02/20/2014 1:25PM

Meadowlands: Fanning has a strong quartet ready for Saturday

Geri Schwarz
Trainer Tom Fanning feels that Olde Time Hockey (1) could be ready to score in his first start of 2014.

Trainer Tom Fanning’s approach to the sport has been quite different than many conditioners in harness racing. Fanning has gone to the yearling market, albeit with not much spending power. He’s also dabbled in the racehorse market, without getting caught up in the claiming game. In 2013, all forces seemed to come together producing the best results in his more than 20-year career.

In 2013 the Fanning stable earned $1.3 million, a pretty impressive number when you consider there were no major stakes races won with a diversified cast of characters racing in overnights and sire stakes events.

On Saturday night, Fanning will have a first for his career. With four entered at the Meadowlands for the 13-race program, Fanning will send out three returning $100,000 winners from 2013 for their first starts of their season.

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“No I’ve never had that happen before,” said Fanning of the rarity.

With a 24-horse stable training out of Gaitway Farms, Fanning has been mindful of taking care of his horses both off and on the racetrack. A prime example is the 1:48 1/5 winning Live On.

“He’s a small horse that will give you everything leaving the gate and can finish well too,” said Fanning.

Live On is in a spot on Saturday that Fanning accepts but is not looking forward too. “You’ve got to start somewhere, but I don’t think he belongs with Golden Receiver,” Fanning said. “He qualified well and hopefully we’ll be able to get a piece.”

Ideally, Live On, now five, may have more of an opportunity racing on smaller tracks this season.

“I think he’s a better small track horse with his quickness,” said Fanning.

Live On did win in high conditions at Yonkers last year, leaving some hope that the trainer may point him towards the lucrative George Morton Levy series at Yonkers this spring.

“I don’t think I’ll make that decision until February 28,” said Fanning, alluding to the closing date of March 1 for the FFA stakes event. “My biggest concern with him is that I don’t want to discourage him. I don’t want to have him racing his heart out for fourth or fifth money.”

Like Live On, All Star Blues, Fanning’s starter in the third race (C-2 class), is a five-year-old by the underrated stallion Four Starzzz Shark. Unlike his stablemate, All Star Blues is approaching $100,000 for his career, not a single season.

“He’s a big strong horse,” said Fanning, “But an underachiever.”

In his first start at the Meadowlands this year, after four efforts at Freehold, All Star Blues finished a solid second at this level from post eight. He moves inside with post three on Saturday night.

K Slater makes his 2014 debut at the B-1 level in race five and Fanning is optimistic. “He qualified real well. He’s a horse that is definitely getting better with age. He really stepped up last year,” said Fanning of the seven-year-old that starts from post four on Saturday night.

Ironically we caught Fanning while he was watching the U.S. in Olympic Hockey and that segued perfectly into his four-year-old Olde Time Hockey. Consumed by the international match, Fanning hadn’t had the chance to see the draw as yet.

When told that Olde Time Hockey landed post nine he said, “Again! This horse had to work for every dime he earned last year. He drew the outside in the New York Night of Champions race and he drew the outside in the Empire Breeders Classic,” lamented Fanning.

The trainer was a bit more composed about Saturday night’s task. “He qualified back well and I really think the B-2 class is right for him,” said Fanning.

Olde Time Hockey finished first or second 12 times in 19 starts as a three-year-old, his first year on the racetrack, campaigning mostly on the New York Sire Stakes circuit.

Fanning has plenty of stock preparing to make their return in 2014, most notably the four-year-old trotter Possessed Fashion, a winner of $230K in 2013. The Donato Hanover-sired gelding finished the year on a high note, coming within three-quarters of a length of Smilin Eli in the Matron final at Dover in November. “I think if he had gotten free earlier we might have had a chance to win that one,” said Fanning, looking forward to this season and perhaps more half-mile track starts for Possessed Fashion.

If there is an under the radar horse in Fanning’s stable, it would be the sophomore filly Do Your Job. A daughter of Western Terror, Do You Job won twice in three tries towards the tail end of 2013 and Fanning is treating her like a stakes horse on the comeback trail. She’s eligible in Pennsylvania but likely will be staked on the Grand Circuit as well.

“She won in 1:54 against older horses,” said Fanning of the limited campaign.

Now back to Olympic hockey.

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