04/28/2014 12:37PM

Bergman: Ryder hopes pedigree equals success

Derick Giwner
Odds On Amethyst (pictured with trainer Chris Ryder) bested top Hambletonian contender Father Patrick in a 1:54 1/5 qualifying mile at the Meadowlands.

Collectively, the sport of harness racing doesn’t hope lightning will strike twice.

We expect it.

Whether it’s breeding champions to champions with the assumption that a superstar will develop, or looking for brothers or sisters of great ones to be identical, if not better the second time around, those who play in this world expect lightning more than hope for it.

Expectations in some way were realized on Saturday night when the sum of two former Horse of the Year winners captured the Blue Chip Matchmaker at Yonkers Raceway. Somwherovrarainbow was expected to be a great one from birth. She was at two, a little less at three and now on her way back to the top. When you breed 2008 Horse of the Year Somebeachsomewhere to 2004’s winner Rainbow Blue, it can happen.

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On Saturday morning, another horse with similarly high pedigree won for the first time in 2014. Yes, it was just a qualifying race, no purse and essentially no real meaning for many. But perhaps there is a foreshadowing of what is to come with the three-year-old debut of Odds On Amethyst.

The horse is not new to this column in that I too wish to believe that there is potential and probability that when you breed 2009’s Horse of the Year Muscle Hill to a nearly $1.9 million-winning mare by the name of Mystical Sunshine, you end up with a trotter with a 1:50 speed pedigree.

The fact that Odds On Amethyst was purchased and moved into Chris Ryder’s stable late last year is indicative of the thought process behind the “Lightning” syndrome. That’s because, who better to deal with a son of Mystical Sunshine than the trainer who authored her successful career?

Last year the gelding showed hints of serious talent in the midst of miscues and misfortunes that ultimately led to his departure from one stable and into another.

Yet patience is a virtue and if you own, train or even drive trotters, patience is essential if you’re going to reach for the stars.

“I was happy with his trip,” said Ryder of the 1:54 1/5 mile trotted on the front end by Odds On Amethyst on Saturday morning. The trainer is way too wise and way too cautious to get ahead of himself. You see, Odds On Amethyst finished ahead (you don’t actually beat another horse in a qualifier) of everybody’s Hambletonian future favorite Father Patrick.

“I thought he came back to Tim (Tetrick) well when he took a hold of him,” said Ryder about the qualifying mile. “I think the track was a little soft at the time and to be honest, he hadn’t trained that well coming up to this.”

Ryder’s apprehension going into the qualifier aside, Odds On Amethyst could prove to be a better three-year-old if we’re to believe that he’ll follow his mother historically. Mystical Sunshine did in fact go winless in her 10 starts as a two-year-old in 2003 but was second on five occasions.

Odds On Amethyst did win twice in 2013, but he closed the campaign with breaks in three of his last four starts. Though he won in stakes action at the Red Mile in the fall—a 1:54 2/5 mile—it was hard to put him in the same breath with Father Patrick, a horse that beat him by a full 10 lengths in the William Wellwood Memorial two weeks prior to his Lexington victory.

Ryder knows whom Odds On Amethyst finished ahead of in Saturday’s qualifier, but he’s not interested in taking on Father Patrick in the coming weeks. Instead he will look for an overnight race at the Meadowlands. “We need to get him some experience and he needs to show more consistency,” said Ryder of his Hambletonian eligible gelding.

The trainer has a host of other Muscle Hill’s in his stable and despite the disappointment on Saturday when Dexter Cup favorite Well Built made a miscue, there is still considerable optimism that the stallion will be a success and that Ryder will be instrumental in helping that cause along. “Well Built got a little jammed up going through the first turn,” said Ryder of the colt that earned over $100,000 in his first year of racing.

Both Odds On Amethyst and Well Built are Hambletonian eligible. The two are likely to be in the lineup on May 16, the first round of New Jersey Sire Stakes action at the Meadowlands.

Perhaps the best news to come out of the Ryder camp on Saturday was that I Luv The Nitelife is nearly ready to turn the corner and go back into serious training. “She’s been swimming and everything looks great,” said Ryder. “The X-rays came out fine.”

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The four-year-old superstar has come back sound from injury and Ryder believes she’ll be ready for racing action in June or perhaps July. Her presence will certainly add to an extraordinary group of aged pacing mares currently racing.

“I’d love to get her back out there,” said Ryder of what will soon be training miles for I Luv The Nitelife and hopefully lead to major stakes action later this summer.

Martini Hanover is another four-year-old in the Ryder stable that could make an impact in 2014. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Dragon Again has made the most of limited action as a two- and three-year-old. He returned to the races on Sunday and came from well back to score at Harrah’s Philadelphia in a 1:52 flat mile. “We’ve got him staked well this year,” said Ryder, with hope that Martini Hanover can improve with age like a few of those other Dragon Agains.

With some 40 horses in training, Ryder has plenty to look forward to on the racetrack this year, but like most who breed and race horses, there’s always the thought that lightning will strike again.

“My mare just had a filly by Muscle Hill,” said Ryder of the first foal daughter of Starglow Hall, a trotting filly he raced successfully in the New York Sire Stakes program.