05/03/2017 4:39PM

Bergman: Enterprise has out-of-this-world potential

Lisa Photo
Enterprise looks for his third career victory in as many starts Friday night at The Meadowlands.

Over the last few weeks, The Meadowlands has been the place to be for sophomore stakes horses returning to action. That is, The Meadowlands qualifiers for the most part have been inundated with horses preparing for the major races to come this summer. To our surprise, there was one race last week that happened to take place at night which offered a glimmer of hope for those looking for “new” talent.

When Enterprise hit the track before his 3-year-old debut he had a definitive presence. If horses have body language, Enterprise seemed an “Alpha-type” scoring down as if he was the only horse on the track.

In his sophomore debut Enterprise showed speed and authority in abundance, cruising to a two-move romp in a career best 1:54 2/5 mile. Time and fractions can get you into trouble especially at this time of the year, but what separated Enterprise was the ease in which he accomplished the feat.

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Trainer Marcus Melander liked what he saw in his trotter.

“I’m really happy with this horse. Last year when I got him in August he was very immature. Over the course of his 2-year-old season he kept growing and I had a hard time getting him to understand what he needed to do,” Melander said.

One example of Melander’s struggles was a horse that bolted towards the exit before his work was done. “He just didn’t understand what it was all about.”

But Melander had a duty to get Enterprise ready as a 2-year-old even if his time to race would come near the end of the year. “It was important for me to try to get a race into him for the owners. They had to make decisions about staking and it is difficult if the horse is just training,” Melander said.

After a qualifier in late November at The Meadowlands, Melander sent Enterprise to Harrah’s Philadelphia where he romped by open lengths in a 1:58 1/5 mile. “If you watch him in that race he was going in and out the entire way,” said Melander, who obviously knew he needed to continue with lessons.

Some trainers turn horses out for a period of time but Melander, thanks to his tenure first with his uncle Stefan Melander in Sweden and then when he came to the States a few years ago with Jimmy Takter, has a different approach. “I like to keep training them. I don’t stop or turn them out,” Melander said.

So while others were relaxing, Enterprise was getting his conditioning and improving from day to day.

“He’s a tank,” said Melander of the $100,000 yearling purchase, a son of Chapter Seven.

Melander wanted to give the horse a few races before stakes season began and after qualifying him at The Meadowlands put Tim Tetrick in the bike for his April 21 excursion. “Tim liked him a lot,” said Melander.

As interesting as that is Tetrick would appear to be committed to another son of Chapter Seven, that being last year’s champion and pre-season Hambo choice Walner. Melander was quick to point out the obvious to those who started the Hambletonian conversation after Friday’s victory. “It was just a non-winners race,” said Melander. “Right now I’d like to get another start into him at The Meadowlands next week and maybe another before the first New York Sire Stakes at Vernon at the end of May.”

Long term Melander is hoping his colt will stay sound and healthy, clearly the most important factor in any sophomore trotter once speed is a given. “We do have him staked outside of the New York Sire Stakes,” said Melander, who trains at Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer’s old farm, purchased by his dad a few years back.

Enterprise has trained on the half and Melander is confident he’ll get around the four-turn ovals well on the Sire Stakes circuit.

The 25-year-old trainer has a stable of 30 horses with 13 2-year-olds likely to be ready for baby race activity in early June. Along with Enterprise he’s excited about Long Tom’s return. Last September Marcus guided Long Tom, a son of Muscle Hill, to a 1:56 1/5 score. Two weeks later the colt was a Grand Circuit winner with Tetrick winning a division of the Bluegrass in 1:55 2/5.

Those were the highlights of the season for Long Tom. “He got sore towards the end of the season and made breaks in the Breeders Crown and The Matron,” said Melander.

“Long Tom will qualify on Saturday and I’m excited to see how he does,” said Melander.

[Editor's Note: Long Tom finished sixth beaten 7-1/4 lengths in 1:57 1/5.]

As far as comparing last year’s stakes winner to this year’s early season potential star, they are completely different.

“Long Tom tends to be very easy on himself but he’ll go when you ask him,” said Melander. “Enterprise wants to go full speed all of the time.”

While Melander does enjoy driving, he’s taken a reasonable approach to that side of his resume in the U.S. “Sure I like to drive and I will sit behind some of these in qualifiers, but it’s better to have those with more experience drive them in the big races,” Melander said.

The sophomore trotting season is just getting started and it should be interesting to see how the old faces come back and just how competitive the new ones will be.