Day At The Track

Majestic Player A steps up in Crawford Farms

07:02 AM 15 Aug 2020 NZST
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Majestic Player A, haness racing
Majestic Player A in prior win
Dean Gilette photo

The first time Walter Haynes Jr. qualified Australian-bred Majestic Player in the U.S., the trotter was in against a field of pacers at Miami Valley Raceway in January. Majestic Player, with trainer Haynes in the sulky, was third after three-quarters of a mile, more than three lengths off the lead, but came home in :28.2 to win by two lengths in 1:57.2.

Following the qualifier, Haynes called owner Brian Carsey.

"Walter said he thought he was the real deal," Carsey said. "He went right by them like he was a pacer. He's definitely impressed us ever since."

Majestic Player entered Friday as the winningest trotter in North America, with 10 victories in 11 starts. His only loss came by a head in his seasonal debut in February. On July 18, the 6-year-old gelding won the open at Harrah's Hoosier Park in a track-record-equaling 1:51.1, making him the fastest Australasian-bred trotter in history.

And now, after dominating the opens at Miami Valley, Scioto Downs, and Hoosier, Majestic Player will see if he can be a big-time player on the Grand Circuit. On Sunday (Aug. 16), he meets a field that includes harness racing's No. 1-ranked horse, Gimpanzee, in the $220,000 Crawford Farms Open Trot at Tioga Downs. Majestic Player will start from post position three with Andy McCarthy in the bike. He is 8-1 on the morning line.

"We're just fortunate to be in it and we'll see how he does, but we have high hopes for him," Carsey said. "He's got the will to win. He gives it his all. No matter how far they get away from him, he finds a way to catch them."

The Crawford Farms Open Trot is one of three Grand Circuit events at Tioga on Sunday, with the $133,000 Joie De Vie for trotting mares and the $129,000 Artiscape for pacing mares. The Joie De Vie features the top-three finishers in last week's Dr. John Steele Memorial - When Dovescry, Plunge Blue Chip, and Manchego - while 2019 Horse of the Year Shartin N headlines the Artiscape.

Last year's Crawford Farms was won by New Zealand-bred Speeding Spur, so Majestic Player will be trying to make it two in a row for imports from Down Under.

Carsey bought Majestic Player toward the end of last year's racing season in Australia. The horse made one start for Carsey prior to leaving home, winning the Group 2 Breeders Crown for 4-year-old male trotters.

"We watched him for about five months before we bought him," Carsey said. "I was working with a trainer down there, Dean Braun, and he kind of put the deal together. We bought him for the SOA (of NY Bonus Trotting Series) at Yonkers. It looked like he would have fit well. I wasn't looking at him being a top, top trotter or anything like that."

After the deal was completed, Braun suggested otherwise.

"Dean said I think you have a Grand Circuit horse for (this) year," Carsey said. "I told him not to get too high, but based on his influence, he convinced us to stake him the last part of the year. We didn't stake him early because we didn't want to race him hard."

Carsey credited Haynes and drivers Brett Miller and Sam Widger with aiding Majestic Player's development in his new country.

"They've done a great job with this horse, not getting too high and wanting to showboat him," Carsey said. "They raced him off the pace and taught him to be a racehorse over here."

Majestic Player is by Majestic Son out of Another Player, who is a daughter of 2001 Maple Leaf Trot runner-up Dr Ronerail, and was bred by Yabby Dam Farms. Carsey shares ownership of the gelding with Jeff Fought Racing and Casey Myers. The horse has earned $103,250 this year.

Following the Crawford Farms Open Trot, the gelding is eligible to the Maple Leaf Trot, Caesars Trotting Classic, Dayton Trotting Derby, Allerage Farms Open, and Breeders Crown.

"He's really exceeded all of our expectations," Carsey said. "It's very exciting. We're just very fortunate, really."

Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday at Tioga Downs. For complete entries, click here.

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA


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