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Bergman: Daley finds himself in trotting spotlight this season
When Broad Bahn crossed the wire first in last year’s Hambletonian it was a breakthrough for trainer Noel Daley. For the conditioner who cut his teeth as the right-hand man behind perennial Meadowlands leading trainer Brett Pelling’s long streak of pacing success, the victory in trotting’s most coveted race had a dramatic impact.
This year, with four eligible to the Hambo, Daley’s stable has now tilted surprisingly to more trotters than pacers and more young horses than aged ones.
“I don’t miss those nightly trips back on forth on the New Jersey Turnpike,” said Daley. “It certainly is different with young horses. I only have a few overnight horses, just the ones that can do. The rest are two- and three-year-olds.”
While Daley did have enormous success with $3.5 million winner Mr Muscleman in 2002-2005, it wasn’t until Broad Bahn put two solid years together on the racetrack after being selected as a yearling that owners began treating him like a true trotting man.
From a stable of 60 Daley has 37 two-year-olds in training. Some 23 of those are trotters. And while it is generally too early for many trainers to even mention the name of an unraced two-year-old they are high on, Daley didn’t mind.
“His name is Crystal Phenom. That’s p-h-e-n-o-m,” he said. “He’s a Broadway Hall (sire of Broad Bahn) from the same mare that produced Lolique (a $1 million winner) and Farmer Jones (a fast horse Daley once trained).”
With new owners flocking to Daley expecting lightning to strike at least twice, Crystal Phenom came to him from new connections.
“Actually he’s owned by the brother of the guy who owned Broad Bahn (Leif Alber),” he said.
As April rolls into May, Daley was feeling the weight of a different kind this season. In past years with plenty of overnight horses racing through the winter, cash flow was not as great a concern. But with a stable top-heavy in two- and three-year-olds, this time of year means plenty of stakes payments just to keep horses eligible to races this summer and fall.
“It’s not easy, but I’m not complaining,” said Daley, who said he has an ownership interest in about 24 of the 60 head.
There’s great confidence in a trainer taking an ownership interest in a horse from an owner’s perspective, but at the same time there’s increased risk from the trainer’s side. For Daley it’s a matter of believing in yourself and your system and expecting the most favorable outcome.
But Daley isn’t the only one from his stable looking to make it big from owning a top trotter.
“A few of my grooms got together and bought Beer Summit (now 3) as a yearling for $8,000," said Daley. "He won last year in a stake at Delaware over a half-mile track in 1:56 1/5 and has trained back strongly this winter."
The son of Cantab Hall made $50,398 during his freshman campaign. “Jerry Silva just bought a piece of the horse,” Daley said.
Beer Summit, one of Daley’s four eligible to the Hambletonian, begins his three-year-old campaign in the last race at Mohegan Sun Pocono Tuesday night (May 1). In spite of his stakes victory at two, Beer Summit remained eligible to a non-winners of one for his sophomore debut.
While Beer Summit came to Daley on the low end, Royal Shyster, one of last year’s better two-year-old trotters in North America, came at the other end of the spectrum. Owner William Weaver III and partner Jim Winske paid a cool $425,000 for the colt last fall at Harrisburg.
The addition to the stable, like many others in Daley’s last year of fortune, came as a surprise to the trainer.
“I had no idea they were purchasing the horse,” he said. “Bill (Weaver) sold yearlings worth about $1 million last year and I guess he wanted to reinvest.”
The surprise purchase wasn’t an instant hit with Daley, but now that he’s had him for a while he seems quite happy with Royal Shyster’s progress.
“To tell you the truth we had some problems with him early but he’s straightened out and is doing well,” Daley said.
He qualified once already at the Meadowlands and will likely do so again before pointing towards the Beal at Pocono (eliminations on June 16).
Owner Adam Victor has been a huge supporter of Daley since he took a huge gamble and paid $155,000 for a maiden (Mr. Muscleman) back in 2002. He could have an outstanding prospect in Magic Tonight. The Andover Hall-sired colt earned a shade over $100,000 in his freshman campaign that included three wins in seven starts.
Daley has seen huge talent in Magic Tonight but is concerned about his ability to hold up during a long, tough campaign.
“He has had some issues but we’ve taken care of them, and if he stays sound should do well,” said Daley.
While much of the fan focus heading into the last three months prior to the Hambletonian will be on Check Me Out, Ray Schnittker’s phenomenal filly, Daley doesn’t appear ready to concede the big contests as yet.
“It’s always a matter of who comes back at three," he said. "It was a solid group of horses last year without a real standout like Donato Hanover (2007 Hambo winner). Ray’s filly was probably the best out there, but we’ll see what happens. These horses change.”
Adam Victor also has Gym Tan Laundry, a $165,892 earner as a juvenile, in his arsenal. The colt has qualified back twice including a 1:58 1/5 victory at Pocono on April 26 and will be pointed towards the Goodtimes along with Beer Summit in early June at Mohawk.
Daley will have some pacers going forward this season. Bettor B Lucky, a filly by Bettors Delight that looked like a good one early last year but was able to win just once in 10 tries, is on the comeback trail.
“She was very good qualifying the other day,” said Daley.
Her owner, W. J. Donovan, surprised Noel last fall when he purchased seven yearlings on his own and sent them to Daley’s stable.
“He picked them out himself and sent them to me,” Daley said.
That group includes five pacers.
While it’s probably too early to talk about how any of these three-year-olds will make out in stakes competition, you get the sneaking suspicion from talking with Daley that the $8,000 yearling Beer Summit may surprise the more expensive horses on the circuit this year.
“That would make things interesting," Daley said. "Don’t you think?”