03/09/2017 10:19AM

Bergman: Sortie pointing to the Hambletonian in 2017

Nikki Sherman
Sortie finished third in the 2016 Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old colt trotters.

Last October trainer Noel Daley was extremely optimistic about his 2-year-old trotter Sortie. Heading into the Breeders Crown at The Meadowlands, Daley believed the son of Explosive Matter was on schedule and ready for the moment. A victory in the Crown elimination may have been a surprise to some, but the trainer had confidence his horse would perform.

A week later in the final, Sortie didn’t have the same fire as odds-on favorite Walner waltzed to victory and the Daley trainee had to settle for third.

With a light stakes schedule, Sortie finished out his season with a second-place finish in the Matron at Dover, something Daley had not expected.

“I really thought he should have been better and won the Matron. Take nothing away from Snowstorm Hanover,” Daley said. “I just thought we had the better horse.”

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Sortie finished his freshman campaign with more than $122K in the bank and a 1:55 mark taken in the Breeders Crown elimination. With two wins in eight starts some could be disappointed, but Daley is looking ahead and not back. He sees the potential for a big year in 2017.

“I definitely see him as a top five horse in all the major stakes races,” Daley said of Sortie, who is back in training and on schedule.

“I trained him in (2):20 the other day and he’s acting well,” Daley said.

Sortie is eligible in Pennsylvania and that could be a starting point, but sights are set higher.

“He’s a big athletic horse. Sometimes he can be aggressive and hard to settle,” Daley said of Sortie, a colt that made breaks in three of his first four races before catching on towards the end of the season.

For Daley, this could be déjà vu all over again, as it was for Sortie’s sire Explosive Matter during his 3-year-old campaign. The sire had to deal with the unbeatable Muscle Hill during his sophomore season and it appears as if Sortie will have to go through the impressive Walner if he’s to garner headlines in 2017.

“The plan is to have him ready for the big races,” Daley said. “But you never know how that’s going to work itself out.”

Indeed, history suggests that despite the best efforts of the top trainers and drivers, it’s the horses that tell the story and sometimes they have good days and other times bad ones.

While Explosive Matter couldn’t beat Muscle Hill on the racetrack, he does have the edge when it comes to being the stallion counterpart to Sortie’s mom. Sortie, a $65,000 yearling purchase at the Lexington Selected sale in 2015, was the fifth foal from Win B, a daughter of Tagliabue. The mare’s fourth foal was a son of Muscle Hill that was a 2-year-old winner but earned less than $10K in his racing career.

Win B was a solid stakes winner for Bob Blanton Jr. and captured the Currier & Ives in 2004, among a host of wins in Pennsylvania that year.

Sortie is heavily staked but Daley appears to be taking a conservative track towards the first Saturday in August, at least that’s what it appears at this stage of the season. “I think we’ll skip the Goodtimes (June) with him but have him eligible for the Canadian Trotting Classic (September),” said Daley, obviously wanting to keep Sortie close to home prior to the Hambletonian date in August.

With the trotting stakes season still a few months ahead, Daley has been having great success in the early portion of the year, especially with the pacing mare he owns outright, Delightful Dragon. The 6-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight was bred and owned by Adam Victor & Son through her early career but was purchased by Daley and the late William Weaver III in January of 2015.

Delightful Dragon had generations of Daley’s personal involvement. She’s a daughter of Little Miss Dragon, a winner of more than $750K during her brilliant racing career under Daley’s care.

After winning nearly six-figures last season, Delightful Dragon has kicked off the first two months of 2017 impressively with two wins in seven starts and more than $50,000 in the bank.