02/02/2018 4:19PM

Bergman: Pelling seeing things differently in his North American return

USTA Photo
Brett Pelling trained 2005 Horse of the Year Rocknroll Hanover.

Much has changed since trainer Brett Pelling left the States to return home to Australia a dozen years ago. An elite trainer at the time of his move after the 2005 racing season, Pelling wanted his children to be brought up in his native land. Last year Pelling returned to this country with a hope of rebuilding his stable.

“It’s my family,” Pelling said in response to why he has returned.

From a training perspective, Pelling was open as to how he had anticipated some of his former owners would react. “I had an idea that I could position myself to prepare and train the top 3-year-olds,” said Pelling. “I wasn’t looking to take horses away from anyone.”

That initial option fell pretty much on deaf ears in 2017 as many of his former owners spoke to Pelling but few came forward offering a sophomore of substance to train.

Pelling wasn’t disheartened or disillusioned by the lack of movement and still hopes that some will see him as a fitting option. Historically he’s mastered the developmental part of many a horses’ career and kept top horses like 2005 Horse of the Year Rocknroll Hanover at peak form when the races mattered most.

Pelling, who will be 60 in July, clearly doesn’t want to go back into the same business model he was successful at back in the late ‘90’s, with a large stable of racehorses, stakes horses and claimers.

“I have 22 horses right now at White Birch,” Pelling said. “There’s room for 27 stalls and I would be comfortable with that number. If I get to that point and the right horse comes along, I’ll move one out.”

Always someone who thinks outside the box, Pelling embarked on his own mission of sorts a few years back with a distinct eye on buying yearlings and giving them as much time to develop as possible.

“I bought two yearlings each in the last three years,” said Pelling. “They were for myself and I was determined to give them as much time as necessary to develop into racehorses. I didn’t stake any of them so there was no pressure to get them to the races early.”

The first two in the line are both 4-year-olds in 2018 and they are among the four horses Pelling will race this weekend at The Meadowlands. Sing Along, a $10,000 initial purchase that debuted in the fall of 2017 and earned over $25,000 in limited action. Sing Along drew post sixth and is at 7-2 in the fourth race Friday night at The Meadowlands.

On Saturday night Pelling will send out Pepper Guy, originally a $37,000 buy, Pepper Guy has matured over time as well and has won five races in a row moving slowly up the conditioned ladder.

Pepper Guy is an altered son of Well Said and a half-brother to the successful El Bloombito.

“I think he’s a real nice horse that needed time,” said Pelling. “I really think this is a good way to go for a trainer that wants to own horses. The cost of staking these horses is so high and it puts added pressure on getting them to the races at 2.”

Pelling, who has trained for many breeding farms, cautioned that it’s not the type of strategy that would endear him to many of those farms but at the same time he felt it was in the industry’s long-term benefit to treat the horses properly.

The 5-year-old Awesomeness made his Pelling debut last Saturday night at The Meadowlands, a fifth-place finish. “I thought he gave a nice run at the end,” said Pelling.

Owner Martin Scharf entrusted Pelling with Awesomeness, a horse that could be headed to the Levy series or beyond. “At this moment I’m not sure whether the six straight weeks of the Levy is best for him,” said Pelling. “We’re going to test him out the next few weeks to see how he does. I think he’s a horse that you could see in some of the big FFA races.”

Awesomeness drew post six in the $20,000 Preferred Handicap, race seven of 13 on Saturday’s Meadowlands program. First post is 6:35 p.m.