Baby steps are often more important. So while harness racing trainer Joe Holloway sent out three winners in Saturday morning's baby races for 2-year-old trotters and pacers at the Meadowlands Racetrack, he was most pleased with their progress.
For example, last week Holloway's colt pacer Kenzie's Beach Boy, driven by John Campbell, led at the halfway point of his debut, but soon gave up the lead and finished fifth, timed in 1:59.3. But there was more to the outcome than might appear on paper.
"I was always worried he could be a little hot, so last week John made sure even when he got the lead to slow him up and put him on somebody's back to finish," Holloway said. "It wasn't that he stopped and was fifth; John's trying to teach him. That's a good thing."
This morning, Kenzie's Beach Boy (Jenna's Beach Boy--Absolutely Genuine) and Campbell got the lead by the halfway point and won by a head over Ray Schnittker's To Beach His Own in 1:57. Still, there is work to be done.
"That colt was a little bit lost on the front," Holloway, who bred Kenzie's Beach Boy, said. "Like most (horses) they've got to learn about the racing and the front-end. But I've thought a lot of the colt all year. We'll find out."
Holloway's filly pacer Shebestingin (Bettor's Delight--Armbro Tussle) also got a little lost on the front and looked to head back to the paddock coming around the final turn. She won in 1:54.3, with a :27 last quarter-mile as driver David Miller kept her focused on her work.
Shebestingin, a half-sister to the stakeswinners Hop Sing and, won her baby race last week in 1:58.3. She was sixth at the half-mile point in that one, reaching the marker in 1:03.1. This morning she led from gate to wire.
"David didn't want to go back and go slow again, but he certainly would've let somebody go (in front of him)," Holloway said. "She was kind of lost on the front; you could see her kind of zigging and zagging down the backside. He had to keep her attention and keep going on, so it's kind of a double-edged sword. We're going fast enough so nobody has to come, but we want some cover.
"He tried to slow her up and you could see her try to come in the paddock."
Holloway's third winner was Don't Ya Know (--Caviart Vegas), who won by a neck over George Teague, Jr.'s Scalped, in 1:56. Last week, Don't Ya Know finished fourth.
Ray Schnittker had three winners: The filly trotter Royal Assets (--Habit's Lady), the colt trotter Dewycolorintheline ( --Magenta Hall), and the colt pacer Thirty Two Red (Bettor's Delight--Sakura Hanover).
Jimmy Takter, who sent out five winners in last week's baby races, added three more today. His winners were the filly trotter Peaceful EZ Feelin (--Peaceful Way) and the colt trotters Dontyouforgetit ( --Solveig) and High Bridge ( --Madame Volo). He also had six second place finishers.
Linda Toscano saw two winners in the colt pacers Deny Deny Deny (--Fool For You) and Roar ( --Southern Magnolia).
Jeff and Helene Gregory had a winner with the filly trotter Palm Beach Chic (--Back On Track) while Jim Campbell won with the colt trotter Fashion Blizzard ( --Fun And Strokes) and Teague tallied with the filly pacer Greatdayforamerica ( --Seasational).
Teague also sent out the pacer Somwherovrarainbow, a daughter of--Rainbow Blue that he bred with K&R Racing. was the Horse of the Year in 2008 and Rainbow Blue in 2004.
"That's not a bad combination, I hope," a laughing Teague said. He trained Rainbow Blue during her career. "That's what we bred it for, to be a good combination. That's only so much of it; they're still individuals. I'm always excited when you breed those kinds of horses, but still they've got to be their own."
Somwherovrarainbow, driven by Brian Sears, finished a follow-along third, three lengths behind Shebestingin, timed in 1:55.1, with a last quarter of :26.2.
"I was very happy with the first start out," Teague said. "It was nothing fancy, just a good experience. She did everything right. It looks like she handled the gate well. She looks like a nice filly. I think she'll make a nice horse.
"I just hope she makes a top horse."
Bigrisk, who went off-stride at the gate last week in his debut, was fourth this morning, three lengths behind Thirty Two Red. He was timed in 1:56.3 with a last quarter of :27. Bigrisk was purchased last fall under the name Hitting The Cycle, for $450,000, at the Lexington Selected Sale -- a price that set the record for a pacing colt.
"This was really his first experience," trainer Bruce Saunders said. "We're not racing for money, it's a process. Each week you take a positive step. Last week we didn't get to take a positive step because of circumstances, and today he was good behind the gate. The gate went out there a little more quickly and he conducted himself well and had good pace.
"They came home in :56.1 and he probably came home in about what the race came home. I'm very happy with him. Winning baby races isn't what it's about; developing a racehorse is what it's about. We got a lot accomplished today."
by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association