06/29/2017 10:38AM

Plainridge: Wings of Royalty pointed towards the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot

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There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot since Plainridge Park officials announced the inaugural contest would be held on Friday, July 28. But just like the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins, the hometown fans will have their own rooting interest in the race with native son George Ducharme and his trainee Wings Of Royalty.  

Ducharme grew up in Walpole, Massachusetts and now lives in Norfolk. He began his career in harness racing not too far from his home at nearby Foxboro Park in 1979, eventually starting his own stable in 1985. After Plainridge Park opened in 1999, he raced there for years before moving to the Grand Circuit as his stock continued to improve.

The highlight of Ducharme’s career was winning the $1.2 million Hambletonian with Massachusetts bred Royalty For Life in 2013, but he has also had many successful stake and overnight horses in his barn including a current eligible for his home state’s most lucrative standardbred race ever.

Wings Of Royalty (R C Royalty-Sparkling Cider 1:51 4/5, $603,784) was bred in Belchertown, Massachusetts by Ray Campbell Jr. and raced in the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program. In fact at 3, he was the undefeated divisional champion and set a track record at Plainridge for his age, gender and gait. But Wings Of Royalty also met the best sophomore male trotters in North America that year having competed in the Hambletonian, the Empire Breeders Classic and the Zweig.

Last year he moved into the Open trotting ranks and earned a living the hard way; in overnights at the best tracks on the east coast against the toughest trotters in the game. As an eligible in the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot, Wings Of Royalty would be renewing some old friendships with horses he has faced for the last three years, but would also be looking to do it with the home field advantage.

“The aged trotter division is extremely tough this year because not only are they the best in North America, but one has also competed in Europe so this will be quite the event for this track” said Ducharme. “Winning this race would be a tough grind for Wings Of Royalty and he’d really have to work hard against those kinds of horses. But he’s competed with them before and never puts in a poor performance. But to beat them, he’d have to be on the top of his game that day.”

Wings Of Royalty started out 2017 with a bang, winning his first start at Tioga Downs in 1:53 2/5, setting a new track record for aged trotting horses. He followed that up by finishing fifth at the Meadowlands in 1:51, only three-lengths behind JL Cruze and Crazy Wow who are both also eligible to the Spirit Trot.

After making a break in his next start it was discovered that Wings Of Royalty had developed an abscess in his foot and needed some time off for it to heal. Right now he has been away from competition for a month but Ducharme is confident that they will have enough time to get everything cleaned up and have him ready to roll.

Wings Of Royalty will start in overnight events at either the Meadowlands or Yonkers in order to get ready to go home and race at Plainridge Park the last week of July.

“I think the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot is a great thing Plainridge has put together so we can showcase the best horses in the sport and help the track promote the business a little more in the area. And I think it’s great for a horse that was born and raised in Massachusetts to have a chance to go home and race for big money in front of his local connections and fans” said Ducharme. “Wings of Royalty would definitely have a large rooting section in this area.”

The $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot is by far the richest Standardbred stake ever held in the state of Massachusetts and offers the highest one-race purse in the history of New England harness racing. 

-edited release (Tim Bojarski for Plainridge)