04/14/2014 9:40AM

Jay Bergman: Bier has a special horse in Bandolito

Bandolito sizzled at Dover Downs and may have had something left in the tank.

“I couldn’t sleep at all last night.”

Those were the words of Daryl Bier on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after his four-year-old Bandolito paced what has to be the fastest final half in the sport’s history. The son of Ponder scorched the Dover Downs five-eighths mile surface on Thursday with a 1:48 2/5 mile and a final half of :52 1/5 seconds.

“He was going at a 26-second clip past the half and then when I pulled the earplugs at the three quarters, he shifted into another gear,” said Bier. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

Bandolito finished out the mile with a :25 4/5 final quarter and the driver actually thought he could go even faster.

It would be even more shocking had Bandolito not paced a 1:48 mile the previous week at Dover and done so in perhaps an even bigger effort.

“They got down to the half in :52 and 4,” said Bier, referring to the blistering opening half. Bandolito was well in reserve of that pace but had no trouble making up the ground and romping to a career best.

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The sudden rise to prominence of last year’s top Kentucky-sired pacer probably has more to do with Bier’s patience and willingness to not race a horse when things aren’t perfect.

“We quit with him early and wanted to bring him back for the meet at Dover,” said Bier. Originally he purchased the unraced three-year-old for $50,000 from Warren Harp in the spring of 2013. The son of Ponder had a couple of qualifiers in Florida when Bier got the call.

“Gary Brown, a horse agent from Las Vegas, gave me the call and said he knew of a nice horse that was available,” said Bier. “My brother was looking for a horse to race in Pennsylvania.”

What they got at the time was a Kentucky eligible three-year-old with no other stakes engagements. After an education mile at Pocono in his first trip for Bier, Bandolito went on a tear, winning nine straight races culminating in the $250,000 final of the Kentucky Sire Stakes at the Red Mile in 1:49 4/5 in early September.

“We gave him three months off and then brought him back but he wasn’t any good,” said Bier. After a third-place finish in January at Dover Downs, Bandolito was not right and would not race again until he was.

“We discovered he had an abscess in his foot. I don’t know how long that was bothering him for, but we just quit with him and waited for it to heal,” said Bier.

The time away from the track was a big lift to Bandolito’s soundness, but at the same time, it called into question to the owners what his four-year-old season would be like. While Bier’s plan to race him in high conditioned races and open company through the lucrative Dover meet was dashed, so too were thoughts of making him eligible for the major aged events this season.

“We couldn’t stake him because we really didn’t know how long it was going to take for him to return,” said Bier in a way that suggested he didn’t want any undue pressure put on the horse to return.

What’s left now is that Bandolito will be raced sparingly depending on where he can get invited to along the way. First on the list will be the Van Rose Memorial, a $50,000 event slated for Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on May 3 (Kentucky Derby Day). “Rick Kane (Racing Secretary) called me and asked me if I would go and I said yes. Hopefully we’ll get a race into him the week before,” said Bier.

After that there are other Invitationals—the Battle of Lake Erie (July 19) at Northfield and the Dan Patch (August 9) at Hoosier Park—that Bandolito could be invited to if he maintains his current form. Bandolito is eligible to the $100,000 Meadowlands Maturity exclusively for four-year-olds on June 13. That race could be interesting if Captaintreacherous is in the mix.

“Timmy (driver Tetrick) is going to have to make a decision,” Bier said half-jokingly about his preferred catch-driver.

The back-to-back miles at Dover have put Bier on cloud nine. “I’ve never had a horse like this. I’m not sure anyone else has had one like this either,” Bier said.

The challenge with any horse attempting to climb the ladder of success is not just to be able to go fast, but to be able to beat the best while doing so. From everything Bier has witnessed thus far, Bandolito shows the promise of reaching the highest level.

At the same time, the trainer and part-owner is not going to put the cart before the proverbial horse. “We’ll just spot him around and race him lightly this year and get him ready for his five-year-old season,” Bier said matter-of-factly about what the schedule for Bandolito could be this season.

That same strategy appears to have worked very nicely for his budding five-year-old Modern Family. Late on the scene with enormous talent last winter, Modern Family never had the chance to show himself in major stakes competition last summer. This year, however, the horse has returned and is as good as ever.

“He was really strong winning out of the seven-hole at Pocono in 1:52 1/5,” said Bier. “But I can’t find a race for him.”

With that said, Bier went out on Saturday and qualified him in 1:53 1/5 at Rosecroft. They’re hoping that a race fills at Meadowlands this weekend.

Even with a pacer and trotter the caliber of Bandolito and Modern Family, there’s always time to look ahead and Bier sounded almost as enthusiastic about a colt that arrived in March. The newborn happens to be the first foal from the Dover Downs track-record holder Higher and Higher, a $900,000-plus earner during her racing career.

“He’s by Somebeachsomewhere,” Bier said proudly.

Asked if he and his partners would consider selling the colt as a yearling.

“I would say he’s a keeper.” 

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