too. It was her right front foot. That can bother them for a long time and sometimes you never know what's wrong with them until it blows out."

Solar Sister was guaranteed a starting spot in posts 1-5 because of her elim win. She drew post three.

"I'm really happy (she drew post three) because that makes a big difference with her," McNair said. "If you draw outside you've got to use her. Not that she can't leave, but that usually shows up at the end of the mile if you use her hard leaving."

* * * * *

Overheard: "I told Brian (Sears) after the race, there goes the winning streak," trainer Tom Fanning said, laughing, after Frost Damage Blues lost for the first time in eight career races. "But she was great and I couldn't have been happier. We'll see what happens in the final. I think she'll fit in pretty good. The biggest question was the class jump. She tries hard and it's hard to find fillies like that. And she has some speed as well. That's a good combination. The big track helps her. The bigger the track, the better she is."

"John (Campbell) was happy with her," trainer Chris Ryder said about The Show Returns'fourth-place finish in the elimination won by Solar Sister. "She had pace. She didn't really get out. I was happy, especially after her last two races at Lexington. She was in the wrong spot both weeks. The second week she was on the front in :54 (seconds) flat and she can't handle that. She packed it in. It was tough to come here off those two races. We almost didn't come. But we came because any time she gets a trip, she's got pace."

"She was super; she's just not a sprinter," trainer Tony Alagna said afterBedroomconfessions' second-place finish to Divine Caroline. "It takes a little while for her to get rolling, but she was doing her best pacing at the wire. That's all we can ask for. She's had a really good year as far as being steady. I think she got a little flat on us, but the Jugette (in September) really woke her up. Two heats really worked into what she needed. I thought she was as good as she has been tonight. I'm really happy."

"The front end is not her trip," Ron Burke assistant trainer Shannon Murphy said afterSouthwind Roulette finished third in her elimination, which was won by Solar Sister. "She's better off the pace, but she raced good. We were happy with her. She'll be off a helmet next week for sure."

"She had a tough go of it," Murphy said about Sassa Hanover's third-place elim finish behind Divine Caroline and Bedroomconfessions. "She was parked out a long way and that didn't help her chances any, especially the way the track was going tonight. She drew the 10 hole for the final, so she'll have to go forward again. We'll see what happens."

by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 
 

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