03/18/2012 1:03PM

Jay Bergman: Toscano vocal about J K Owhatanite


There was a time last year when the only pacing filly anyone was talking about was the undefeated See You At Peelers. There was good reason to focus on that filly phenom because she was out beating the boys. Quietly, but perhaps with as much ability, J K Owhatanite was carving a niche out for herself in New York. Also by Bettors Delight, J K Owhatanite had developed brightly under trainer Linda Toscano.

The two New York-sired fillies were destined to meet July 28, 2011, but that date was canceled when Toscano’s filly became colicky on race day.

“She somehow flipped her small intestine over her spleen,” said the well-respected trainer. “A lot of times in that situation, they try to roll the horse on their back and hopefully let the situation repair itself.”

Unfortunately, that attempt proved unsuccessful and the filly would have to undergo an operation to correct the problem.

The filly returned to training toward the tail end of 2011 and has since come back to the races in brilliant form. Two consecutive wins at the Meadowlands appears to be all the fine tuning required before the homebred debuts at Yonkers this Friday in the first leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series.

For Toscano, a New York native who has enjoyed immense success in the New York Sire Stakes program as well as on the national stage, the return to Yonkers affords her charge the chance to prove she belongs in the top tier of pacing mares.

“I’ve never had a horse that could leave the gate as fast as this mare,” she said Friday while returning from qualifiers at the Meadowlands. “When it comes to fillies, you have to be careful not to rough them up. I believe they need to get a break during the race to perform at their best.”

With JK Owhatanite, her spectacular early speed has been the reason why she has won effortlessly from outside posts in her lone starts as a 4-year-old. Driver Brian Sears has had her in front so quickly that the races were virtually in her control at the start.

“Not only can she sprint at the start, but she’s not hot and will come right back to the driver,” Toscano said.

Can she beat See You At Peelers?

“I think this is a very deep group of pacing mares,” Toscano said. ‘You’ve got Anndrovette, Kripsy Apple, Tea Party Princess, and a lot of other top mares. This series is going to be solid.”

Toscano is hopeful that driver Sears won’t have to make a decision between her filly and See You At Peelers.

“I’m hoping they don’t draw in against each other this week,” Toscano said.

The trainer has a great affinity for the 4-year-old mare.

“I love rooting for the underdog,” she said in regard to the mare’s road back from distress. “Hey, I’m a Met Fan!”

JK Owhatanite, owned and bred by 3 Brothers Stable (Alan, Ron, and Steven Katz), won just one time for former trainer Nifty Norman as a 2-year-old in 2010. That win did come at Yonkers, when she paced in 1:55 flat. Last year, she enjoyed six wins in eight starts prior to her season-ending surgery.

“The only two times she lost were under trying circumstances,” noted the trainer.

The filly left the gate in an eye-popping 26 1/5-second opening quarter in her first start as a 3-year-old at Tioga Downs last year, despite a very sloppy surface. Eventually, she was locked in and shuffled out of the race. Her only other defeat came when she got trapped inside at Vernon and was forced to leave the course.

On the upside last year were some monster miles over the half-mile tracks of New York. She captured the $197,634 Lismore Stakes at Yonkers in 1:53 3/5. She won her two other starts at Yonkers in NYSS action going wire-to-wire from posts 7 and 8 impressively.

JK Owhatanite’s peformances over half-mile tracks (of which Yonkers is one) have been spectacular. Perhaps that gift is connected to her pedigree. Her sire, Bettors Delight, was a solid small-track performer and has produced some of New York’s finest during his stallion career. On the dam side is JK Songndance. The Life Sign-sired filly set a track record over Freehold’s half-mile track during her sophomore stakes campaign.

Toscano has a powerful stable returning to action this year with last year’s Breeders Crown champion Chapter Seven leading the arsenal. The 4-year-old is currently training down and has been timed in 2:25 for a mile.

“He looks great and is coming back very well,” she said. “He should be ready for all of the big stakes.”

Chapter Seven should be back and racing in May, with hopes of a stakes season commencing in June.

Her 11-time winning 2-year-old sensation of a year ago, Heston Blue Chip, hopes for an epic season in 2012. The son of American Ideal, owned by Ken Jacobs, has trained in 2:15 for the mile down in North Carolina and is expected to arrive at Toscano’s Showplace Farm shed row this week.

“Thankfully, he didn’t get any taller,” she said. “He’s filled out nicely.”

JAYWALKING: Toscano didn’t sound very amused by the “spitting contest” this week between new Meadowlands chief Jeff Gural and SOA of NY head Joe Faraldo.

“Jeff has done so much good for the sport, including saving the Meadowlands,” she said. “I’ve known Joe for a long time, and he’s given an awful lot for the horsemen. I think both want what’s best for the sport. It’s a shame they can’t agree.”

Toscano trumpeted a familiar tune in calling for a commissioner to rule in these issues. Unfortunately in this power struggle fought time and again by dueling press releases, any idea designed to take authority away from key personnel is generally shot down in short order.

What Toscano is deeply troubled by is the lack of definition in regard to trainers and their deputies who take over during suspensions.

“I have no problem if there is a change over from one trainer to another,” Toscano said. “But I think if the commission is going to suspend a trainer, that person shouldn’t be allowed to continue to run the stable with another name on the program.”

Ironically Toscano, an assistant for perennial Yonkers-Roosevelt top trainer George “Buddy” Regan in the late 1970s and early 1980s got her start when Regan was suspended and moved to Florida, leaving his stable permanently with Linda.

“And I don’t think someone should be barred just because they win a lot of races,” she concluded.