07/13/2015 11:42AM

Bergman: Plenty still left ‘In The Arsenal’

Derick Giwner
In The Arsenal is the 3-1 second choice for Saturday's Meadowlands Pace final.

Six consecutive weeks of heated racing is enough to wear down even the most gifted racehorses. While the leaders in the coveted 3-year-old male pacing division have been duking it out, one horse has been trying to conserve energy for the long season. Following Saturday night’s Meadowlands Pace trials there is every reason to believe that trainer Kelvin Harrison has been pointing In The Arsenal for this one.

“I think Brian (driver Sears) has been trying to protect him,” said Harrison. “I think in the Hempt eliminations he probably would have been better off regaining (from race-winner Artspeak), but he didn’t.”

Sears took the gloves off so to speak on Saturday seating Artspeak on the first turn and rolling home to a powerful 1:49 1/5 effort while appearing to have something to spare.

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“I think he’s coming into this race as good as he can be,” said Harrison of In The Arsenal. “You would think after racing hard all of these weeks in a row that he couldn’t maintain his edge. But if you looked at him in the stall before the race he was ready.”

What In The Arsenal has lacked in this division has been what some may think is the killer instinct. Though he did capture the Rooney earlier this year, he didn’t draw away from any horses. In his North America Cup elimination victory he met challenges but didn’t leave anyone in the dust. On Saturday, he showed a new wrinkle to his game as Sears let the son of American Ideal pace hard the final quarter and the 25 3/5 sprint appeared effortless.

The trainer knows that In The Arsenal still has some quirks. Driver Brian Sears said after the third-place finish in the Hempt at Mohegan Sun Pocono on July 4 that he would have preferred racing without cover as opposed to following it.

“It’s hard to get him to relax when he’s following another horse,” said Sears. “I think if I could have gone first-up he would have been different.”

Indeed, what separates In The Arsenal from many of the top horses racing today is that he doesn’t seem to like following horses. On a few occasions this year Sears has tried to conserve the colt’s energy and in the process been forced to jam him up. That’s why he’s not looked full of pace even from spots where one would expect him to fire strongly.

“He’s just not a finished product as a racehorse,” Harrison said. “There are still some things he hasn’t worked out.”

That in itself is rather scary considering how good In The Arsenal has been to date and how long the 3-year-old season will eventually be.

“I have a lot of respect for Jim’s (King, Wakizashi Hanover) horse and I know Wiggle It Jiggleit is a very fast horse,” said Harrison. “I really don’t think much of Artspeak.”

Harrison has been around long enough to know what it takes to win at the highest levels and he’s quite happy to have someone with the savvy of Sears in the sulky. However, what’s surprising about In The Arsenal is that Harrison is not looking for a trip with this horse.

“Ideally I would like to see him get away well and then come first up,” said Harrison, asking for a trip that most would think has no chance of success in a race such as the $706,000 Meadowlands Pace. Yet the trainer believes that In The Arsenal is at his best when racing without cover.

“I just think he’s more relaxed out there and he knows what he has to do,” said Harrison.

Now a winner in 11 of 19 career starts, In The Arsenal, an essentially unwanted $7,500 purchase as a yearling, has a chance to go over the $1 million mark in earnings with a victory this Saturday night. What he has shown throughout his career is the ability to go with any horse and stay competitive right to the wire. A race such as the Meadowlands Pace will require four strong quarters and plenty of heart to capture.

While Wiggle It Jiggleit, the other elimination winner, and North America Cup champion Wakizashi Hanover have already scored major victories, Harrison likes the horse he’s sending out on Saturday. “I wouldn’t trade him for any other horse,” said Harrison.

JAYWALKING: If there was one takeaway from Saturday’s Meadowlands card it was that the racetrack was extremely fast. The first ever sub-1:50 mile for trotters at the Meadowlands was no surprise, but it was a bit shocking to see Shake It Cerry become the first trotting mare to be timed under 1:50 with her nose defeat in the 1:49 4/5 world record of JL Cruze.

You could tell early in that Graduate final that Father Patrick was not the same horse he’s been throughout his brilliant career. John Campbell, guiding JL Cruze, expected Father Patrick to be following him when he brushed to the front on the backstretch, but unlike an earlier Graduate leg Father Patrick did not follow. Instead he languished on the rim eventually providing decent cover for Shake It Cerry but as no threat to the winner.

As a fan of trotting, this is such a great time of the year with 3-year-olds in full bloom and aged horses showing their absolute finest, but to me there’s nothing better than watching the first-year trotters in stakes action around the country. Trainer Jim Campbell never likes to talk about his youngsters, but Broadway Donna, a Fashion Farms homebred, has spoken volumes for him on the racetrack in just a few starts. The Donato Hanover-sired filly is undefeated in three starts after capturing a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division at The Meadows on Friday for catch-driver David Miller. The filly is the second foal from 2009 Hambletonian Oaks winner Broadway Schooner. The dam is a full sister to the freakishly fast Cooler Schooner.

Trainer Ray Schnittker has a pretty solid filly in Windowshopper, another Donato Hanover filly that he compared to his champion Check Me Out. Windowshopper scored by a narrow margin in her Pennsylvania Sire Stakes effort, a 1:56 2/5 mile.

The Anette Lorentzon-trained Ultimate Shopper, a $140,000 purchase last fall, finished explosively in her first career start missing a nose to the Schnittker trainee. Ultimate Shopper is by Yankee Glide and she appears to have a beautiful gait and speed to match.

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