05/02/2012 5:15PM

Harness racing: Big Rigs has big shot in Cutler Memorial


It is early in the season, but trainer Kelly O’Donnell hopes Big Rigs is over his allergies.

“I think,” O’Donnell said with a laugh about his heretofore tumultuous trotter, “he was allergic to money.”

Big Rigs has won two of three races this year, suffering his only defeat by a head, as he gets ready for Friday’s Cutler Memorial prep at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The 4-year-old son of Andover Hall-Filly At Bigs has won 10 of 28 lifetime starts and earned $595,136 for owners Miller’s Stable, DM Stables and Ed Mullinax.

Not a bad career so far, to be sure, but O’Donnell cannot help but wonder what more the horse could have done had he minded his manners in his biggest starts.

As a 2-year-old, he won his elimination for the $600,000 Breeders Crown and was second in his elim for the $485,000 Wellwood Memorial, but went off stride in both finals.

Last year, he made breaks in his elims for the $1.5 million Hambletonian and $610,000 Breeders Crown and failed to reach the finals. He also went off stride in divisions of the Keystone Classic and Reynolds Memorial stakes.

Those six breaks represent the only times he has gone off stride in his career.

“He’s run at some really inopportune times in his career,” O’Donnell said. “He made so many mistakes as a 2- and 3-year-old, I figured going into his 4-year-old year maybe he would outgrow all that stuff. So far so good.

“I qualified him without his hobbles this year and we’ve raced him so far without them. (Driver) David Miller has said he’s been absolutely perfect as far as that goes. Hopefully he’s gotten over it.”

Big Rigs showed he was capable of competing with the best trotters in his division, winning last year’s $174,940 Matron Stakes to end his season, plus a division of the Bluegrass Stakes. He finished second in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial Stakes, missing by a head, and in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship and was third in the Kentucky Futurity.

As a 2-year-old, he won divisions of the Champlain and Bluegrass stakes.

He goes to the Cutler having raced three times with driver David Miller at Harrah’s Philadelphia (formerly called Harrah’s Chester), where he won an overnight in 1:55 1/5 before capturing the Open handicap in 1:53 4/5 on April 13. Last Friday, he was second by a head to Winning Mister in 1:53.

“His condition looks good and he’s trotted two really good miles at Chester,” O’Donnell said. “Coming off the last turn (Friday), he got a little fumbly on David, but the track was really hard and the wind was blowing. He kind of had to grab him so he wouldn’t run coming off that last turn and he only got beat a couple inches.”

Big Rigs will start the eight-horse Cutler prep from post eight. The remainder of the field, from the rail, is Magnum Kosmos, Take My Picture, Winning Mister, Dig For Dollars, Hot Shot Blue Chip, Looking Hanover, and Ice Machine. That group will be joined by Mister Herbie for the final on May 12.

“I think he’ll be fine,” O’Donnell said. “I think he’s as good as anyone in there and he’s had a good prep going into this race.”

As for the future, O’Donnell hopes Big Rigs will be racing in all the major events, but time will tell.

“We’ll leave that up to him, but we’ve got him eligible to all the big trots,” O’Donnell said. “We’ll go week by week and see how he can perform with the older horses.”