06/07/2013 4:20PM

Tioga: Coleman feels Betterthancheddar is better than ever

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Betterthancheddar might be better than ever.

The 5-year-old pacer, who was sidelined after 11 starts last season because of a minor soft tissue injury, returned to action last week with a second-place finish in the Molson Pace and has grown considerably according to trainer Casie Coleman.

“He’s a lot bigger horse,” Coleman said. “He’s way more muscular, a lot bigger, and his stride is a lot longer. He changed enough from a 3- to 4-year-old, but from a 4- to 5-year-old he really changed. He just looks like a big powerful beast now. He’s grown into his man body and out of his boy body, that’s for sure.

“It’s hard to believe he could get any better than he was last year. If he came back just as good as last year I’d be thrilled, but I honestly think he’s better than last year from the way he’s progressed and the way he’s been training.”

Last year Betterthancheddar won nine of 11 starts, finished second twice (by a nose and a neck) and earned $799,936 for owners Steve Calhoun and West Wins Stable on his way to being named Canada’s best older male pacer.

His 1:48 victory in the Ben Franklin Pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs equaled history’s fastest mile by a 4-year-old pacer on a five-eighths-mile track and his 1:49 2/5 win in the Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington equaled the record for a 4-year-old on a half-mile oval.

For his career, Betterthancheddar has won 19 of 30 races and earned $1.61 million. He won multiple stakes in 2011, including the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male pacers.

On Sunday, the son of stallion Bettor’s Delight and mare Lady Ashlee Ann will race in the $184,000 Roll With Joe at Tioga Downs in upstate New York. Betterthancheddar starts from post No. 3 with driver George Brennan and is 5-1 on the morning line. The Ron Burke-trained entry of Foiled Again and Sweet Lou is 5-2 followed by Golden Receiver at 3-1.

“He’s trained back great all winter,” Coleman said. “I couldn’t be any happier with him. He’s bigger and stronger and he’s got that much more experience under his belt now.”

Last week in the Molson Pace at The Raceway at Western Fair, Betterthancheddar and driver George Brennan got a ground-saving trip along the rail behind Foiled Again but were unable to find room in the stretch until nearing the finish line. Betterthancheddar ended up one-quarter length behind State Treasurer, with Foiled Again third.

“Georgie said he was loaded with pace and he simply couldn’t find a seam,” Coleman said. “I hated that he was beaten, but I was thrilled with the way it went; he didn’t get used too much. I just wish we got out (of traffic) a little sooner to get the win on top of it.”

Coleman was uncertain whether she would send Betterthancheddar to the Roll With Joe (formerly known as the Bettor’s Delight) but was convinced by Brennan to go.

“I asked Georgie after the race because I didn’t plan to go; I’d like a few more starts under his belt to face these tougher horses,” Coleman said. “George looked at me and asked me if I was crazy. He said he should definitely be there.”

The older male pacer division is loaded with talent. Foiled Again is richest pacer in North American harness racing history, with $4.84 million in earnings, and has been voted the division’s best in the U.S. in 2012 and 2011.

Golden Receiver, who has earned $1.13 million over the last two years alone, is the No. 2-ranked horse in the most recent harness racing Top 10 poll. He has won eight of 10 races this season.

Two-time Breeders Crown champion Bettor Sweet won a qualifier today at the Meadowlands as he prepares to return to the races. He has won $2.77 million in his career.

Four-year-olds Sweet Lou, A Rocknroll Dance, Pet Rock and Warrawee Needy are all highly regarded newcomers to the division.

“It’s an awesome division; there’s a ton of nice horses this year,” Coleman said. “I just have to make sure we take care of (Betterthancheddar) because those races are going to be flying.

“They’re going to be (1):47, (1):48 – maybe even faster the way the breed is right now. They’re going to be smoking, that’s for sure. It’s going to be some awesome racing.”

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