08/05/2011 11:07AM

Magnum Kosmos unlikely 2011 Hambletonian contender

Deuce Photo
Magnum Kosmos has proved a bargain.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the sport of harness racing is that the size of ones checkbook hardly determines the outcome of a race. Such is the case this year in the 86th edition of the Hambletonian.

On paper, Manofmanymissions, a $215,000 yearling purchase, is not only the most expensive horse in the field, but also its 9-5 morning line favorite. On the other end of the spectrum is Magnum Kosmos. Purchased for less than 3 percent the price of the favorite, this son of SJ’s Caviar, hardly looked much different than his expensive rival in last week’s elimination heat.

That’s right, Magnum Kosmos made Manofmanymissions work hard to go by in the stretch, apparently totally unaware of his rather humble beginnings.


“I was prepared to pay more for him,” recalled trainer Tony Dinges reflecting on how he found Magnum Kosmos at the Harrisburg sale in November 2009 and paid just $6,000 for him. “I guess what happened is this colt sold in the mixed sale, after all of the yearlings had sold. I believe it was on a Friday and I guess the crowd was more interested in race horses and breeding stock.”

The son of a horseman who cut his teeth working for Joe Offutt, Dinges, now 32, liked Magnum Kosmos from the time he broke him. But he was torn between dreaming big and paying big money to stake the Pennsylvania-bred. “He was training well enough in February (2010) when the $500 payment was due for the Hambletonian,” he said. On a more expensive colt payments get made all the time even if the horses aren’t training well. But when you spend as little as Frank Deliberti (The Wiz Kids Stable LLC) did it’s a stretch to stake too heavily.

Fortunately for Dinges and Deliberti they were able to see the colt’s potential. They not only paid him into this year’s Hambo but nominated him to the Peter Haughton, one of the sport’s richest two-year-old events raced at the Meadowlands about this time of year. The colt actually began his pari-mutuel career in East Rutherford with a solid second place finish to the precocious Leader of the Gang in the Harriman Cup.

Magnum Kosmos broke his maiden shortly thereafter in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes event at Pocono, before returning to tackle the best colts in the Haughton. Though he raced well in both Haughton elim and final, it was clear that other 2-year-olds were more advanced. After a fourth place finish in the Haughton final, Magnum Kosmos didn’t win a race the rest of the year.

This year Magnum Kosmos was sent to Julie Miller’s stable by Dinges with hopes of prepping him for the big races.

Miller did bring the colt back strongly and when he won in 1:53.2 at Pocono by nearly 15 lengths on June 8 it was clear the colt had the ability to perform at the highest level.

Ten days later Magnum Kosmos was sent off as a 5-2 shot against then division leader Dejarmbro. It was a spirited race with plenty of movement and Magnum Kosmos paid dearly for getting involved in a :55.3 opening half. He finished a respectable fourth but that wasn’t good enough to reach the final.

In Magnum Kosmos’ last start for Miller he again won easily at Chester at the end of June.

“I spoke with Andy [Julie’s husband and partner] and he told me had was going to stick with Manofmanymissions. It’s something I completely understood and I took the horse back to train.”

In his first start back in Dinges barn at Pocono, Magnum Kosmos finally emerged as an open-stakes winner scoring in a division of the Reynolds Stakes by open lengths in a 1:54, evenly rated mile. A week later at Pocono he was all-out capturing a PaSS event in 1:55.2 by a nose with a disappointing :30 final quarter.

“He had a reaction to a jug we gave him,” said Dinges defending the colt’s lackluster performance. “He had hives all over his body.”

When Dave Palone, who had driven the colt to successive victories at Pocono, elected to drive Bambino Hall in last Saturday’s elimination, Dinges called on George Brennan who had driven the colt in last year’s Haughton elimination.

Brennan wasn’t saddled with a poor impression of the colt and paid even less attention to the oddsboard which quoted Magnum Kosmos a 33-1 outsider in the field of nine. Brennan made his patented brush to the lead with Magnum Kosmos following a :27.4 opening quarter and was in control through a solid :56.1  halfway marker clocking. With Manofmanymissions breathing down his neck on the far turn the colt responded with a :27.4 third quarter. By midstretch the colt showed he wasn’t going to win but still fought on valiantly to finish well clear in second. His mile, individually timed in 1:53, stamped the colt as a serious threat for Saturday’s $1.5 million contest.

“It’s a great thrill to be in this race,” said Dinges who after training about 18 head earlier this year has pared his stable down to just 5.

With Brennan opting for Broad Bahn, Dinges was quite happy when the phone rang on Sunday morning and it was Brian Sears looking for a drive.

Sears will be in the bike Saturday afternoon and steer the colt from post eight.

With more than  $230,000 in the bank during his brief career, Magnum Kosmos has already rewarded his connections handsomely for their initial investment. On Saturday he’ll be out to prove the old horseman’s adage: “He doesn’t know what his price tag was.”