05/14/2012 11:01AM

Bergman: Mulinix gets ready to unleash A Rocknroll Dance in New Jersey Sire Stakes

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A Rocknroll Dance after winning the Governor's Cup at Harrah's Philadelphia

Jim Mulinix hardly sounded nervous. In just a few days his top-ranked three-year-old pacer A Rocknroll Dance will be making his first stakes appearance in a New Jersey Sire Stakes event at the Meadowlands. The trainer and part-owner of the gifted son of Rocknroll Hanover was on his way from his farm in Ohio to Hoosier Park to race an overnight horse and had time to talk about the coming year.

For Mulinix, who at 60 years of age has spent his entire career within the Buckeye State, A Rocknroll Dance has given him an opportunity to see what the grass was like on the other side. Indeed this is a dream horse and perhaps no better person to care for him than someone who can appreciate the results of years of hard work with minimal reward. So with the season about to commence the subject of A Rocknroll Dance’s stakes path came up and Mulinix had this to say: “He’s going to go in the Sire Stakes at the Meadowlands and then we’ll see.”

In other words, the plan is there is no plan. The veteran conditioner doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.  He does expect to be at Mohawk (June 16) for the $1.5 million North America Cup and he does anticipate being at the Meadowlands July 14 for the Meadowlands Pace. But for now he’ll take it one step and one week at a time.

“There are a lot of very good horses out there," said Mulinix. "I’ve got to see if we make it to the final of the New Jersey Sire Stakes then I have to decide whether to go in the Somebeachsomewhere (formerly Burllington) at Mohawk or the Sire Stakes final."

In one sentence you could hear that Mulinix is not full of himself. He’s spent way too much time in this sport to get overconfident, even when he’s training a horse with the talent of A Rocknroll Dance. Last year A Rocknroll Dance came very close to winning the Metro and finished second behind divisional champion Sweet Lou in the Breeders Crown, yet to little surprise he was ranked at the top of the three-year-old division in the USTA-Trackmaster ratings.

With the rating has come extreme interest in the colt. Mulinix and his partner Denny Miller sold a percentage of the horse last year to popular owner Jerry Silva and his wife Terry. Now with the dawn of his sophomore season upon him there is even greater interest from those in the breeding business. “There’s nothing I can say right now,” said Mulinix, "but we are talking with people.”

Just look at the impressive credentials. A Rocknroll Dance earned $863,325 as a juvenile capturing seven of 11 races and finishing second three times. He took a 1:49 1/5 mark in an elimination to the Metro and then finished out his brilliant campaign by capturing the Governor’s Cup at Chester.

This year Mulinix surprised many experts when he entered the horse in a qualifying race in early April. Generally horses of this caliber wait until mid-May to get started.

“We didn’t let him down that much over the winter," said Mulinix. "It was a very mild winter and we didn’t miss any time. He’s such a good-feeling horse I needed to let him go a trip.”

A Rocknroll Dance qualified in 1:55 4/5 on April 7 and then returned four weeks later to go a 1:53 2/5 effort at Hoosier Park. That should have him fit and ready for his debut.

In a sport dominated by a handful of trainers with rather large stables, A Rocknroll Dance may be battling the odds. “They can send their horses anywhere and have them taken care of," Mulinix said. "Wherever A Rocknroll Dance goes I’ll be with him."

Indeed the sophomore is likely to return to Ohio between races. That is something that could work to his advantage. “He gets out in the field for a few hours each day,” said Mulinix.

Where Mulinix believes he has an advantage over his rivals is in the shoeing. “I don’t like to shoe my two-year-olds too finely," he said. "I need to keep them sharp but I don’t like to overdo it. Now that he’s filled out and matured I think he can handle a little finer shoeing.”

Another area where Mulinix may have an edge is in the race bike. Last year all the sulky companies attempted to lure him into using their brand. A special bike was manufactured specifically to fit the rather extra large frame of A Rocknroll Dance.

“I’m not going to let a driver dictate what kind of bike this horse should have,” he said.

To assure the most options available this racing season, Mulinix insisted that his horse be made eligible to as many races as possible and even spent money on stakes that had conflicting dates with others.

“I wanted to give him every chance to do well," he said. "If for some reason he didn’t make the final of one race I wanted to be sure he could make something the next week.”

Surprisingly Mulinix believes he’s a better trainer because of A Rocknroll Dance. “Having a horse like this made me a better horseman," Mulinix said. "I couldn’t make a mistake with him. It is hard to find areas for him to improve he’s so fundamentally sound."

One of Mulinix’s favorite quotes is by the late Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden who said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

But Mulinix has learned an awful lot about this business since purchasing A Rocknroll Dance at Harrisburg in November of 2010 for a paltry $15,000.  At first after the hammer struck down, Mulinix thought maybe he had missed something that other more experienced yearling buyers had seen. In the last 18 months it has been others wondering how they could have missed out on this son of Rocknroll Hanover from the great maternal family of Western Hanover.

Some of the leading sophomore pacers may be in the lineup this Saturday at the Meadowlands. Many have qualified faster than A Rocknroll Dance. The canvas looks very similar to a year ago following A Rocknroll Dance’s only off-the-board performance, an eighth place finish in the Woodrow Wilson. Then, in his next start he shattered the world record with his 1:49 1/5 effort at 20-1.

So expect A Rocknroll Dance to be ready.

The late Dick Clark would proudly rate him No. 1 With a bullet.