04/01/2013 10:50AM

Jay Bergman: Odds On Equuleus looking to become a household name

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The connections of Odds On Equuleus are looking forward to a big 2013 campaign.

In a lot of ways trainer Robin Schadt is very lucky. The conditioner of Odds On Equuleus already knows that her three-year-old pacer won’t easily become a household name. That’s partly because not many households know what an “Equuleus" is (A constellation that in Latin means Little Horse) and secondly because Captaintreacherous, the reigning Pacer of the Year, currently has his daily routine being monitored for the Internet.

For Schadt, training currently at South Florida Training Center in Lake Worth, being far from the limelight seems to work perfectly. She’s currently training 13 for the coming season and hopes to ship north in a couple of weeks to take residence at Magical Acres in New Jersey.

“He’s doing great,” Schadt said in response to the obvious question. “He’s filled out a lot and he’s acting, well he’s acting more manly.”

Indeed Odds On Equuleus did pretty much everything that was asked of him in a well-crafted two-year-old campaign. Schadt, along with primary owner Dana Parham (Odds On Racing) were very mindful of keeping the son of Art Major staked well enough to take advantage of his ability, while at the same time leaving something left for next year. Odds On Equuleus has trained a mile in 2:15 according to Schadt, who expects to tighten the screws a bit after the stable arrives in New Jersey. “I’m going to qualify him once, give him a week off and qualify him again,” said Schadt. “We’re looking for him to make his first start on May 18 in a New York Sire Stakes event at Vernon.”

Odds On Equuleus was good at the outset of the 2012 season and finished his racing season at Lexington with a 1:50 mile. The gifted colt had been raced almost exclusively from off the pace from the start but closed the season with a virtual wire-to-wire performance. “We knew he could race on the front end and we thought that would be the best time to try him,” said Schadt.

While Captaintreacherous earned the honors and did capture two of the three top events for juveniles taking the Wilson and Metro, Odds On Equuleus has only raced competitively against the horse on two occasions. The first was in an overnight race at the Meadowlands with Odds On Equuleus winning by a neck in a 1:52 mile and the second came in the $1 million Metro with Captaintreacherous holding a neck advantage over Odds On Equuleus.

Hall of Famer John Campbell guided Odds On Equuleus through his entire freshman campaign and according to Schadt will once again be in the bike in 2013. The colt won six times in nine starts banking $417,534 but had the misfortune of a rather strange disqualification in the first week of Grand Circuit action last year at The Red Mile. In that race the colt took the front near the half and went on to win rather easily. After the race an extended inquiry led the judges to disqualify Campbell and the horse for causing confusion among trailing horses. The decision of the judges was appealed and as of this date no decision has been made. “If the commission thinks Dana is going to go away they are sadly mistaken,” Schadt said, confirming that Mr. Parham will go as far as necessary to see that justice is done. This strange case had the judges somehow reduce the penalty for Campbell yet let the penalty to the owner and trainer of the horse stand. “I believe there’s another hearing scheduled for April 23,” said Schadt.

For Schadt, who hopes to become the second female trainer in successive years to condition the sport’s top three-year-old pacer, the stakes are high. I asked her to name the three races she would most like to win this season. “I’d say the North America Cup, The Little Brown Jug and The Breeders Crown,” Schadt said. “The Jug would be very special to Dana because he’s from Ohio.”

Odds On Equuleus was not staked to every major event as a three-year-old and that may work to the trainer’s advantage. Last year was among the most brutal for nearly all of the top three-year-olds with race after race being hotly contested in sub 1:50 speed regardless of the size track. Having a sound horse is primary to success but speed is a commodity you just can’t have enough of in today’s high level stakes action.

Perhaps much of the speed Odds On Equuleus inherited came from a solid maternal family that includes one of the greatest pacing mares of all time Shes A Great Lady. Ironically Campbell was the primary driver behind that champion daughter of Dexter Nukes that had a racing style quite similar to this year’s three-year-old pacing colt.

While Schadt has her fingers crossed for the coming three-year-old season she sounded quite excited about the prospects of some of her two-year-olds in training. Heading that list was a homebred colt from the first crop of Muscle Hill. His name is Odds On Amethyst and he’s the third foal from the near $1.8 million winner Mystical Sunshine.

Odds On Topaz is another homebred with potential. She’s a Western Ideal sired filly from the same maternal line that produced Camtastic.

Then of course there is Joost Hanover, a Somebeachsomewhere colt that attracted plenty of attention last year at Harrisburg before Schadt and Parham took him home at a hefty $300,000 pricetag.

With an expensive yearling and one of the leading pacing three-year-olds in the stable, is Schadt feeling the pressure.

"Sure, there’s pressure on you every day. But that’s part of the game,” Schadt said.

Like most trainers Schadt knows there’s even more pressure for trainers who don’t have the caliber stock she’s been fortunate enough to purchase and race.

But the silver lining for Schadt at least this year in training her babies is knowing, for the first time, what it’s like to train a potential super horse.

“Without question he’s helped me to set the bar much higher,” Schadt said.

Odds On Equuleus right now looks like the Little Horse that could.

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