Day At The Track

Time and patience pay off for Always B Miki

11:59 PM 17 Oct 2015 NZDT
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Always B Miki -
Always B Miki - "Scary good" in his first start back from injury

Trenton, NJ --- One year after having to pull out of the Breeders Crown as the harness racing favorite because of injury, 4-year-old male pacer Always B Miki heads into Saturday’s eliminations at Woodbine for the Breeders Crown Open Pace looking healthy once more. It was a long road back, but not once has anyone tried to rush the horse back.

It all started at last year’s post parade for the 3-year-old pacers, when Always B Miki was scratched after coming up lame. Considering he was the favorite, one would think there would be major disappointment in the horse’s camp.

Think again.

“You’re dealing with experienced horsemen, so our first thoughts were the health of the horse,” said owner Mitchel Skolnick, whose Bluewood Stable owns Always B Miki along with breeder Joe Hurley’s Roll The Dice Stable and Christina Takter. “There was no disappointment that we weren’t going to race that day, we were just concerned about the horse’s health. That’s not a cliché, that’s just how it was.”

They proved their concern during the past year. Always B Miki had suffered a P-1 (long pastern) fracture and underwent successful surgery by Dr. Patty Hogan. But then, around four months later, after Jimmy Takter had taken over as trainer from Joe Holloway in February, Always B Miki fractured the opposite pastern while going out to train at the Meadowlands.

“Dr. Hogan simply put four screws in each pastern bone,” Skolnick said. “Horsemen will tell you if you have any injury on a horse that’s the one you want to have. It’s repairable and when you mend, it’s as strong as before. You just need time.”

Time and patience, which the owners had. Through it all, no one was worried about further return on investment from a horse that had earned $926,866 through 2014.

“Not at all,” Skolnick said. “I’m fortunate to have partners who understand patience and that time helps a horse. We all would like to see the horse return, but nobody got anxious, nobody pushed him.

“We waited for Jimmy to tell us when he thought he’d be ready. We have very experienced horse people involved with him. Dr. Hogan to Bob Boni to Joe Hurley; people steeped in Standardbred races. If you listen to horses they’ll tell you when they’re ready.”

After making sure everything was working right, Takter gave the go-ahead two weeks ago and Always B Miki did not disappoint. On Oct. 3, with Takter driving, he dominated the field in a $20,000 Indiana Sires Stakes elimination for older pacers at Hoosier Park. He won by 5-1/4 lengths in 1:49 under wraps.

After the race, Takter called him “scary good,” but at least one owner wasn’t going to let that affect his thinking going into Saturday.

“I think sometimes we let ourselves get ahead of ourselves,” Skolnick said. “For me, I subscribe to what I’ve been told, let’s celebrate after we’ve done something, not before. Right now he’s headed to the Breeders Crown, and let’s see what happens after that.”

The Open Pace features 14 horses divided into two eliminations. Always B Miki is in the second group, along with State Treasurer, who leads all older pacers this season with $857,607, Haughton Memorial winner Mach It So, and Doo Wop Hanover.

The top five finishers from each elimination return for the final. Saturday's post time is 7:25 p.m. and the elimination winners draw for inside post positions 1-5 for the final.

“We’re going into it very reserved,” Skolnick said. “When a horse breaks down like Miki did, or has an injury like that, every start you’re worried. It’s only natural you’re worried how he’ll go and how he’ll come out.”

Always B Miki has shown enough talent over the years that his owners paid the $62,500 to supplement him to last season’s Breeders Crown. Skolnick said the price was worth it considering the horse’s ability.

“I think that true horsemen all have a very high respect for Always B Miki and his ability,” Skolnick said. “I’ve heard from all the horsemen I respect and admire, who talk highly about his speed, how he presents himself, and that he’s a very exciting horse. When you hear that from people you admire in the business, it gives you confidence that you probably have something special.”

Thus, Skolnick is looking for a good effort, not just from his horse, but all involved.

“My expectations are that he races well, the field is competitive and he shows himself to be the best he can be,” the owner said. “I hope it’s a successful Breeders Crown for everybody. I hope it’s exciting, we get a big crowd and everybody talks about it all winter.”

by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 


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