05/07/2015 9:35PM

Giwner: Vacation time is over for Coleman stable star

Fred Brown
Vegas Vacation will qualify for the second time on Friday (May 8).

It has been nearly 18 months since 2013 Little Brown Jug winner Vegas Vacation last stepped on the track. That was before his third-place finish in a qualifier at Mohawk Racetrack on May 1. Now the Casie Coleman trainee is nearly ready for a renaissance to his racing career.

Seemingly an eternity ago Vegas Vacation last raced in the Matron at Dover Downs on November 17, 2013. He won $971,632 in that 3-year-old season of racing and has just over $1 million in career earnings to his credit.

The reason for the lengthy absence was a suspensory issue that would have surely kept the now 5-year-old gelding out until late in 2014, but Coleman elected to just skip the year altogether.

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“We decided to do the right thing by the horse,” said Coleman about the long layoff.

Vegas Vacation’s first official trip to the track in 2015 was a 1:54 1/5 mile where he finished behind Lady Shadow and fellow former top 3-year-old He’s Watching. He sat well off the pace at the back of the pack before sprinting the final quarter in 26 4/5 with Jonathan Drury in the bike.

“I was extremely happy with his first qualifier. We wanted to go in (1):55, but he ended up going (1):54 very easily and Jonathan Drury never spoke to him,” said Coleman.

Vegas Vacation is in-to-go once again on Friday morning at Mohawk for his second qualifier. According to Coleman, he may get a third qualifier or look for a conditioned race over the surface, preferably not against Open company.

[UPDATE: Vegas Vacation came away fifth in his May 8 qualifier and rallied off slow fractions with a 26-second final quarter to win by one length in 1:55.]

“He hasn’t raced since his 3-year-old season, so I’m hoping they write something for him other than the Open,” said Coleman. The trainer added that Vegas Vacation is fully staked but will likely ease his way back into facing the top pacers in North America. That is assuming he can compete.

“I’m confused on what my expectations should be. I’ve never had a horse miss this much time and come back to race,” said Coleman. “We just checked out his leg last week and it looked great. I know the speed is there, but with any soft tissue injury it might be good forever or it might reoccur.”

Vegas Vacation is not the only horse Coleman is looking forward to watching on the track in 2015. Reverend Hanover, undefeated in four starts as a 2-year-old, won a qualifier in 1:54 3/5 competing on the same morning at Mohawk.

“He’s trained back super,” said Coleman about the pacing colt, who will also qualify again on Friday at Mohawk.  “There is an O.S.S. Gold race for him at the end of May in London (Western Fair), but he’s a big horse and I’m not sure we want to start him on a half-mile track. The main goal right now is the Somebeachsomewhere and North America Cup (both at Mohawk in June).”

Reverend Hanover is a son of Sportswriter, who Coleman campaigned to a championship season as a rookie colt and won the North America Cup as a sophomore in 2010. That fact alone ensures a special place in Coleman’s heart for Reverend Hanover.

“It would be unbelievably cool,” said Coleman on the possibility of just getting the first-crop son of Sportswriter to the North America Cup before even thinking about the possibility of a win. “If the stars align that would be pretty special.

“He is just like his daddy. If you go back and watch the replays, it is like you are watching the same horse. The way they carry themselves on the track; their characteristics in the barn. It is amazing,” said Coleman.

[UPDATE: Reverend Hanover brushed to the front before the half and posted a 1:52 4/5 winning qualifier by a half-length on Friday morning (May 8) with Chris Christofforou in the bike.]

Reverend Hanover is not the only 3-year-old colt in the Coleman barn with a potentially strong future. She is very happy with both If You Want Fire and Oneisalonelynumber, both of which finished second in their 2015 debuts at Harrah’s Philadelphia. But it is a winless horse named American Legend that Coleman is hoping finally breaks through.

“I was extremely high on him as a 2-year-old and thought I had a shot to win the Breeders Crown and Metro,” said Coleman. “He trained down unbelievable and if I rated him against Reverend last year I would have picked him.  He was just not trying and had breathing issues. We did three throat surgeries on him over the winter and I gelded him, so we changed a lot.”

American Legend will make his 3-year-old debut at the Meadowlands in the third race on Saturday. He will aim for New York Sire Stakes races to start the year before trying his luck against the best in the division if he proves worthy.

Coleman is also very high on her 2-year-olds that will be hitting the track in the next month or so.

“I have a really nice bunch. I think this is my best group yet,” said Coleman, who listed Betting Line and a McArdle colt named McPhil as the leaders of the pack.

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