Day At The Track

Keystone Velocity looks to double up

04:25 AM 01 Apr 2017 NZDT
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Keystone Velocity
Keystone Velocity
Sean Hamrock photo

YONKERS, N.Y. - Last October, harness racing trainer Rene Allard closed the deal on a racehorse he had been eyeing for a long time when he bought Keystone Velocity, a then 8-year-old son of Western Hanover with $487,252 in the bank who had just set a lifetime mark of 1:48.2. While he retained an interest in the pacer, Allard sought partners and approached VIP Stable’s Ed O’Connor.

Expecting a consistent older pacer and a George Morton Levy Series prospect, O’Connor was surprised when he examined Keystone Velocity’s record. The stallion had just 82 starts and missed almost two years of racing; he won his final start of 2014 at Yonkers July 5 and resumed his career May 14, 2016 at Pocono Downs.

“It was not what we were expecting,” he said. “I looked him up and he had been racing a while, but he missed a lot of time and for 8, he just didn’t have a lot of starts. I was assuming injury and kind of soured on him, but (Rene) said that wasn’t the issue.”

Keystone Velocity was sound and hadn’t suffered any serious injuries. Instead, an ownership dispute kept him away from the races. The circumstances were unusual, but put O’Connor’s mind at ease. VIP Stable invested in Keystone Velocity, along with Kapildeo Singh and Earl Hill, Jr.

“An expensive older horse is fine, but we were a little hesitant until we found out it wasn’t an injury,” O’Connor explained. “The fact that he had much less racing on him than his age indicated made us feel pretty good. He had been racing lights out at Pocono, he was training pretty fast. Rene was pretty sure that he could get around a half no problem. All the way around we were pretty happy with getting involved.”

VIP Stable, one of harness racing’s most recognizable fractional ownership groups, sold their share of Keystone Velocity to a handful of partners, helping to make the dream of owning a stakes-caliber pacer affordable. “There’s nobody who walked in and handed us their last $5 and turned it into a lotto ticket, but everybody involved is pretty happy,” O’Connor joked.

Offering horses like Keystone Velocity is critical to the success of VIP Stable, whose goal is to bring new owners into the sport and allow them to experience everything racehorse ownership has to offer while receiving expert advice without breaking the bank.

“It’s probably the best advertising that a group like ours can get. We can go out and buy commercials at the tracks, on social media, or where ever and it doesn’t say as much about us as seeing horses of ours win big races like the Levy,” O’Connor explained. “We’ve done pretty well in past years racing in this event and this is one we’d really like to get some more cash out of. It’s pretty prestigious.”

Keystone Velocity’s first start for his new owners came in the $250,000 Invitational Pace on Yonkers International Trot Day, where he finished seventh. He finished second in his next three outings, all in Open company at Yonkers, before closing the year with a hard-charging fourth place finish in the Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway.

“Clearly it would have been nice to get the first victory right out of the gate, but we understood he was racing some big horses,” O’Connor reasoned. “He was racing really well and Rene was really happy with him. He looked at it as a good opportunity to give him just a little time off. Not that he was tired or anything, but to have him 100 percent ready for the Levy. That was the goal all along even when we first bought him.”

Keystone Velocity started in the first round of the Levy Series March 18. After settling into third early, driver Dan Dube guided the stallion to the outside and brushed to the lead past the three-eighths pole. On a sloppy and tiring surface, Keystone Velocity finished fifth beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Still, his connections were impressed.

“Keystone Velocity had to race really hard to get to the front. It’s not like he made an easy lead and faded,” O’Connor said. “He raced his guts out on a track that was really playing against speed horses and I think finished better than a lot of the horses who did get an easy lead, so we weren’t discouraged at all. We knew he was much, much better.”

The second round of the Levy Series March 25 proved O’Connor right. While rival Bettor’s Edge set a reasonable pace, posting fractions of :27.3, :56.1, and 1:24.0, Keystone Velocity faced a first-over journey. He edged out of fourth with a half-mile to race and effortlessly glided within 2 lengths of the lead.

Urged on by his driver and with the plugs out, Keystone Velocity turned into the stretch on even terms with the race’s longtime leader. Dube slapped his wheeldisk once, twice, then Keystone Velocity felt the whip on his back as he and Bettor’s Edge accelerated away from the field. Inside the final sixteenth, Keystone Velocity put his neck in front determinedly to defeat Bettor’s Edge. Dr. J Hanover finished third by another 3 1/2 lengths. Keystone Velocity stopped the clock in 1:51.3 and posted a :27.1 final quarter in his first victory for his new connections.

“Last week, he was super. He went first-up at them and put in a huge back-half. That was a really nice mile. He’s good on the front end, but he’s done ok for us coming from behind,” O’Connor said.

This week, Keystone Velocity is the 8/5 morning line division in the third of four $50,000 Levy splits Saturday night at Yonkers. Starting from the rail, he’ll face Provocativeprincen, Caviart Luca, and four other rivals.

“I think he fits really well. There isn’t an easy spot in any of these, but he drew away from a couple of the other really nice ones. We’re just going to hope he can get out there, get a good position, and with any luck, be in front at the end. That would be super,” O’Connor said.

“We’re hoping for the best, especially drawing the rail this week,” he continued. “If he can get a little bit of an easier trip this week, we think we’ll be in really good shape for the next couple of weeks and the final.”

First post time at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m.

Click here to view entries for Saturday’s card.

by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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