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Breeders Crown: Speedy Hurrikane Kingcole hopes for better luck
It’s been a rocky road for the connections of Hurrikane Kingcole this year. The brilliantly fast three-year-old pacer has at times looked like a world beater. Then there were the times when he would simply beat himself.
Trainer John McDermott planned out a three-year-old season for his $10,000 bargain basement purchase with a mindset to race the colt from off the pace. With as much speed as the Cam’s Card Shark-sired colt possessed, McDermott was well aware that “Kingcole” was virtually impossible to slow down or rate once he got fired up.
McDermott had his drivers stick to the plan for much of the early campaign. His decision led to some impressive victories and some disappointing defeats. An impressive 1:48 1/5 winner in a Max Hempt elimination at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in June was followed by disappointment when the odds-on favorite finished sixth a week later, the victim of an overland trip.
The commitment to race from off the pace left Hurrikane Kingcole at the mercy of the post draw for the Meadowlands Pace. The trainer took it safe, racing from behind again despite landing post eight. The decision left the colt a hair short in finishing sixth, and earned a trip for the consolation instead of the rich final.
McDermott put up Yannick Gingras to guide his colt in the Meadowlands Pace consolation. The reinsman had a commitment to A Rocknroll Dance but with that colt in the final there would be no conflict on this evening. With an inside draw, Hurrikane Kingcole was able to relax from off the pace without losing much ground to the speed. The opening half was briskly paced in :53
4/5 with Gingras waiting patiently. Once the driver called on the horse, the move was quick and devastating. Hurrikane Kingcole was airborne sprinting around his rivals and opening up to a personal best 1:47 3/5 mile.
With another bad draw in the Del Miller Adios at The Meadows, Hurrikane Kingcole barely qualified for the final, but his connections elected to pass and bring the colt back to the Meadowlands for the SBOA New Jersey Classic, theoretically an easier race.
The colt won his elimination with Gingras guiding him in almost identical fashion to the victory in the Meadowlands Pace consolation.
Hurrikane Kingcole landed post five for the final and that’s where the driver and trainer had a discussion.
“Yannick thought he could float out with the horse to get early position without hurting him,” said McDermott.
In the $275,000 final of the Classic held on Hambletonian Day, Gingras did attempt to float out to the lead. The :26 3/5 opening quarter seemed to unfold under a legitimate hold, but after getting the lead Gingras and the horse appeared to have nothing in common.
Hurrikane Kingcole was a virtual runaway, pacing the fastest three-quarter mile clocking in the sport’s history. The 1:18 2/5 on the teletimer didn’t give the colt much separation from pocket-sitting Panther Hanover and in the deep stretch that colt wore down the speedster to win in 1:47 2/5.
McDermott and company were then faced with another dilemma a few weeks later when Hurrikane Kingcole drew post two in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Gingras was committed to drive A Rocknroll Dance and McDermott selected Dan Dube to guide his horse.
“I spoke with Yannick before the race and he told me he thought maybe the horse would be better if Danny kept him a half-length off the gate at the start,” recalled McDermott. “There’s one place I didn’t want to be in that race and that was the three-hole. There was no way he could win from that spot,” he continued.
While Dube tried to leave with patience there were outside leavers in Sweet Lou and A Rocknroll Dance that made it impossible for him to not turn his horse loose. The result was predictable in that Hurrikane Kingcole set fractions of :25 3/5, :52 3/5 and 1:20 1/5 on his way to setting the table for the rest of the field. The colt tired and finished sixth, with A Rocknroll Dance claiming first prize in 1:48 1/5.
“Dave Palone (driver of Sweet Lou) knew if my colt got started up he would be tough to slow down so he pushed the pace,” said McDermott about the Battle of the Brandywine debacle.
The trainer had planned to give his horse some time off after the Battle, and that’s what happened, although a high white-blood count put the colt’s remaining races in question for some time.
“He actually had a high red count and a high white count,” said McDermott. “The red count returned to normal, but the white count lingered and it didn’t come down until right before he qualified at Freehold (September 27).”
McDermott and Hurrikane Kingcole appear to be on the same page at this stage of the campaign. The colt was most impressive in his final tune-up for the Crown with a 1:49 smoker on a cold and unusually windy night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs this past Saturday.
“I really believe this horse is going to be different and better at four and five,” said McDermott. “Right now you can’t slow him down after you start him up, but I think over time he’ll learn to go fast and be able to relax.”
As far as the Breeders Crown is concerned, the trainer knows his fortunes lay in the hands of the post position Gods, but he’s not stressing about that.
“He’s got the Crown and the Monument Circle (Indiana Downs Nov. 3), the American National and the Windy City,” McDermott said.
Despite the disappointment of having a colt earn just over $200,000 when there was so much money available, McDermott still knows he has a horse that is capable of earning plenty of money for a long time to come.
“People ask me if it’s frustrating to have a horse like this,” said McDermott, “What’s frustrating is to have a horse that can’t break 2:40 no matter how hard you try to make him go. This colt is a pleasure to be around and I can’t tell you how many people came up to me in Lexington to talk about him. Carter Duer told me the only horse he’d ever seen that had a gait to match Hurrikane Kingcole’s was Jenna’s Beach Boy. That meant a lot to me,” said McDermott.
While the trainer is somewhat realistic about his chances in the Breeders Crown at Woodbine, no one should lose sight that the colt did finish third in last year’s final event at Woodbine and also closed impressively from the back of the pack in his elimination over the same “speed-favoring” surface.
Hurrikane Kingcole drew post eight in the first elimination this Saturday, Oct. 20. Pet Rock, who drew post five, has the gate speed in the field, but also unrolled a :25.4 last quarter in his 1:50 win last week at Woodbine.
With the talent and depth expected in this year’s $550,000 Breeders Crown sophomore colt pace, announcer Ken Middleton better have his superlatives ready.