Day At The Track

Cheese Whiz! Betterthancheddar another

07:00 PM 13 Aug 2012 NZST
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The cheddar-heads gathered
The cheddar-heads gathered - in the Mohawk winner's circle after Betterthancheddar's win
New mage Media Photo

Looking at the winner's circle after the fifth race at Mohawk Raceway Saturday night, harness racing fans might have thought for a moment that the winning connections were Green Bay Packer zealots who had crossed the border.

Or maybe a Canadian alumni group from the University of Wisconsin.

Then the fans realized that the owners weren’t cheese-heads, rather cheddar-heads. That made perfect sense because their incredibly talented four-year-old New York-bred pacer Betterthancheddar had just won his fourth consecutive race, dominating nine opponents in the $50,000 Open by a length and a quarter in 1:49.1. Earlier this summer, Betterthancheddar set a World Record at Pocono Downs, winning the $500,000 Ben Franklin in 1:48.

Owned by Steve Calhoun and Marg and Ross Warriner’s West Wins Stable, the son of Bettor’s Delight, out of the Camtastic mare Lady Ashlee Ann, is six-for-seven this year and 17-for-26 lifetime.

He was last year’s New York Sire Stakes Three-Year-Old Champion Pacing Colt and second, albeit a distant one, to Roll With Joe in national balloting for the Three-Year-Old Pacing Champion.

But before Saturday night, Betterthancheddar had never been greeted by cheddar-heads in the winner’s circle. “I had no idea they were going to do that,” trainer Casie Coleman said. “It was Ross Warriner’s idea.” She added that although she was asked to don one, she declined.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t impressed with Betterthancheddar’s powerful performance. With Scott Zeron driving, Betterthancheddar settled in sixth in the 10-horse field, came third over following another New York-bred, Bettor Again, tipped off his cover three-wide and stormed to the finish line. “He was just awesome,” Coleman said.

Asked if he’s as good as he’s ever been, Coleman said, “He’s been pretty good since Day One.”

There’s a reason for that. Coleman wanted to race Betterthancheddar at two, but didn’t. “Two-year-old sickness problems,” she explained. “I got him qualified in 1:55, but I just couldn’t get him healthy.”

So they waited, even though they knew he was very talented. It’s rare to see an unraced two-year-old put up the numbers he did at three: 10 victories, including the Breeders Crown, two seconds and two thirds from 18 starts, and earnings of $777,116.

His only loss this year was by a nose to We Will See in the Mohawk Gold Cup in June. Betterthancheddar avenged that defeat twice, defeating We Will See in an elimination and in the Final of the Ben Franklin. Then Betterthancheddar captured the $176,500 Des Smith Stakes at Rideau Carleton by a nose at 1-5 in 1:49.4 with George Brennan driving.

The rest of the year could be very exciting for cheddar-heads. Coleman said, “We did the right thing for him, and now he’s doing the right thing for us.”

by Bill HELLER

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