Harness racing trainer Chris Oakes wasn't looking to take on any new owners when he met Tim Hauser, but after a few minutes together, he reconsidered. As it turns out, it was a good decision.
As it turns out, it was a good decision. Oakes and Hauser are heading to the $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male trotters with American Gangster.
“I had a meeting with him, with no expectations at all,” Oakes said. “I asked him what his goal was as an owner. He told me his goal was to win the Hambletonian. That kind of got my attention. That takes a certain kind of horse, and it takes a certain kind of owner to acquire that kind of horse.
“You could see in his eyes, he wasn’t just saying it, he meant it. It’s been a journey, and it’s still a work in progress. He has a passion for it and he’s enjoying it, and that’s really what this is all about anyway. But a little success doesn’t hurt, either.”
American Gangster was the first yearling purchased by Hauser. The son of-Four Starz Lindy sold for $101,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale. He has won four of nine races and earned $102,187.
“People don’t believe that story, but winning the Hambletonian is the goal,” Hauser said. “I didn’t say it with a laugh or a grin; I said it dead serious. He was trying to test me to see if I was really interested. He knew I was serious.”
Hauser owns American Gangster with his father Jimmy plus longtime family friends Vince and Matt Tudisco and Theresa Gentry Silva. Hauser’s father owned horses for a number of years, beginning in the 1960s, before getting out of the business for a while.
The Hausers are mechanical contractors and the Tudiscos have a landscaping company.
“Vince knew my parents before they were even married,” Hauser said. “He’s been around my whole entire life. He doesn’t have the same last name, but he’s family. Matt is Vince’s son, and we went to preschool together.”
Oakes, based out of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is making only his second appearance in the Breeders Crown and first sincewas fourth in his elimination of the 2-year-old colt pace in 1997. He also has favorite Economy Terror in this year’s $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly pacers.
“The last five or six years I wasn’t even buying yearlings; I was just doing the racehorse thing at Pocono because of the money going so well,” Oakes said. “They had the Breeders Crown at Pocono last year, and it kind of got me thinking about trying to get some horses to get to the Breeders Crown.”
American Gangster won the $79,900 Historic-Harriman Cup at Vernon Downs on Sept. 2. A week later he won his elimination for the William Wellwood Memorial in a track-record 1:54.4 at Mohawk. As it turned out, American Gangster’s only finish worse than third came in the Wellwood final when he went off stride at the start and finished 10th.
The colt got sick during his recent stay in Lexington, but still finished second to Magic Tonight in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at The Red Mile. He had a three-week layoff before returning with a third-place finish in his Breeders Crown elimination.
He will start from post No. 9 in the Breeders Crown final, with regular driver Brian Sears.