08/28/2013 12:24PM

Mohawk: Soderberg picked a winner in Metro starter Western Vintage

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Derick Giwner
Western Vintage is the likely favorite in the Metro on Saturday at Mohawk.

Perry Soderberg is usually a man behind the scenes when it comes to recruiting some of harness racing’s great pacers and trotters, but come Saturday evening at Mohawk, he will be square in the spotlight.

The native of Sweden spends many of his summer months visiting North America’s top breeding farms in search of future champions. He’s not selecting the youngsters for himself necessarily, but finding top yearlings for the sport’s top owners.

But with the up-and-coming Western Vintage, that wasn’t the case.

The youngster was a yearling that Soderberg recommended to all of his clients, but when the hammer fell at $7,000 at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale last year, it was Soderberg who was the purchaser.

One year later, the son of Western Ideal is one of the key contenders in the $683,000 Metro Pace, North America’s richest two-year-old pacing event.

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“What an unbelievable thrill,” Soderberg said, of racing for the rich purse. “There are a lot of other top colts in the race, but I’m also confident in our guy. Like anything else, we’ll need some luck and all we can do is hope for the best.”

Western Vintage was a horse of which Soderberg spoke highly, but his clients thought otherwise.

“I told all my clients about him, but no one really seemed interested.  I knew the family very well because of Vintage Master and Great Vintage, so I knew what type of horse the family has been known to throw.

“He was average-size, but has a lot of muscle tone and stood very well,” Soderberg continued. “He did have a scar on his back right ankle, which was maybe why he scared some people away, but not me. He was also New Jersey-bred, which isn’t in demand with the Sires Stakes program, but he was well worth a chance.”

The homework Soderberg did last season has allowed him to reap the rewards to himself this season as Western Vintage has banked $117,250 with a 4-0-0 record from five starts.

“I’m not one to buy yearlings for myself because that’s not my business. My business is scoping out the yearlings each year and giving my recommendation to my clients and allow them to make their own decisions to hopefully end up with a champion. In this case, my clients knew I recommended the horse, but nobody jumped, so I did.”

After Soderberg purchased the youngster, he quickly received a text message from Nancy Johannson Tatker, daughter of Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter.

“Nancy messaged me asking if she could train the horse because that was the direction her and her husband, Marcus, were going.  I quickly agreed. I’ve known Nancy for 30 years, so it was an obvious fit. She’s done a fabulous job with this horse and deserves a lot of recognition.”

Soderberg's main clients that he recruits yearlings for include Takter, Al Libfeld, Marvin Katz and Brittany Farms to name a few.

Soderberg’s results at selecting youngsters speaks volumes as he’s recruited Mr Feelgood, Muscle Massive, Passionate Glide, Pampered Princess, Ken Warkentin, Pastor Stephen, Cabrini Hanover and in recent years American Jewel, Romantic Moment, Father Patrick and Ali Blue.

“I have a terrific clientele and it’s not just about spending a lot of money and purchasing the highest price yearling. It’s about finding the correct individual at the right price with the right conformation.

“I get a great thrill just being apart of a horse’s career,” said Soderberg, a resident of New Jersey. “I’m not the type to be in spotlight. I’m content being behind the scenes.

“On an average year I’ll look at between 1,600 to 1,700 yearlings,” Soderberg continued. “I remember one year I was close to 2,000. I spend a lot of time on the road, but in the end it has paid off very well.”

After Soderberg purchased Western Vintage, the training reports he received were always encouraging, but Soderberg remained grounded.

“I follow every horse that I pick out for clients and sometimes they turn out and sometimes they don’t, it’s just the way it works. I’ve been down this road before, so I didn’t want to get too high on him until he stepped foot on to the racetrack.”

Western Vintage qualified at The Meadowlands before scoring three straight wins, including a $150,000 New Jersey Sires Stakes final.

Most recently, Western Vintage scored a 1:51 3/5 lifetime best victory by two lengths in his Metro Pace elimination, while in the hands of regular driver Yannick Gingras.

“He’s really progressed well this season and I was a bundle of nerves in his (Metro) elimination,” said the 53-year-old. “I usually don’t get worked up when he’s racing. I was fine when he raced in New Jersey, but not last week. Maybe it’s the thought of racing for that kind of money.”

Soderberg’s hard work and dedication has paid dividends for his clients.  On Saturday, he may well be the beneficiary.

(edited release-WEG)