05/05/2017 6:55PM

Freehold: Dexter Cup history in the making for Lord Cromwell?

World Wide Racing Photos
The connections of Lord Cromwell hope to get to the winner's circle in Saturday's (5/6) Dexter Cup Final.

Patience is a virtue. In today’s society it is almost absent, primarily because people can get what they want when they want it.

When it comes to owning trotters however, patience is the most necessary quality for both trainer and owner as the path just to the races is often a minefield of what can go wrong, will go wrong scenarios.

Take Lord Cromwell, the likely favorite in Saturday’s Dexter Cup Final at Freehold. Owned by Carolyn and Irv Atherton, owners for some 30 years in the sport, the gelding from first crop sire Chapter Seven is the fourth foal from the Atherton’s star trotting mare Oh Oh Its Magic. The dam, a lifetime earner of near $400K, hadn’t come up with much in her first three foals and the couple decided to sell her a few years back while retaining Lord Cromwell.

“They all had little issues,” said Irv Atherton of the mare’s initial offerings.

“He (Lord Cromwell) had a lot of problems getting to the races last year. He showed speed but we couldn’t get him right,” said Atherton.

Eventually it was decided by the Athertons and trainer Ed Hart to castrate Lord Cromwell.

“He almost didn’t survive,” said Hart of the operation at Cornell.

Yet through all the trials and tribulations of a 2-year-old season that gave the appearance early of stakes potential, Hart and the owners stayed together and finally arrived at the races.

The outlook became much brighter after Hall of Famer John Campbell drove Lord Cromwell in the New York Sire Stakes Excelsior division at Yonkers on September 1.

“He won by eight lengths,” said Atherton of the 1:59 3/5 mile taken in the “B” division. “Afterwards John told me he really liked the horse and said we should stake him heavily for his 3-year-old year.”

For the Athertons that was both good news and bad news. It was nice hearing that a Hall of Famer liked their horse, but on the other side there had been so many times in the past where expectations were high and dreams weren’t realized that they had to use caution on this occasion. “We paid him into a few races,” said Atherton. “He’s eligible to the Empire Breeders but not the Hambletonian or the Yonkers Trot.”

It’s not that the Athertons haven’t staked horses heavily in the past. In 2007 their Pippiwhitestockngs was not just in the Hambletonian Oaks at The Meadowlands, she nearly won at odds of 21-1.

“She was up by three lengths and going to win,” Atherton said, recalling the moment. “Then she made a break in mid-stretch.”

While Lord Cromwell won’t be showing up at The Meadowlands on the first Saturday in August, he is showing up at Freehold on the first Saturday in May and both owners and trainer are feeling quite optimistic.

“John (Campbell) said he did it all on his own,” Atherton said, referring to the 1:56 2/5 wire-to-wire performance at Freehold last Saturday.

The victory assured the trainer that things were finally heading in the right direction.

“I qualified him in 1:56 at The Meadowlands,” Hart said, “But you never know going around the half in the first start how they are going to react. I was very happy with the race and the way he came out of it.”

Hart of course had major concerns about the post draw for the Dexter final. The elimination victory only earned Lord Cromwell a spot in the final. Lord Cromwell landed post two, far better than the other elimination winner Another Chapter, who landed post eight after his 1:57 debut.

Ironically both horses were in Hart’s stable last season but Another Chapter was moved to trainer Mark Silva’s barn after his 2-year-old campaign.

The two Dexter Cup elimination winners are sons of Chapter Seven. The first year sire is off to a huge start, not just because he sent out last year’s champion Walner, but because some of the most impressive 3-year-olds to date happen to be wearing his name on the stallion line. “I’ve been very happy with the Chapter Sevens I’ve trained,” said Hart. “The one thing they all have in common is that they are not sulky, they all try.”

For the Athertons, perhaps the name Cromwell will help get them to the finish line. According to Irv his wife has a love for English history. That would explain the moniker Cromwell attached to the multiple New York Sire Stakes winner of 2004-5 that was sold late in his sophomore season. Oliver Cromwell was a member of Parliament and an outspoken Puritan in the early to mid 1600s

In addition to Lord Cromwell, Hart is also conditioning her 2-year-old sister named Lady Cromwell.

“We’re going to make a decision soon whether to stop with her and bring her back at 3 or continue,” said Hart, who conceded that while the filly has shown high talent and potential, she’s had similar issues to her older brother and time may be their only option since castration is off the table.

It may be early in the sophomore season but judging by what has shown up on the racetrack this year, it looks as if there is enough talent to go around. Lord Cromwell appears to have the gait and demeanor to get around the half-mile tracks. Hart has the concerns of many a trotting trainer. “He can get a bit hot moving behind the starting gate,” said Hart. “But that’s where John Campbell comes in. He has a way of settling them down.”

The Dexter Cup is the first major test of the year for sophomore trotters and there’s always uncertainty when eight young trotters hit the first turn over a half-mile track. The Athertons are veterans of he half-mile track at Yonkers, with Irv a longtime Board Member of the Standardbred Owners of New York. They’ve waited a long time for the right horse to come along and hopefully this Lord Cromwell can be added to the harness history books.