02/25/2013 10:20AM

Bergman: A Rocknroll Dance, Warrawee Needy among what looks like a strong 4-year-old pacing class

Derick Giwner
A Rocknroll Dance won the Meadowlands Pace and over $1 million last year, but lost his last 11 races.

For some four-year-old pacers, 2013 may become more important than the past two years. A bumper crop hit the scene in 2011 and last year’s three-year-old pacing events on the colt side proved incredibly spirited. While some might argue that there were no “great” horses in the crop, it’s easy to take a position that there were many potentially great ones that just had the misfortune of racing against others of equal caliber.

To some Sweet Lou and A Rocknroll Dance were disappointments. But to others, myself included, they were the proverbial straw that mixed the drink of an intoxicating band of side-wheelers. In the end it proved difficult to crown a king and thanks to modern rules we’ll get to see this crop once again this year.

Jim Mulinix, trainer and part-owner of A Rocknroll Dance, was nearly as spent as his horse at year's end in 2012. Although the Meadowlands Pace winner and Battle of the Brandywine victor earned over $1 million on the year, he also managed to lose his last 11 races.

Is that greatness?

“There were just a lot of bad posts and a lot of tough trips,” said Mulinix the other day while on a scouting mission in Ohio helping friends look for the right stallion to breed their mares to. “This horse has always been very sound, but I think by years end he was getting kind of mixed up not knowing when to relax."

A Rocknroll Dance was kept out a little longer this winter than a year earlier and has returned to training. He figures to be ready to qualify some time in April and then should be ready for all of the major events.

A winner just four times last year, A Rocknroll Dance will likely need some major victories this year to become a serious stallion consideration, but to one man he’s proven enough.

“After going around and visiting all of these stallions in Ohio and then returning to see my horse, I honestly don’t see one that looks better,” said Mulinix.

With Ohio joining the ranks of the racino industry, A Rocknroll Dance may be the perfect horse to breed to in 2014, but for now he’ll look to do his business on the racetrack.

“One thing that I’m concerned about is getting a driver. That was something that we found out late last year. I don’t blame Yannick (Gingras) for going elsewhere. It really wouldn’t be fair to him to have him skipping drives elsewhere to come drive and the horse not race well,” said Mulinix. “This year I think it might be tougher to lock down a driver since most of them will likely commit to a three-year-old.”

As far as what version of A Rocknroll Dance we will see this year, the trainer has seen a change in the horse that few would ever notice.

“It’s a funny thing," said Mulinix, “but this horse had a habit at two and three of just stumbling and falling while jogging. He would do it out of nowhere and you had to be prepared for that. I was always worried that he would do it while scoring down before a big race but thankfully that didn’t happen. I haven’t seen a trace of that this year so maybe he’s grown out of it.”

The thought that A Rocknroll Dance went through so many difficult miles and is coming back better than the last two years could be frightening to the competition. That is if those in this class weren’t up to a battle or two.

This past Thursday another would-be great one by the name of Warrawee Needy made his first ever appearance at the Meadowlands in a qualifier. The Ontario-bred son of E Dees Cam showed scary speed from the outset of his three-year-old campaign, something many experts believe got him in trouble. His trainer Carl Jamieson contended that the horse suffered from some allergy problems, but those who watched him qualify and then go two wicked first halves in the North America Cup trials and final probably believed the tough miles took a negative toll on the horse.

Warrawee Needy did return to be a very solid horse late last year and now he’s arrived in the States with an eye on the Aquarius series for four-year-olds at the Meadowlands that begins this Saturday with a $35,000 opening round.

Of the 17 eligible, Warrawee Needy clearly sticks out as the class. There will be some Exit 16W horses including champion Mr Dennis in the lineup, but it would be very difficult to put that horse on the same plateau as Warrawee Needy and do it with a straight face.

Mark Ford will train Warrawee Needy while he’s in this country and was more than impressed with his qualifier.

“He’s ready to go,” said Ford who has had a good working relationship with Carl Jamieson since the days he campaigned a stable in Ontario. “This horse can go a quarter in :25 seconds and then back off and pace in :33 without missing a step,” said Ford.

Like A Rocknroll Dance, Warrawee Needy won only four times as a three-year-old after a spectacular two-year-old season in 2011.

The two horses will both sidestep the Levy series at Yonkers Raceway for different reasons. A Rocknroll Dance will not be ready to go in time and Warrawee Needy will be returning to Ontario to breed a few mares before returning to racing action late spring.

With four-year-olds like Heston Blue Chip, Sweet Lou, Bolt The Duer, Hurrikane Kingcole, Panther Hanover and Canada’s best Michaels Power all returning to action this year, the competition level is going to be fierce.

Of course that doesn’t mean that Mulinix and his favorite horse won’t emerge as a leader again.

“I’m going to be able to do things a little differently. I’m going to be able to train him a little differently. In the end it will be a success if he can go out there and break a few track records,” said Mulinix.

There’s a feeling that more than a few track records are going to be shattered by the four-year-old corps of the aged pacing brigade.