05/06/2016 3:16PM

Bergman: Norman takes aim at Elitlopp Playoff with Bee A Magician

Derick Giwner
Bee A Magician is the 9-5 morning line favorite in Sunday's Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff.

There’s a race coming up on Mothers’ Day at The Meadowlands that will bring together the best trotters in training, with the victor to receive an invitation to the prestigious Elitlopp. Trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman has the logical favorite for that race in the 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician. The 6-year-old mare makes her second start of this campaign on Sunday but her trainer didn’t think she’d be traveling very far afterwards.

“I think when it comes to her I want to do everything I can to keep her fresh,” said Norman. “A lot of shipping tends to take something out of her so I want to try to manage her the right way.”

For Norman, his relationship with the daughter of Kadabra has been an extra special one and anytime you are entrusted with the care of a horse of this caliber you want to do the right thing.

[ MEADOWLANDS: Watch the best trotters in North America compete in the Elitlopp Playoff.]

“I think we’ve found out that she responds better with less training. I think she’s best when she can have a little extra weight on her,” said Norman. The key being to keep the mare as content as possible and that her attitude and competitiveness will do the rest once on the racetrack.

Bee A Magician has indeed done that for her owners Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee during a career that has seen her win 42 of 66 starts with earnings likely to eclipse $4 million in the not too distant future.

“We’d like to win the big ones,” said Norman. “The International is worth $1 million and The Maple Leaf Trot is on our radar.”

The trainer would like to see Bee A Magician race with the girls primarily but won’t be dodging the males in key races throughout the season.

After going undefeated during her 3-year-old season, Bee A Magician had a bit of a 4-year-old slump. She rebounded in a major way last year, capturing the Maple Leaf Trot and finishing first or second in 15 of her 18 starts. Norman recognized she wasn’t herself towards the end of the year but didn’t believe the number of starts was as big an issue as some other minor issues that kept the powerful mare from being at her best.

“I think we’re looking for the same number of starts this year,” said Norman looking ahead. “I would like to limit the amount she travels.”

For some horses long ships can be just as grueling as a difficult race and Norman has seen the difference first hand. What he’s also had the rare good fortune to witness is just how much different Bee A Magician is from the moment he broke her to harness as a yearling until today.

“It’s really amazing how different she is today. It’s like night and day. She was big from the start but she’s really grown and filled out,” said Norman. “I don’t think she’s ever been better than she is right now.”

While it’s hard to believe a horse could be better than Bee A Magician has been in the past, it’s still within reason to accept that maturity can improve a horse. Unfortunately the demands of racing in these times often finds our horses losing steam over time as opposed to the opposite.

Bee A Magician’s competition in 2016 lost some of its power with Breeders Crown winner Creatine’s recent retirement, but Norman is not taking anything for granted no matter how good he thinks his mare will be.

“There are some very good horses out there. JL Cruze and Shake It Cerry are pretty solid. I’m not so sure what will happen with Pinkman. It’s really difficult to race a 4-year-old against older company,” Norman said.

Now a 5-year-old, JL Cruze has come back extremely well for trainer Eric Ell and will have the post position advantage in Sunday’s $150,000 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff on the special matinee program at The Meadowlands. The gelding landed the rail position with Bee A Magician starting from post seven. Also in the field is last year’s TVG champ Resolve (post 4) and TVG Mare champion Shake It Cerry (post 9).

Looking down the road just a bit, Norman will not shy away from competition or the half-mile track.

“She’s very good on the half,” said Norman. “We’ll probably go to Northfield for the Cleveland Trotting Classic (July 2).”

While some harness fans would love to see Bee A Magician race in Sweden at the end of this month, her trainer was more wary of the pitfalls of past horses that have shipped overseas for the Elitlopp and have lost time and sharpness upon returning.

“It’s a tough race with two heats. They want you to use an American driver and it’s pretty tough getting acclimated to their style of racing,” said Norman, clearly cognizant of the different racing styles and how difficult it can be for a North American-based driver to deal with the kind of obstacles that can be thrown at you when racing on foreign soil.

As for the rest of Norman’s stable, the trainer who essentially low-keys almost all of his untested horses gave a surprising shout out to a 2-year-old trotting filly he has in training.

“I have a Muscle Hill sister to Bee A Magician that I like,” said Norman. “It’s hard to believe that two horses could be so identical, but they are. The Muscle Hill filly is big like her sister and has the same mannerisms.”

Please Beehave is the name of the White Birch Farms homebred that Norman called “a bitch just like her sister” with a good deal of admiration.

Please Beehave has trained down to 2:20 with Norman and company keeping a watchful eye on her to stay on course. The good news is that they have plenty of Bee A Magician’s data to work with while hopefully cultivating a new young star for the sport.