Day At The Track

Can Stormy Kromer repeat in Preferred Trot

09:24 AM 25 Sep 2020 NZST
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Stormy Kromer, harness racing
Stormy Kromer winning at Yonkers Raceway last year
Mike Lizzi photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Paul Stafford feels fortunate to have worked in large stables and train many horses throughout his career. He’s trained good ones and inevitably, slow ones, too. Even among the good ones, there are those who need to be made to do their work or who don’t train well. However, when it comes to star trotter Stormy Kromer, Stafford says, “he trains me.”

“The more horses you train, the more good horses you train, they’ll train you,” Stafford said. “You turn the right way to go and the further you go in a mile, the more interested they get. When you come out of the turn and for the last quarter, you just hang on for dear life because they know it’s time to go fast and they do it themselves.

“He’s a very easy horse to maintain, he doesn’t take a lot of work. He makes my job easy because he’s very low maintenance.”

Stormy Kromer joined Stafford’s stable in spring 2019 and since then, has exceeded expectations of being a high-level conditioned trotter. Stormy Kromer rose to the open ranks near the end of last year and won a $35,000 preferred trot at Yonkers Raceway Nov. 23. This year, he’s been even better.

Since returning to racing June 25 after the coronavirus shut down tracks across America, Stormy Kromer is 6-for-9 with his last three victories coming at the preferred level at Yonkers and Freehold. In his career, Stormy Kromer is 28-for-104 with $397,224 earned.

Stormy Kromer’s streak started with a 5 1/4-length, win at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 16 in which the 6-year-old gelding set a 1:51.4 lifetime mark. Stormy Kromer then came to Yonkers July 24. With Dan Dube in the sulky, he trotted to a 5-length victory in 1:53.3, establishing a North American record for an aged gelding on a half-mile track. Stormy Kromer lowered his own record next out July 31, posting a 4-length victory in 1:52.3, the fastest trotting mile in the history of Yonkers Raceway (besting the previous 1:53.1 mark jointly held by Six Pack and Plunge Blue Chip).

Despite all those victories coming on the front end, Stormy Kromer got away with another pace-setting win in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Aug. 7 before the competition caught on. Next out Aug. 21, Stormy Kromer had a target on his back and was parked the mile after leaving from post five. Succumbing to the trip delivered by the wisening competition, Stormy Kromer finished last beaten by 15 lengths. He rebounded next out at Freehold Aug. 28, taking the $12,000 preferred handicap by 6 1/2 lengths.

“Most horses, trotters especially, can’t leave as well as he can and be up 5 lengths the whole mile. Horses like that, you think are basically out of control and that’s the way they have to go. But he’s such a gentleman on the track. He’s two fingers, he’s doing that all on his own, which is awesome,” Stafford said of the open-length victories and blazing miles.

Arguably Stormy Kromer’s biggest victory came in his most recent start in the preferred handicap at Yonkers Sept. 9. Starting from post seven and not desiring another ride on the rim, Dube and Stormy Kromer took back to sixth as Obrigado set the tempo. Stormy Kromer angled to the outside passing the half, but faced a 7 1/4-length deficit as Obrigado got soft fractions.

Following the cover of Muscle M Up, Stormy Kromer advanced to within 3 lengths of the lead at the three-quarters, but began to gap the cover entering the final turn. Straightening away, Obrigado and Muscle M Up battled for the lead while Stormy Kromer was still 3 lengths behind. Dube tugged on the right line and Stormy Kromer saw open road ahead. Under a right-handed whip Stormy Kromer kicked into gear, trotting home in :28.1 to collar Muscle M Up for a neck victory.

“He’s been racing well for us to say the least. He’s beat some good horses. His last start, that was a nice group of horses that he beat in there,” Stafford said. “He did it from off the pace; he came from behind for the first time in a while. It was a testament to him that he’s learned to race both ways.

“He was gapped and Obrigado was on the front. Normally, Obrigado would put him away with that kind of a trip. That was impressive,” Stafford continued. “Going into it with the outside and all the speed on the inside, I thought if we sorted out a second- or third-over trip, we could be second or third in there. Stormy Kromer decided that wasn’t going to be good enough.”

Stafford attributes Stormy Kromer’s standout summer campaign in part to the trotter’s continued physical development. Stormy Kromer got a break over the winter, making his last start Dec. 14, 2019 before requalifying Feb. 28.  Stormy Kromer got one race in at Yonkers March 7 before the coronavirus shutdown sent him back to the sidelines until June.

“He raced the one time and he was third in an open. He was a good third, then we shut down. During the shutdown, he put on some weight. For me, there’s weight and there’s good weight. He put on good weight, he put on a lot of muscle,” Stafford said. “He filled out a lot over those three months because we didn’t do a lot of work. They all jogged every day, but you weren’t doing a lot of speed work. It got him to put on some good weight and it made him stronger, definitely.”

Stormy Kromer seeks his seventh win this year and his third straight in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Sept. 25). After the early scratch of Warrior One, Stormy Kromer will start from post six in a condensed field, which is comprised of New Heaven, Nows The Moment, Lindsey’s Pride, The Last Chapter, and Obrigado.

“I think it’s a good spot. The scratch helps, starting one position closer,” Stafford said. “I don’t know what the game plan will be. I think there’s still enough speed in there, we’re not looking to get torched again. We pretty much leave it up to Dube.”

Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.

By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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