Any trainer would feel blessed to have a 2-year-old colt pacer as precocious and talented as Major Trick. Brad Gray’s homebred colt by Art Major began his career with a second and a win in New York Sire Stakes legs at Saratoga and Buffalo Raceway. But Major Trick’s Ontario-based, 34-year-old trainer David Menary is doubly blessed. He not only trains an even-more accomplished 2-year-old, He’s Watching, but he also co-owns him. Menary and Michael Guerriero spent all of $3,000 to purchase the son of American Ideal at the 2012 Harrisburg Yearling Sale. They subsequently sold a half-interest to Gray. Gray will be thanking Menary for the rest of his life because He’s Watching has been absolutely sensational since the first day he stepped on the track. “It’s scary how fast this horse is,” Menary said. He showed it in his first start, a qualifier at Mohawk Raceway June 1. He’s Watching not only won by 2¼ lengths in 1:56.4, he paced his final quarter in :26.1 to complete a final half in just over :55.1 with Chris Christoforou driving. Horses just don’t do that in their first race, let alone 2-year-olds. “Chris said he’d never seen a horse go faster than that last quarter in his first time behind the gate,” Menary said. Gray bought half-interest in He’s Watching the day before the qualifier, then watched him in that qualifier. “I was pretty happy,” he laughed. He’s Watching won a second qualifier by a length and a quarter in 1:57.4, going his last half in :55.4 and his final quarter in :27. Those two qualifiers explained why He’s Watching was bet down to 2-5 in his first pari-mutuel start in a $46,631 division of the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga with Jim Morrill Jr. driving. Watching the race on TV, you could almost hear the collective groan of the crowd when He’s Watching broke midway around the first turn. “My heart just dropped,” Menary said. “He never made a break in his life.” Horses rarely make a break and still win a race. It’s absurd to expect a first-time 2-year-old to do that, yet that’s exactly what He’s Watching did. Morrill quickly got He’s Watching back on gait and he began to close the distance between him and the rest of the field. He was 14¼ lengths behind after the first quarter. At the half, he was 11¼ lengths off the leader. Then, on the backstretch, He’s Watching hit another gear, closing within 3¾ lengths of the lead at the three-quarters. “He’s flying,” Saratoga announcer Mike Sardella called. And He’s Watching wasn’t done. He got up to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:55, thanks to a final quarter in :27.4 to complete a final half in :56.2. “It’s as impressive as we’ve ever seen,” Sardella announced. Horses just don’t do that. So He’s Watching goes off at 1-5 in his next start, a $37,862 division of the New York Sire Stakes at Buffalo Raceway. Again, he takes a couple of bad steps early and breaks, again leaving him last in the field of seven. But again, Morrill quickly gets him back pacing. What happened next was simply amazing. Morrill took He’s Watching to the outside, and in a furious brush on the outside, racing three-wide at one point, He’s Watching swept the field and was two lengths in front by the time the horses hit the half. He had paced his second quarter in :28.2 on the outside. “The bike was going sideways because he was moving so fast,” Menary said. He’s Watching kept going, breaking Heston Blue Chip’s track-record for 2-year-olds, winning by a length and a half in 1:55.4. After that :28.2 second quarter, He’s Watching had paced his final half in :56.4. Of course, He’s Watching can’t continue to make breaks and keep winning. “He’s a guy with a big engine,” Menary said. “He wants to go from second gear to fifth gear too fast. He’s got to learn to not show off so much.” For a trainer, that is what is called a “good” problem: a horse using too much of his natural ability. Unfortunately for other owners of 2-year-old Sire Stakes pacing colts and geldings, He’s Watching isn’t staked to many major races, which means he’ll focus on the Sire Stakes and qualifying for the $225,000 Final on the Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway, Sept. 28. Though he’s based at the Stephenson Training Center near Mohawk Raceway and has raced primarily in Canada, Menary has already enjoyed Great Success in the New York Sire Stakes program with Gray’s Tea Party Princess, the 2011 New York Sire Stakes Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Pacer. Menary took over the filly’s training in August of her 2-year-old year. “She had problems as a 2-year-old,” Gray said. “She was dangerous. People didn’t want to drive her. He got her straightened out as a 3-year-old.” Tea Party Princess literally took Menary to places he’d never been before. “I had a lot of fun with her,” Menary said. “I got to see a lot of tracks for the first time: Saratoga, Yonkers and Batavia. She gave me the tour. New York is real fun, just seeing the tracks. Saratoga is just a beautiful spot. Yonkers is really where the money is. You have to go where the money is. I liked Batavia, too.” When he went to the 2012 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, he was looking for horses that could be successful in New York. “I look at an obscene number of yearlings,” Menary said. “I like American Ideals and Art Majors. There are a lot of good sires in New York.” He liked the American Ideal colt he saw at Harrisburg. However, He’s Watching, who is out of Baberhood by Real Desire and was bred by Brittany Farms and Robert and Karin Olsson Burgess, had two strikes against him: “He acted the part, but he was a little small,” Menary said. “And he was born in mid-June.” That didn’t stop Menary from buying him. “I liked the family,” he said. He didn’t contact many of his owners about the colt. “My owners give me free reign,” Menary said. “They don’t want to hear about $3,000 yearlings.” He also was conservative in staking He’s Watching. “It’s hard to dream with a $3,000 yearling,” he said. Menary staked Major Trick, a son of Art Major out of Tricky by Northern Luck, to a few major races, and he covered all the reasons. “He’s a homebred,” Menary said. “His dam was a tough raceway mare. He acted like a good horse.” Yet during the winter before their 2-year-old campaigns, He’s Watching showed as much promise as Major Trick. “I thought the speed was there all winter for He’s Watching,” Menary said. “The week before his qualifier, I let him shake loose a little bit in a training mile. He came home in :28 with a wicked last eighth. He opened a lot of eyes.” He still is. “There’s nothing that can go to the gas pedal that way,” Gray said. “He can really fly.” Yet Major Trick isn’t far behind. After finishing second at Saratoga, he won his Sire Stakes division at Buffalo Raceway in 1:57.3 at 2-5. “Major Trick is really good, but He’s Watching is tough for any horse to go against,” Menary said. “You always want a good horse. You just hope it’s not your last good horse.” Having two good horses simultaneously is certainly a bonus, and they are likely to keep Menary and his partners smiling for a long time. By Bill Heller Harness Horse Breeders of New York State
Growing up in New England, Paul Kelley figured his future was likely going to be spent in hockey arenas or at racetracks.
As Mel Brooks famously said while portraying Louis the XIV in Brooks' comedy classic `History of the World,' 'It's good to be the king.' There is no denying Jim Morrill Jr.'s title as the king of the New York Sire Stakes, not after he picked up yet another harness racing award as the New York Sire Stakes Driver of the Year in 2012.
A closer look at the eight New York Sire Stakes divisional leaders and their biggest threats in the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (last of eight parts).
A closer look at the eight New York Sire Stakes divisional leaders and their biggest threats in the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (seventh of eight parts).
A closer look at the eight New York Sire Stakes divisional leaders and their biggest threats in the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (sixth of eight parts).
Just two days after four-year-old New York-bred superstar Betterthancheddar set a world record for four-year-old pacers on a half-mile track winning the $216,500 Bobby Quillen Memorial in 1:49.2 at Harrington Raceway, Robert McIntosh Stables, C.S.X. Stables and DM Stables' Shelliscape set a world record for three-year-old filly pacers on a half-mile track of 1:50.3 at Delaware, Ohio, in the second harness racing division of the first heat of the Jugette Wednesday afternoon.
A closer look at the eight New York Sire Stakes divisional harness racing leaders and their biggest threats in the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (fifth of eight parts).
A closer look at the eight harness racing New York Sire Stakes divisional leaders and their biggest threats in the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (fourth of eight parts).
A closer look at the eight New York Sire Stakes divisional leaders and their biggest threats in the harness racing $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (third of eight parts).
A closer look at the eight New York Sire Stakes harness racing divisional leaders and their biggest threats in the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (second of eight parts).
A closer look at the eight New York Sire Stakes divisional leaders and their biggest threats in the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway September 22nd (first of eight parts).
Betterthancheddar and Bettor Sweet just miss in the harness racing $787,000 Canadian Pacing Derby; Golden Receiver tires after running the fastest first half ever at Mohawk Raceway.
Their rivalry preceded Affirmed and Alydar's by two years. Silk Stockings, linked forever to autistic children, and Tarport Hap, who had a tragic ending for a legendary horseman , were two of the greatest harness racing pacing mares of the last 40 years. They went head-to-head 20 times in the mid-'70s, and, frequently, their traveling battlefield was the New York Sire Stakes.