01/18/2016 11:25AM

Bergman: Chatting with top owners at Sunshine Meadows

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Derick Giwner
Myron Bell has had plenty of success as an owner and breeder.

It's no secret that some of the sport’s top owners think about the past and dream of the future. Perhaps it's the only way to have any longevity in this sport. Without some success it is probably difficult for an owner to continue to buy youngsters and hope for greatness. Others have climbed the mountain and look forward to reaching the apex every time they select a yearling.

Fortunately, on a recent trip to South Florida, I was able to cross paths with a few owners that have been on top and are all looking forward to the future. Outside of Tony Alagna's filled barn was Hall of Famer George Segal, Horse of the Year owner David McDuffee and Myron Bell, who got his start helping George Segal amass some of the sport’s greatest future stallions and now has branched out enough to find his own great ones including the recent champion Captaintreacherous.

Segal, donning a Cubs hat, hasn't changed a bit over the years. His impact on the pacing and trotting breed should have earned him a few spots in the Hall considering just how much the stallions that he has championed have defined the breed.

"Where does Artsplace's victory in the Breeders Crown at Pompano rank in your top five?" I asked George of the world record clocking of his first real champion.

"It ranks in my top one," said Segal. "It was a warm night and they had the windows opened and my partner (Brian Monieson) nearly jumped out the window after the race."

The 1990 classic saw John Campbell and Artsplace redefine the sport with a wire-to-wire mile where he drew away from arch-rival Die Laughing after parking that colt to brutal fractions. The 1:51 1/5 clocking shattered the world record and opened the door for Segal in so many ways.

Ironically it was not the Artsplace stallion line that would blossom but the one that followed, Segal's Western Hanover, and his son Western Ideal.

"Artsplace was a son of Abercrombie and that line didn't have many stallions," said Segal.

On the other side, Western Ideal's impact is immeasurable through his sons Rocknroll Hanover, American Ideal and Always A Virgin. The late Rocknroll Hanover may be able to be a sire of sires, with Rock N Roll Heaven off to a solid start and A Rocknroll Dance and Pet Rock likely to have a say in future champions. Then there's Rockin Image, already the sire of Freaky Feet Pete.

On the trotting side, Segal appears enamored with the current and future of Cantab Hall.

"He's been a great sire," said Segal, quite optimistic that the son of Self Possessed will help continue the Valley Victory line that Segal effectively got off the ground. The Hambletonian winner Self Possessed has had a lot of geldings reach high levels, but in Cantab Hall he has a full horse that could extend the breed.

"Lifetime Pursuit beating Shake It Cerry in the Oaks is another top five for me," said Segal of the daughter of Cantab Hall.

Segal recognizes that another son of Valley Victory, namely Muscles Yankee, has left quite an impression on the breed and is already proving to be a sire of sires with Muscle Hill, Muscle Massive and Muscle Mass.

His specific expectations in Muscle Hill led him to the Lexington Sale last fall where he first purchased the colt Signal Hill for $250,000. Segal was quite familiar with the pedigree in that the dam, Special Appeal, is a Cantab Hall half-sister to Triple Crown winner Glidemaster as well as the freakishly fast Canepa Hanover. Signal Hill is bred much like Canepa Hanover, who is also by Muscle Hill.

"When I went to Lexington last fall that was the one horse I wanted to purchase," said David McDuffee. “I absolutely loved everything about him. I went to $225,000 and then I dropped out. The next day when I saw Tony (Alagna) I asked him if there was a way I could buy into the horse. I was very happy when they sold me 35 percent interest.” Now McDuffee is partners with Segal's Brittany Farm as well as Marvin Katz and Adriano Sorella.

Trainer Alagna, in the middle of training sessions, confirmed that Signal Hill, at least at this point of the season, looks to be the type of horse well worth his purchase price. "At this point in time it's really tough to gauge the pacing colts. You could have one you think is a (1):53 pacer but that doesn't mean very much," Alagna said. "With trotters it's different. I'm very happy with Signal Hill."

McDuffee, part owner of 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician, has a few yearlings training in South Florida and 10 up north with Richard (Nifty) Norman. McDuffee took partial responsibility for the late season failures of Bee A Magician in 2015.

"I think towards the end she was telling us that she was tired, but I guess we kept going because of the money she got to race for. I think it was too many starts," said McDuffee. A turning point for the mare was definitely the $1 million International Trot at Yonkers in October, a race McDuffee wasn't thrilled with. "She got a horrible trip that day," said McDuffee, lamenting the additional cover Bee A Magician got early in the race and the fact that the pace was so slow.

McDuffee struck gold in a major way purchasing Kadabra along with a few partners for $850,000 in 2001 before his 3-year-old campaign. "That turned out to be a great investment. I still have 14 lifetime breedings to him and he's had unbelievable success in Ontario and North America," said McDuffee.

Myron Bell, a fixture in the Northeast, has permanently relocated to Florida and he appears to be enjoying a close proximity to the horses he has in training. He pointed to American Passport, a colt he selected for his Riverview Racing along with Brittany Farms, Tony Alagna and Jodi Siamis for just $29,000 at the 2014 Harrisburg Sale.

"Her previous foal (dam Star Of The Show) was a peanut," said Bell. "This was a decent sized colt and I think he's growing." Bell watched as the more bulked-up son of American Ideal crossed in front of us at Sunshine Meadows training center in Delray Beach, Florida.

Segal got a good chuckle out of the fact that American Passport's dam was originally owned by his Brittany Farm but was inevitably sold after just her second foal. American Passport is just her third foal and clearly her best, having won nearly $200K during his first season on the track.

Alagna has 40 in training at Sunshine Meadows and an additional 10 yearlings up north in New Jersey. 

Former Roosevelt Raceway track announcer Jerry Glantz was on the scene at Sunshine Meadows checking out some of his babies, but he noted that an Alagna homebred had caught his eye. "Tony has a filly named Preakness that looks extremely fast," said Glantz of the Somebeachsomewhere juvenile. "She's out of Sombodythatiustono. I think she was the best 2-year-old filly before she got hurt." That was early in the 2012 season and Alagna definitely liked the Tell All-sired miss that he purchased for but $3,000 then renamed after the popular tune sung by Gotye.

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