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Bergman: Everything comes up roses in Kentucky
For those who love the standardbred sport, it’s very possible the last week in Lexington is the best we have to offer. The weather was perfect. The horses came to perform and put on an extraordinary show. The buyers arrived and stayed the distance, giving the Lexington Selected sale an unprecedented five-day bonanza.
For those who work hard each and every day, Lexington is the reward. Whether breeding, training, driving or owning, all forces blend so perfectly in the Bluegrass and those days overshadow the rest of the year no matter how one’s fortunes change.
Drawing conclusions from what transpired in Lexington is difficult on the large scale, but to those that concern themselves with the business as a whole, the good news is that investment, at least in yearlings, remains very strong. Perhaps that says something about the state of the sport in North America and in Europe.
The solid sale numbers are an indication to many that quality was sold and consumed at the Lexington Selected sale, where pedigrees jived with appearance and competition was there whether on the low end or the high end.
On the racetrack you have to start the conversation with Always B Miki. Breaking the world record over a surface renowned for creating the fastest miles the sport has seen in so many divisions, Always B Miki did something that I would not thought possible at the three quarter pole. A sparkling 52 2/5 half appeared to set the table for a sub 1:46 clocking, but when driver David Miller rated the third quarter and only reached that point in 1:19 4/5, it appeared that mark would not be in reach.
Miller, criticized some by Always B Miki’s connections after a questionable drive in the Dayton Pacing Derby, perhaps wanted to respect the competition enough as not to just go for a record and lose sight of the first prize. Always B Miki, as he has his entire career, poured it on in the stretch with 26 1/5 quarter that shattered the former race and time trial mark.
We shall never know what could have happened had Miller stepped on the gas at the half and hit three quarters in 1:18 or so. For my money, I have to believe a mile in the 1:45 range was very possible.
I’ve always been a Broadway Donna fan from the beginning of her impressive 2-year-old career in 2015, but the filly has looked more like a work in progress this year as opposed to a dominant force. That all changed on Sunday and the result was an eye-catching straight-heat victory in the Kentucky Filly Futurity. Sure, it wasn’t the same as winning the Triple Crown, but the daughter of Donato Hanover did trot to victory twice in times of 1:51 1/5 and 1:51 2/5 with both miles faster than the one heat Kentucky Futurity. The Fashion Farms (Jules Siegel) owned and bred filly won the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final but did not bring her “A” game to the Hambletonian Oaks back in August. Hopefully trainer Jim Campbell will have her perfectly set up for a duel with Oaks champion All The Time for the Breeders Crown, a race that could decide the division.
A lot of funky things could have happened in the Kentucky Futurity final, with 12 horses in the field and two prime contenders starting from the second tier. Perhaps just one horse lost the race because of the large field and that was Sutton with Andy Miller. Sutton appeared to be entering the race as sharp as any 3-year-old trotter in North America, but Miller elected to take back after a very wide first turn with Sutton and unfortunately that took him out of the race completely.
That Southwind Frank, Bar Hopping and the eventual winner Marion Marauder somehow wound up second, third and fourth-over in the outer tier flow is a testament to their drivers, Yannick Gingras, Tim Tetrick and Scott Zeron, respectively. Zeron completed the Triple Crown sweep and that wasn’t easy considering he had the worst of the draw and had to track down two legitimate rivals in the process. Though it was later revealed that Southwind Frank had suffered a flat tire in the middle of the Futurity, the fact is that he started a length ahead of Marion Marauder at the start and had more than two lengths advantage on him entering the final stretch.
The trotting game can prove treacherous even to the best horses and the best trainers. When Walner made a break at the Meadowlands in a division of the Kindergarten on September 9, I was shocked. The son of first-crop sire Chapter Seven had made a break before, but that was heading into the first turn at Saratoga, a half-mile track, not in the straightaway in East Rutherford. Walner bounced back the following week at the Meadowlands and then showed up at The Red Mile poised for battle. The Linda Toscano-trained colt was full of himself, setting a world mark of 1:51 3/5 while taking an International Stallion Stakes division. It was just his first Grand Circuit stakes win of the year but that has more to do with the fact that owner Ken Jacobs carefully stakes his 2-year-old trotters.
Ray Schnittker has trained and raced champions before yet there’s a serious chance he’s never had a horse better than Huntsville. The homebred by Somebeachsomewhere looks so imposing on the racetrack. His 1:49 victory in the International Stallion stakes equaled the world mark. That was his fourth consecutive win and indicates that Schnittker has the horse as sharp now as he was at the beginning of the campaign. With the Breeders Crown next, Huntsville will renew his rivalry with multiple world champion Downbytheseaside, now with a 1:49 mark on the mile track as well. Downbytheseaside is also a son of Somebeachsomewhere, trained by Brian Brown.
It is very possible that the last week in Lex is the best you have to offer,for everybody except the bettor who wants a descent size handle to bet into.
Mik's last quarter of 26 1/5 was probably because of the 27 2/5 3rd quarter......As for the 3YO trotters, a filly going a full second faster than the boys TWICE, is something we'll probably never see again....THAT, was freaky....