06/21/2012 11:00AM

Pocono Downs: Googoo Gaagaa an unlikely favorite for Earl Beal Memorial


When the calendar turned to 2012, few could have predicted that the favorite for the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial final at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs would be Googoo Gaagaa. The trotter with pacing blood running through his sire’s side earned that distinction with a 1:51 3/5 world-record elimination effort.

Although Googoo Gaagaa had a perfect record in six starts as a 2-year-old, few could have imagined that he would blossom to this extent. Finding a son of Cam’s Rocket out of Kora’s Trotter racing against one of last year’s divisional leaders seems unfathomable. Yet regular driver Corey Callahan knew this horse was special from the start.

“I only drove him one time as a 2-year-old and we only went in 2:05, but I knew right away that he was the real deal,” said Callahan, who had to give up the drive back in 2011 to Jim Morand because of a commitment to drive in the World Driver’s Challenge.

Luckily, Callahan, who is good friends with owner-trainer-breeder Richard Hans, got the drive back for the colt’s sophomore campaign. With the exception of a break in stride at Harrah’s Philadelphia to start the year, each of Googoo Gaagaa’s 2012 starts has been a winning one. That string culminated in the world-record performance where the colt was parked for nearly three-eighths of a mile and simply pulled away from the field while completely on his own and under no encouragement from Callahan.

“Even though he went a world-record time, he had a lot more left,” Callahan said. “He was under no urging. I’m not really sure how fast he can go.”

Somehow the combination of pacing and trotting blood has produced a freaky-fast horse with a great gait.

“He’s a machine; a professional in every sense of the word,” said Callahan, who described Googoo Gaagaa’s front leg action as almost pacer-like. “He is very good gaited and only wears trotting boots behind. He is in against some royally bred horses on Saturday that are not as well-gaited as him.”

Although few will doubt Googoo Gaagaa’s raw speed and natural ability, he will still need to prove himself against a stellar group of second-year trotters Saturday. Starting from post 6, Callahan seems likely to send his charge to the front, although he believes Googoo Gaagaa might be better first over.

Perhaps the top threat for Callahan could come from the three-horse Jimmy Takter stable entry of Nothing But Class, Uncle Peter, and Little Brown Fox. Of the trio, Uncle Peter is the aforementioned divisional leader from last year and likely the one to fear of the group. He will start one spot to the right of Googoo Gaagaa, which could prohibit any thoughts of leaving the gate.

Should driver Ron Pierce work out a trip, the No. 1 contender to win the $1.5 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands in August could be very dangerous.

In fact, fellow trainer Noel Daley, who conditions pole-sitter Magic Tonight, thinks that Uncle Peter’s second-place finish to Stormin Normand in 1:51 4/5 was just as impressive as Googoo Gaagaa's victory. Daley, who won the Hambletonian last year with Broad Bahn, knows what he is talking about when it comes to big races.

“Googoo Gaagaa and Uncle Peter are the obvious ones to beat,” said Daley, who added that he felt his horse ranked in the second tier with Stormin Normand (post 4). “Uncle Peter was very good and came a long way to be second. I don’t see a lot of difference between those two.”

Although Daley thinks Magic Tonight has his work cut out for him Saturday, he did predict that the colt would be able to show a bit more early punch than he has thus far in 2012. He can “hold his own in the early stages and hopefully secure an inside trip,” the trainer said.

When it is all said and done, the public will be backing a descendent of 1994 Meadowlands Pace winner and Horse of the Year Cam’s Card Shark to win one of the top trotting races of the year. Should Googoo Gaagaa prove victorious, the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Yonkers Trot, will be next on the schedule. But don’t look for this possible star in the making at the Hambletonian. He is not eligible to the premier event for 3-year-old trotters.

“Who would have kept a horse like this eligible,” Callahan said.

The Beal is scheduled as race 12 on the 16-race program at Pocono, which also features numerous eliminations for next week’s Ben Franklin, Hempt, and James Lynch finals.

Post time is 6:30 p.m.