06/04/2015 9:24PM

Scioto: Natural Herbie faces difficult task in Charlie Hill Memorial

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Derick Giwner
Natural Herbie won 12 of 23 starts and $360,360 in 2014.

Preparing a horse to compete against the best older trotters in North America is no easy task. Coming off a career year, Natural Herbie is still seeking his first win of 2015 as he enters Saturday’s $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial at Scioto Downs.

“He’s getting there,” said trainer Verlin Yoder on Natural Herbie’s current form. “Every year it is a slow process. We train him hard when he’s racing, but I don’t during the winter.”

This winter included an eight-week break where Yoder turned out the 5-year-old son of Here Comes Herbie. He admits that he’ll likely cut the gelding’s vacation in half next year with the hopes of a possible trip to the Elitlopp in Sweden.

[SCIOTO DOWNS: Watch Natural Herbie in the Charlie Hill on Saturday--Live on DRF!]

“We had a chance to go to the Elitlopp this year, we got an invitation, but he wasn’t ready,” said Yoder.

Following a campaign where Natural Herbie won 12 of 23 starts and $360,360, it is hard to fathom his o-for-5 start in 2015. How does a horse that won the International Trot Preview at Yonkers Raceway while defeating Sebastian K lose five straight Invitational races at Hoosier Park?

“Last year it took him seven starts to get right, but no one knows that because no one was paying attention to him then,” chuckled Yoder, who admits that getting a good check from his post 8 starting position on Saturday would make him happy.

Yoder, who has made Natural Herbie eligible to many of the big trotting races this year, including the TVG series, John Cashman and Maple Leaf, wears all the hats when it comes to Natural Herbie. The 41-year-old owns, trains and drives his stable star.

While Natural Herbie is a clear longshot to win Saturday, 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician falls on the other end of the spectrum. The 5-year-old mare has won three of four starts this year against her male counterparts and looms as a short-priced favorite. She starts from post 4 with regular driver Brian Sears in the sulky.

Two horses which have been racing locally at Scioto figure to provide some resistance to Bee A Magician. Il Sogno Dream (post 2) has a win and a second this year while racing at Scioto and Southwind Pepino (post 7) won the Open here by over five lengths in his most recent start.

The Charlie Hill, race seven on a 14-race program, also features a couple of interesting shippers in DW’s NY Yank (post 5) and Obrigado (post 6). The former has earned nearly $800k in his career and possesses high early speed, while Obrigado has turned in three solid prep races at Yonkers Raceway while gearing up for his first stakes action.

The Scioto Downs card commences at 6:30 p.m. and features four $40,000 divisions of the Ohio Sire Stakes in addition to the Charlie Hill.