06/07/2012 8:35AM

Harness: Economy Terror gets first test of year in Fan Hanover at Mohawk

Michael Burns
Economy Terror won the Breeders Crown last year at 2.

It’s an election year and most people concur it’s all about the economy.

The same could be true this year in harness racing’s three-year-old filly crop with defending champion Economy Terror likely to battle for the top spot all year. Her first major test will take place on Saturday night at Mohawk in a $35,000 elimination of the Fan Hanover stake.

Sometimes you have to find a diamond in the rough. Well, that’s pretty much what trainer Chris Oakes and his owners did in uncovering Economy Terror. The Western Terror-sired filly was purchased privately off a farm sale, one of only five yearlings purchased by Oakes in 2010.

“She was just a specimen,” said Oakes.

Economy Terror was a terror as a two-year-old, winning eight of her 11 starts and finishing second on the other three occasions. Her biggest wins came in last year’s Breeders Crown at Woodbine and the Three Diamonds at Chester. Those closed out the campaign and provided the filly with the Dan Patch award as the best in the juvenile class.

Yet there are many in the group of experts who wonder whether Economy Terror on her best day could beat the outstanding once-beaten filly American Jewel. The two hooked up in the Shes A Great Lady at Mohawk last year, with American Jewel winning both elimination and final and Economy Terror finishing a solid second each time. American Jewel suffered a season ending injury in October thereby denying Economy Terror redemption.

Those two fillies will meet again on the same soil Saturday night but the tables may have turned already. Economy Terror has returned and may be even better than last year.

“She’s bigger and stronger than she was a year ago,” said Oakes.

What Economy Terror has done thus far in 2012 is most impressive. After spending the winter in North Carolina at Olive Branch Farm under the care of Chris Coyle, she returned to Oakes in February and has trained down exceptionally well.

Oakes wanted his filly to be ready for the long season so he qualified her three straight weeks, beginning May 3, before entering her in a stakes race.

With regular pilot Brian Sears in the bike for her sophomore debut, Economy Terror crushed her rivals in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division at Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 24. Despite starting from post seven Economy Terror took control of the race early and never looked back, winning in 1:50 3/5, which equaled her career best, taken as a two-year-old.

“Brian didn’t even pull the earplugs,” Oakes said. “Brian’s very good that way about taking care of a horse so there’s something left at the end of the season.”

While Economy Terror raced most of her two-year-old campaign from off the pace, it was encouraging to see her leave well and relax on the front end.

The filly was extraordinary again when Oakes sent her in a qualifier on May 31 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. This time, with Matt Kakaley as the driver, Economy Terror paced a mile in 1:51 3/5 with a sizzling final quarter of 26 2/5.

“Matt never pulled the earplugs. She was jogging out there," said Oakes.

The conditioner has a lot to feel confident about. Economy Terror will meet American Jewel again probably twice at Mohawk. Her rival, who also has started once this season and finished a solid second in a track-record mile at Vernon, may be the one forced to be chasing Economy Terror this year.

Economy Terror is already closing in on the $1 million mark in career earnings and should go past it with a good showing at Mohawk in the next couple of weeks. Oakes calls her the best filly he’s ever trained but reserved judgment on whether she’s the best horse. That’s because he conditioned future Horse of the Year Gallo Blue Chip prior to the horse being sold to owner Marty Scharf and trainer Mark Ford.

With the success of Economy Terror last year, Oakes was able to amass 17 yearlings this year and will start a few this week at Pocono. He has a colt named Fateful Choice, who should be starting by the end of the month. The owners of Economy Terror - Howard Taylor, Ed Gold and Chuck Pompey - teamed with Hauser Bros. Racing Enterprise to purchase her full brother at auction last year for $170,000.

“He’s been (a mile) in 2:02,” said Oakes. “I don’t think he’s as mature physically or mentally as Economy Terror was last year, but he can go.”

Much like his full sister, Fateful Choice is staked extensively in 2012.

Economy Terror starts from post two with Brian Sears in tow in the Fan Hanover elimination, race 10 on the Saturday Mohawk program. First post is 7:10 p.m. for the stakes-filled card.