11/25/2013 12:22PM

Jay Bergman: Arch Madness to add Sears for $500K TVG final at The Meadowlands

Derick Giwner
Arch Madness has earned over $4 million in his career.

Less than an hour after finishing second in the final preliminary leg of the TVG Free For All trot at the New Meadowlands with Arch Madness, trainer-driver Trond Smedshammer had reached an important decision.

“Brian Sears will drive him next week,” said Smedshammer, ceding the mount for the $500,000 final to the more experienced and accomplished Sears.

“He pulled my arms out warming him up tonight,” said Smedshammer of Arch Mardness. “By the time I had to race him my arms were jelly.”

Such has been typical throughout the career of the richest trotter scheduled to race on November 30 at the New Meadowlands. As reliable as Arch Madness has been on the racetrack, earning $4,105,131, he’s been impossible for Smedshammer to gauge and at times difficult for him to control prior to the “real” race.

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“You never know how he’s going to respond in the race,” said Smedshammer, somewhat in awe of the kind of miles his horse has gone with 34 career wins and international acclaim.

While Arch Madness has had a solid season as a nine-year-old, finishing second and earning a boat-load of money in the prestigious Elitlopp in Sweden and then returning stateside to capture the Allerage final at The Red Mile in a career best-equaling 1:50 2/5 mile, Smedshammer wouldn’t say this has been his best season.

“That 1:50 2/5 mile at the Red Mile may have equaled his fastest,” said Smedshammer, “But the mile he went in the Titan Cup at the Meadowlands in 2011 was unreal. I would say it was probably two seconds better than his trip at the Red Mile.”

Brian Sears was the pilot on that July evening in 2011 when Arch Madness made a big move on the backstretch and blew away a solid FFA field that included Lucky Jim. He trotted a middle half in :54 flat and won by eight lengths in the 1:50 2/5 effort taken at night and clearly not under the same ideal conditions Arch Madness encountered in Kentucky this year.

Despite the swift mile, Arch Madness has a few quirks of his own that make driving him effectively problematic.

“He’s never been any good coming out of a pocket trip,” said Smedshammer. “I think it’s that he doesn’t accelerate that fast. He can trot sub-:28 quarters all day; :26 quarters are not his style.”

This past Saturday Arch Madness was in fact in the pocket behind Wishing Stone and was unable to pass. The veteran kept trotting in the stretch and gamely held off top-rated Market Share nearing the wire.

“He raced well,” said Smedshammer of Arch Madness, “He did hold off Market Share in the stretch.”

It’s been a surprise to some that Arch Madness can hold his form and still be this good at age nine, but it’s a testament to the fact that he’s been well cared for throughout his career and that he takes good care of himself. Saturday will be his final start in 2013 and the plan is to give him a rest and keep going in 2014.

Smedshammer wouldn’t mind another chance to race in the Elitlopp next year.

“If we get invited, sure I’d be willing to take him,” said Smedshammer. “That mile in the Elitlopp final this year was probably one of the easiest ones he’s gone and he made a lot of money finishing second.”

Prior to Saturday’s TVG preview at the New Meadowlands, Arch Madness had most recently finished third behind Market Share and Mister Herbie in the Breeders Crown at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. He will likely face that pair again this Saturday night.

“He wasn’t as good as I would have liked him to be in the Breeders Crown,” said Smedshammer, although his horse did overcome post seven and missed just over three lengths to the winner with Trond in the sulky.

Despite enjoying tremendous success both driving and training Arch Madness this year, Smedshammer said his presence in the sulky on race night was more a factor of Sears shying away from the horse while committing to others. He was more than happy to put the former Meadowlands driving star and current Yonkers kingpin back in the bike.

“I think it’s worth half-a-length at least,” said Smedshammer with a wry smile.

While Sears will be coming from Yonkers, Smedshammer will maintain a real presence in the aged trotting ranks at the Westchester County half-mile track. He’s currently racing a pair of $1 million winners in Likeabatoutahell and Calchips Brute at Yonkers and both have had impressive seasons with the former banking $181,995 and the latter $172,665 in 2013.

“I’ve also got Blacktuxwhitesocks coming back,” said Smedshammer of the son of Credit Winner that earned over a quarter-million dollars in 2012 but has started just six times in 2013.

“It used to be a little easier competition to race them at Yonkers but it’s become much tougher over the last year in the upper classes,” said Smedshammer.

The 46-year-old Smedshammer has a solid group of aged trotters but his 55-horse stable is made up predominantly of two and three-year-olds. He will start 2014 with 27 two-year-olds and about 20 three-year-olds in the stable.

In 2003, Smedshammer lightly-campaigned the two-year-old Windsongs Legacy racing him just five times. A year later the colt went on to win the Triple Crown of trotting.

Will lightning strike twice 10 years apart?

If pedigree is a predictor of things to come it’s not totally out of reach to assume that Muscerene may be a colt we hear from in 2014.

“I really like the Muscle Hill colt from Queen Serene. I put him away early but I think he’s got ability,” said Smedshammer.

The trainer raced Queen Serene during her nearly three-quarters of a million dollar racing career. This is her second foal and one Wanda Polisseni’s Purple Haze Stables LLC paid $125,000 for at the Lexington Selected Sale in 2012.

And by the way, Arch Madness raced just twice competitively as a two-year-old and look how far he’s come.