Day At The Track

Feelgood feelin' in Classic Series

10:05 PM 06 Apr 2008 NZST
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Mr Feelgood
Mr Feelgood - 2008 Isle Of Capri Final
MR FEELGOOD (#4) and Andy Miller charge past SPECIAL REPORT (#6), driven by Wally Hennessey, to win the $267,000 Isle of Capri Pacing Series final at Pompano Park on Saturday in a track record-equaling time of 1:49.4. (Lap Time Photo – Skip Smith)

It is always nice to have a 'Plan B' in life – and racing. When Mr Feelgood stepped off the track in the final days of November 2006, it was toward a career as a stallion.

'Almost a year to the day later, however, he was back in harness, competing in the William Penn Series at Chester Downs.

Since returning to the races, he has won six of 13 starts and added $293,850 to his total bankroll which now stands at $981,499.

In 2008, his five wins in nine starts have included the finals of both the Presidential at the Meadowlands and the Isle of Capri at Pompano Park.

Next up is the Classic Series which begins on Monday [April 7, 2008] at Dover Downs.

Mr Feelgood's victory in the 2006 Little Brown Jug, the year in which he earned nearly $600,000 and finished in the money in 15 of 23 starts, had provided the “cred” for a stallion career in Kentucky.

Only someone forgot to tell Mr Feelgood's sperm count. He 'dated' 31 mares in 2007 but that was not going to cut it.

Mr Feelgood's stallion career was limited because the sperm/reproductive testing showed that he would not be able to service a full complement of mares,” said John Fodera, who co-owns the son of Grinfromeartoear – Best of Memories with Brittany Farms of Versailles, KY and Lindy Farms of [Enfield] Connecticut.

“Some sperm cells were lying dormant or dead, and we stopped booking mares.

“There were no physical reasons to stop his racing career but since Brittany and Lindy are breeding farms and controlled a majority interest together, they preferred that plan,” noted Fodera, a high school principal from Staten Island, NY.

“CanAmerica [Capital Corp of Milton Ontario] and myself owned the other 40 percent. We agreed to breed rather than selling him in a major sale or racing him.

“His value was greatly increased by winning the Jug,” Fodera explained. “It was agreed that $400,000 was a reasonable figure for any original owner to buy or sell, and CanAmerica opted out.

“I didn't have any stallions at the time and decided to approach yet another aspect of the business, especially knowing I would be involved with George Segal [Brittany] and Frank Antonacci [Lindy],” he contined. “They are both great businessmen and friends.

“I also knew there was an option to possibly race again if breeding wasn't the final route,” he added.

So it was decided to return Mr Feelgood to the trainer who had ushered the $130,000 Tattersalls Yearling Sale purchase through his two and three-year-old campaigns – Jimmy Takter.

“I always thought he was a great horse,” said Takter, who was busily qualifying horses on Thursday morning at the Meadowlands. “He’s done super this year, and I’m very excited how he’s coming along. He’s enjoying racing a lot.

“He came back in late July,” Takter recalled. “The horse was in great shape. As a stallion he wasn’t overweight and getting work on an Equicisor. He looked good when he came back.

“Going through his two and three-year-old seasons was hard on him,” he noted.

“For him to miss his four-year-old season was actually better for him. It was a good time to heal even things you don’t know about. He grew up, and now he’s done growing. When we race two and three-year-olds, they are not fully developed.”

Mr Feelgood may have left Takter as a colt but he came back a mature “man.”

“During the breeding year he developed the stallion neck, the body is big,” Takter said. “He’s such a handsome horse and even more beautiful now.”

Takter welcomed the pacer back to his training center in West Windsor, NJ last summer with a plan to prepare him for racing the final months of 2007.

“We decided to send him back to Jimmy Takter, who had him for us from a yearling,” Fodera recalled. “That was done in the late summer of his four-year-old season. Jimmy knew him best, and we had the great confidence in both the trainer and the horse.

“I am not really surprised at how well he is doing since he proved to be one of the best as a three year old,” he said. “I think sometimes coming back as an aged pacer at four is even tougher. Being a five year old makes him much more seasoned and knowing he would be ready early for winter races was part of the strategy.

“It has paid off since we truly aimed at the Presidential and Isle of Capri as target races,” explained Fodera, who has a stable of 25. “He has matured and looks stronger than ever. He is a sound horse and looks like a show horse on the racetrack.”

In a way, Mr Feelgood, who provided Fodera with his first Little Brown Jug victory, has filled a void in his stable. Fodera had been a partner in Boulder Creek, one of the top free for allers and 2005 Older Pacer of the Year. But that horse was sold in January to dissolve a partnership.

“I am saddened about losing Boulder Creek,” Fodera said. “Looking ahead to 2008, Mr Feelgood and Kinetic Yankee will hopefully lead the aged campaign [for us].”

Fodera's holdings currently include seven older pacers, eight three-year-olds and 10 two-year-olds.

“My journey has been like a magic carpet ride, and I still am riding high,” he acknowledged.

While Mr Feelgood was his first Little Brown Jug winner, he would return to victory lane for that race again in 2007 with Tell All, who was ultimately voted the divisional champion and Pacer of the Year.

Fodera has even allowed himself to think he could again win the prestigious three-year-old event that takes place in September each year in Delaware, Ohio.

“Trade Editor -- Blair Burgess is training -- is a very nice three- year-old, and I will put my highest hope on Lindy's Dynasty for the two-year-olds,” Fodera said. “Winning the Jug in 2006 was a great thrill and could only be surpassed by repeating with Tell All in 2007. A hat trick with Trade Editor can only be a dream beyond comprehension.”

But it is Mr Feelgood who could really provide Fodera with some of his greatest racing thrills in 2008.

The five-year-old’s nose victory in the $126,500 Presidential Final on January 26 marked his return to the winner’s circle. His half-length tally in the $267,000 Isle of Capri on March 1, in a track record equaling 1:49.4, kicked off a three-race winning streak that he brings into the Classic Series.

After the opening round stop at Dover Downs, the Classic Series travels to Mohawk on May 31 and makes two stops at the Meadowlands – a preliminary leg on July 19 and the $250,000 finals on July 26.

Although Mr Feelgood handed Panaramic Art his first loss after a 20-race winning streak when they met in the first leg of the Levy Series at Yonkers on March 29, Takter is cautious about what his pacer will face in the races ahead of him.

“A couple of horses haven’t been out yet,” Takter acknowledged. “There are horses that will be tough to face, but we have a nice horse. The more starts he has gone, he got fitter and fitter. He’s getting more confidence in himself.

“He’s going to race in the Classic Series, and we’ll go from there,” noted Takter, who turns the lines over to driver Andy Miller in most of the pacer’s races.

So far, Plan B is working very well.

Carol Hodes

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