02/22/2017 10:52AM

Bergman: Soderberg sees Bar Hopping as the complete package

Nikki Sherman
Bar Hopping with his driver Tim Tetrick.

The last six months have been brilliant for Bar Hopping. The 4-year-old son of Muscle Hill rose to prominence in the sophomore division at the end of 2016 and then almost immediately caught the fancy of trotting breeders with a full book of mares arriving before February.

Predicting the future of standardbreds is part of the fun of the sport, but finding a trotter that can succeed on the racetrack requires plenty of work before the first harness is ever put on.

Perry Soderberg, a man who has spent the better part of the last 18 to 19 years examining yearlings primarily for trainer Jimmy Takter, knows a great deal about seeking out and finding horses that fit the mold.

“I like to go in with a clean slate,” said Soderberg in regard to his approach to the yearling market. “I just want to know the hip number, nothing else.”

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Soderberg knows all too well how biased we all can be, especially when looking for yearlings. There’s no secret that most horsemen will look at brothers, sisters and close relatives to horses they have had success with. Soderberg takes a far different approach. He painstakingly goes through horse by horse to examine them first in their stalls and then alone in the field.

“I want to look at them for their conformation,” said Soderberg, “But I think you can see a lot more when they are out in the field moving; whether they have a good attitude and a good gait.”

For his part, Soderberg spotted Bar Hopping at Walnridge Farms in New Jersey in 2014 and was quite impressed. “He was my number one prospect that year,” said Soderberg of Bar Hopping. “He was long-legged, had a great shoulder and great girth.”

Soderberg does eventually look at pedigree and wasn’t all that unhappy when he saw the parents of Bar Hopping. “I liked that he was a Muscle Hill,” said Soderberg. “Out of a Credit Winner dam that is from the family of Garland Lobell. You see the impact Garland Lobell has had on the sport.”

Soderberg was referring to the sire of Andover Hall, Conway Hall and Angus Hall, perhaps the most influential stallion on the trotting breed of the last 20 years.

Bar Hopping was a $190,000 yearling purchase and proved a competitive horse as a 2-year-old in 2015, but blossomed into something more impressive as a sophomore.

With nine wins in 19 starts, Bar Hopping’s career earnings rose to nearly $1.3 million over the two seasons on the racetrack.

While Marion Marauder may have captured the Triple Crown, Bar Hopping was never far behind and often in front of the divisional winner.

Remarkably consistent and extremely versatile, Bar Hopping was at his best late in the season capturing the Breeders Crown, but was just as imposing taking home top honors in the Canadian Trotting Classic, a victory where he was well clear of the aforementioned Marion Marauder on the wire.

Bar Hopping’s first year popularity should come as no surprise. Muscle Hill is the hottest trotting commodity not just in North America but likely abroad as well. At a $6,500 stud fee, he came in well below the price of his unreachable sire. More importantly, to those who look for the next generation to be more refined, is his accessibility to a wide range of trotting blood on the broodmare’s side. At the forefront of any stallion is correctness and physical appearance.

“If he can pass on those traits he’ll do very well,” said Soderberg, who may have a hard time seeing Bar Hopping’s foals in the future without knowing “who’s the daddy”.

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