08/12/2015 4:19PM

Northfield: Looney-King enjoying the ride with Wakizashi Hanover

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Wakizashi Hanover won the North America Cup at Mohawk.

After a lifetime in harness racing, trainer Joann Looney-King is enjoying her horse of a lifetime. And the horse, Wakizashi Hanover, is enjoying all the attention.

Wakizashi Hanover, who in June won Canada’s million-dollar North America Cup, returns from a nearly month-long layoff Friday in the $405,000 Carl Milstein Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers at Northfield Park in Ohio. Wakizashi Hanover, known around the stable as the more-easily pronounced “Waki,” drew post eight in the eight-horse field and is the 9-2 third choice on the morning line. Regular driver Tim Tetrick is listed to go with the gelding.

For the year, Wakizashi Hanover has won six of 10 races, hit the board a total of nine times, and earned $639,902 for the ownership group Tri County Stable, based in Nova Scotia. Lifetime, the son of Dragon Again-Western Gesture has won eight of 16 starts, missed the top three only twice, and earned $743,991.

[ NORTHFIELD PARK: Wiggle It Jiggleit competes in the Milstein Memorial on Friday.]

“It’s just such a wonderful thing at this point in my life to have a horse like this,” said Looney-King, a 69-year-old Delaware native whose career in harness racing has included driving, training and co-hosting the early editions of the show “Racing from the Meadowlands.”

“I’ve done it for so many years and to have this happen, my husband (trainer Jim King Jr.) and I think we’ve died and gone to heaven. We’ve made our living through the years with claimers and condition horses. Claimers have been good to me, and I still have claimers. We’ve worked hard, and we still do. You don’t get anywhere until you work hard. You’ve got to really get with it and stick with the program for years and go through heartaches.

“To make it all worth it, wow. One horse can bring you to life. After all these years, one horse.”

Wakizashi Hanover is a horse who enjoys his routine, from an early breakfast followed by several hours of fresh air in the paddock, to being the center of attention.

“He has a big personality,” Looney-King said. “He’s the first horse I go to in the barn every day. He’s there with head over the door swinging it around and around and around, demanding that you come over and pet him on the head and talk to him and be his friend.

“He’s a kind horse; a good-feeling horse. He just has a good personality. He’s a wonderful horse to be around, and makes his presence known all the time. When he gets to the (race) paddock he’s all business. He does anything you ask him to do. He’s just a nice boy.”

Wakizashi Hanover was purchased for $23,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale by Bruce Kennedy, who heads the Tri County Stable. The group consists of three veteran horse owners, including the 74-year-old Kennedy, and three newcomers.

“In Nova Scotia, people are just crazy for this horse,” Looney-King said. “It’s fun to see other people enjoy it too. It’s amazing.

“Bruce is such a good guy. Of course we always want to win, but he’s always happy for somebody else when they win. The whole group, you’re just always happy for people that get a good horse.”

Wakizashi Hanover’s recent respite followed six consecutive weeks of racing. After winning the North America Cup he finished fourth from post seven in the Max C. Hempt Memorial and third from post nine in the Meadowlands Pace.

He prepped for the Milstein by winning a qualifier in 1:53 1/5 on Aug. 4 at Harrah’s Philadelphia. His connections had considered spending $35,000 to supplement to the Cane Pace, which was held Aug. 8, but decided to stick to the horse’s schedule.

Dealt A Winner won the Cane Pace at 26-1 odds, upsetting Meadowlands Pace and Hempt winner Wiggle It Jiggleit and Adios winner Dude’s The Man in the process.

“We figured we would skip the Cane and as it turned out we probably should have showed up,” Looney-King said. “It turned out there were no eliminations and only a nine-horse field for the final. But that’s water under the bridge.

“It’s such a hard schedule. We’re a little fussy about racing too much, even though we know the big money is as a 3-year-old.”

Following the Milstein, Wakizashi Hanover’s schedule includes the Battle of the Brandywine, Keystone Classic, Breeders Crown, Matron Stakes, and Progress Pace.

“It’s a pretty heavy schedule,” Looney-King said. “Things change weekly. (The result of the Cane Pace), that’s just horse racing. I think a lot of times we think these things are machines and they’re just horses. You never know. They’re always capable of surprising you. And that’s a great thing.

“It is a nice bunch of horses in this (3-year-old pacing) division. You’ve got to be looking out for all those guys. I don’t discount any one of them. It’s exciting. It’s fun. And to be part of it is really fun too.”

Looney-King would have preferred a better draw for the Milstein, but she is always happy with her horse.

“It’s always nice when a horse gives a hundred percent all the time, and that’s what he does,” she said. “When Tim goes out there with him I always have a good feeling. The two of them are a top-notched duo. In my mind, you can’t get any better than those two.

“I just always know when he goes out there that I’m going to get everything he’s got. That’s a good feeling. That’s a real good feeling.”

$405,000 Carl Milstein Memorial

HN-Horse-Post-Driver-Line
1-Go Daddy Go-Peter Wrenn-Robert McIntosh-15-1
2-Lyons Levi Lewis-Ronnie Wrenn Jr.-Ron Burke-10-1
3-Lost For Words-David Miller-Brian Brown-4-1
4-Wiggle It Jiggleit-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-3-5
5-Allbeef N Nobull-Chris Page-Ron Burke-12-1
6-Rock N' Roll World-Aaron Merriman-Mark Silva-20-1
7-The Wayfaring Man-Aaron Merriman-Nicky Comegna-25-1
8-Wakizashi Hanover-Tim Tetrick-Joann Looney-King-9-2

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com