08/27/2014 10:18AM

Vernon: Flyhawk El Durado carries Ford’s hopes in Zweig

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Mayra Escamilla
Flyhawk El Durado has already banked over $250,000 this season.

Trainer Mark Ford may just have a secret weapon in his 3-year-old colt Flyhawk El Durado, who’ll start from post one in Friday night’s $340,000 Zweig Memorial Trot at Vernon Downs, slated as race eight on the ten-event program.

The sophomore son of Conway Hall has impressive career earnings of $552,987 coming into the Zweig, topped only by the fearsome Jimmy Takter-trained duo of Nuncio ($1,024,425) and Father Patrick ($1,274,058).

“I don’t know if he’s really got the pop to go with the likes of those two (Takter) horses,” Ford admitted. “But I’ll say this; he’s a very opportunistic little horse who wants to be a top colt, and that’s something you can’t teach a horse. They either have that desire or they don’t.”

Flyhawk El Durado obviously has the chops to be a top regional horse, as he’s shown by winning his last start on Aug. 22 at Vernon in a career best 1:52 4/5 in a $59,100 New York Sire Stake test.

“He was pretty well within himself in that race,” Ford offered. “When I took him to Canada for the Goodtimes (in mid-June), he won his elimination but had some bad luck in the final and it kind of threw him out of sorts. I think he may have choked in that race.  He just wasn’t himself for a few races, but he had a break during the Goshen races (in early July) and then all of a sudden, he sort of came out of it, and has been phenomenal ever since.”

Ford purchased the colt privately for owner Martin Scharf of Lawrence, NY, after he spied him winning just his second lifetime start in a $44,350 NYSS at Monticello on July 11, 2013.

“Jimmy (trainer Whittemore) had him and he seemed like such a nice, hard-trying little fellow,” Ford recalled. “He was for sale and was one of the better colts I’d seen around at that time.”

Flyhawk El Durado went on to win five more NYSS 2-year-old events under Ford’s care in 2013, including a $133,744 NYSS on Sept 20 by an astonishing 34 1/2 lengths—in a race that saw him dead-heat with rival Credit Fashion, whom he then bested in the $225,000 NYSS Final on Sept. 28 at Yonkers in 1:58.  At the end of the season the youngster had accumulated $301,076 from six wins, one second and one third in nine starts, with a freshman mark of 1:57 3/5, taken in a $23,418 Tompkins Geers on July 18, 2013 at Tioga Downs.

This year the hard-trying bay has posted six wins, one second and four thirds in 12 starts, with seasonal earnings of $251,911.

“We’ve been very lucky with him so far,” Ford assessed. “He’s a little south of medium as far as height and build go, but he’s a very professional little guy.  Mark (driver MacDonald) has been instrumental in his success.  He drives him like he owns him, and has been very helpful.”

Flyhawk El Durado comes into the Zweig with a four-race win streak under his belt.  He first scored a wire-to-wire 1:55 3/5 triumph in a $107,500 NYSS at Yonkers on July 24, before posting an easy 1:55 4/5 clocking in a $58,000 NYSS test on Aug. 1 at Batavia.  He then rattled off a 1:56 1/5 victory on Aug. 12 in a $109,500 NYSS at Yonkers before last week’s win.

“Outside of Jimmy’s (Takter) horses, I’m not too worried about the rest of the field; they’re mostly all regional horses too,” Ford noted. “I’m happy with the post (one), and what’s really great about him is that he’s very quick and handy and will be able to put himself in a good spot in there.  I wish I had a whole barn full of horses like him.”

Flyhawk El Durado was bred by Kathleen and Andrea Pratt of New Woodstock, NY and is the second foal out of the El Paso Kash mare El Paso Girl, 4, 1:59H ($194,738). He has a half-brother in the 19-race winning gelding Nowerland Coldcash (by Cash Hall) 4, 1:59H (69,169).  El Paso Girl herself was a top contender on the NYSS circuit, winning $170,443 from 13 wins as a 2- and 3-year-old.

[DRF HARNESS: Watch the Zweig Memorial and Crawford Trot from Vernon Downs on Friday night - LIVE on DRF!]