05/20/2014 10:04AM

Giwner: Previewing the 2-year-old crop


In less than a fortnight, 2-year-old trotters and pacers will trek to the track for their first charted races. For owners and trainers, the moment of truth will arrive. Will their time and investment be rewarded with a special horse?

Of course, the colts and fillies which appear to be the best now may not ultimately lead the stable to glory as the rigors of racing take its toll. But with baby races approaching and little for handicappers to go on when viewing these potential stars of tomorrow, I posed the following question to some of the top trainers in the sport: Who is your best 2-year-old pacer and trotter currently in training?

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Some trainers where reluctant to go out on a limb at such an early point in the year. Linda Toscano was blunt about evaluating talent. “There’s absolutely no way in the world you can tell at this point,” said the veteran conditioner. “You know if they are good-gaited and if they have a good work ethic, but you do not know if they will work out when they race.”

Owner Myron Bell tossed out a couple of names but also stressed that it was a bit too early to tell. “If you give me a few more weeks I’ll have a better idea,” said Bell.

While there was clearly some hedging going on, many others were willing to provide some insight into the rookie crop of 2014.

Trainer Tony Alagna offered up Joe Hill, a $55,000 Harrisburg purchase under the name Benny V Hanover, as his top pacer. Joe Hill is a full brother to 3-year-old colt That’s My Opinion, a winner of both of his 2014 starts. “He’s done everything very easily,” said Alagna about Joe Hill. “He seems to have the same kind of top-end speed that That’s My Opinion did. He might not be as flashy, but he has a high turn of speed. Right now he is the best colt I have.”

On the trotting side, Alagna singled out Gifted Way, a colt by Cantab Hall. The fourth foal from Rare Gift, Gifted Way was a $170,000 Lexington-Selected purchase. “He is very athletic,” said the trainer. “Typical of a lot of the Cantab’s, he does his work very easily, is good-gaited and sensible.”

The leading trainer in the country, Ron Burke, is training upwards of 60 first-year hopefuls. He admitted that it is much easier to spot the bad ones at this point than the good ones, but a few stood out from the pack.

Kirsi Hanover, a Donato Hanover filly out of the mare Kimberidge Hanover, is easily the best 2-year-old trotter in his barn. “She has been so fast I’ve had to train her with the pacing fillies,” said Burke of the $42,000 Harrisburg purchase. “A couple of people have even told me she may be the best trotting filly they have ever seen.”

Burke, who led a stable that earned north of $20 million in 2013, felt two pacers were worth mentioning—a colt and a filly.

Kay’s Dragon Lady, by Dragon Again, a favorite sire of the Burke stable, could be one that is ready to fire early. The second foal of Warrawee Kay was a $65,000 Lexington purchase. “Her dam was a good 2-year-old and she comes from a family of early speed,” said Burke. “She’s done everything right and I think she is going to come to it a little quicker.”

Burke sees some promise in Reggiano, a Western Terror-sired colt out of Stonebridge Prima. “He is not even near one of the better bred ones we have, but he does everything well and progresses every time I train him,” said the trainer.

Trainer Casie Coleman won’t be sending her babies to the races until the end of June, but she was very high on a couple of pacers. Her top prospect is a Sportswriter-She’s An Idiot filly aptly named Business As Usual, a bargain buy at Harrisburg for just $30,000. “She’s bred extremely well and is very well gaited. She doesn’t do anything wrong,” remarked Coleman.

Her top colt is Some Power, a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the prolific broodmare Western Duel. Sold for $270,000 at Harrisburg under the name Way Bay Hanover, Some Power has been a project that only recently has come together. “Early on I hated him,” said Coleman. “For the first month I couldn’t figure him out and didn’t like his gait. Now he is on track and getting better and better.”

Jimmy Takter, who has the market cornered on top 3-year-old trotters in 2014 with Trixton, Father Patrick and Nuncio, listed a pair of well-bred 2-year-olds that could make some noise during the summer and fall months.

Pointing out that they were a bit more advanced than some of his others, the Hall of Famer mentioned Uncle Lasse and Canepa Hanover. Uncle Lasse is a full brother to last year’s 2-year-old filly trotting champion Shake It Cerry ($877,519) and Solvato ($300,931), both by Donato Hanover out of $820k-winning mare Solvieg. Canepa Hanover, a half-brother to trotting Triple Crown winner Glidemaster, sold for $300,000 at the 2013 Harrisburg auction.

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Fresh off a season where he sent Bee A Magician out to a perfect 3-year-old campaign and Horse of the Year honors, Richard “Nifty” Norman is looking forward to 2014 but hardly predicting similar success.

“I don’t feel like I have a standout,” said Norman, who did believe that five from his barn had the most promise of the 30 rookies under his care.

His most prepared pacer is Rock N Roll World, a son of the great Worldly Beauty by Rocknroll Hanover. “He is not big, but has perfect manners. He is ready to race now and perfect to drive,” said Norman of the $125,000 Harrisburg buy.

Shooby Said, a son of Well Said-Shoobeedobeedo, is a big, strong colt according to Norman that can “go a long way.” And finally, on the pacing side, the trainer thought El Well (Well Said-Temptress El) could be one to watch down the road. “He’s green but has high speed and could be good later on,” said Norman of the $70,000 Harrisburg purchase.

Soboro Hanover and Strong Sorceress stand above the pack of trotters under Norman’s care. The former, a son of Donato Hanover-Star Hanover, is a “big, strong, good-looking colt that never makes a break,” according to Norman. The latter is a daughter of Kadabra (One Tough Lass), the same sire as Bee A Magician. “She is very good-gaited, easy going and light on her feet,” remarked Norman.

Last but not least, we return to Myron Bell. His picks to click from his pacing brigade are Edison and Mohegan Blue Chip. Edison was purchased as In Excelsis Deo for $100,000 at Lexington. He is the first foal out of Electric Fool by Western Terror. Mohegan Blue Chip is the first son of Casino Miss ($431,698) by the great Somebeachsomewhere. The colt went for $215,000 at last year’s Harrisburg sale.

For the trotters, he felt strongly about the aforementioned Gifted Way and Canepa Hanover (Glidemaster Bro), along with the full brother to 2-year-old champions Father Patrick and Pastor Stephen—Whom Shall I Fear. Sold as Custom Fit, Whom Shall I Fear went for a sale-topping $475,000 at Lexington.

Time will tell if any of these colts and fillies realizes their true potential. Until then, their owners and trainers are left to dream big and hope for the best.