03/13/2017 2:56PM

Bergman: Donato Hanover has produced a string of star horses

Lisa Photo
Donato Hanover won the 2007 Hambletonian.

For some of harness racing’s superstars the light continues to shine long after their racing careers are over. Donato Hanover made a mark on the trotting sport in 2006-7 by going virtually unbeaten as a juvenile and then near perfect until his final two races as a sophomore. The son of Andover Hall was the perfect size, had the perfect gait, faced the best and virtually toyed with them. Some two years later, Muscle Hill arrived and made many people forget what they had witnessed previously.

Thankfully we have next generations, and Donato Hanover has impressed us each year with quality of the highest degree.

The near $3 million career winner put his stamp on the trotting breed in his first crop as Check Me Out showed speed and toughness, racing 16 times that year and winning all but two for trainer Ray Schnittker. “All she did was win,” said Schnittker of his champion filly. “She had great size and a great gait.”

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In her first two years of racing, Check Me Out was the dominant filly in her class and won 25 times in just 31 appearances. She ended her career with $1.9 million banked and is well on her way to an exciting broodmare career if first impressions are worth noting.

“We sold her first foal, a Credit Winner filly, for $260,000 at Lexington,” said Schnittker. “We (co-owner Steve Jones) bred her back to Trixton and she’s got a filly that everybody loves.”

Check Out Trixie is the name of Check Me Out’s second foal and according to Schnittker she will also sell this fall.

The trainer has a close association with Donato Hanover. “I was the under-bidder on him,” Schnittker said. “I raced Here Comes Herbie, the first foal from the mare.”

Indeed Schnittker did well with Here Comes Herbie, selling him as a freshman, but has done even better with Donato Hanover. Though he didn’t get to own or train him during his racing career, Schnittker did become a shareholder in the Donato Hanover syndicate. “I’ve done very well with that share,” said Schnittker, who confessed that he usually sells his breeding rights annually.

After Check Me Out it has been one hit after another for Donato Hanover. His second crop produced the International star D’One, a dominant race filly as a sophomore in Europe that came over to North America and captured the 2015 Breeders Crown Mare Trot.

The fillies continued to flow in the third crop of Donato Hanover as Shake It Cerry emerged as a superstar during her juvenile campaign in 2013 and was even better the following year. Over that span Shake It Cerry nearly mirrored her sire, winning an astonishing 23 of 28 races. Though the wins haven’t come quite as often over the last two seasons, Shake It Cerry is Donato Hanover’s richest foal to date with earnings in excess of $2.7 million.

Jimmy Takter’s success with the stallion gave us the surprise 2015 Breeders Crown champion The Bank.

Broadway Donna continued Donato’s streak in 2015 with a sensational freshman campaign and then returned as a sophomore to capture the division with a Breeders Crown victory at The Meadowlands. Like her sire, Broadway Donna suffered just one defeat at age 2 during a 10-race span.

Donato Hanover goes into his 10th year as a stallion with an impressive record of producing horses very much in his image in that they have consistency and winning attitudes each and every time they hit the track.

Though he’s yet to produce a stallion with his talent, the odds are certainly in his favor that one will arrive in the near future. With foals earning in excess of $36 million, Donato Hanover, who stands for a fee of $10,000 at Hanover Shoe Farms in Pennsylvania, is clearly one of the better stallions in the sport.