10/29/2015 10:22AM

Vernon: Marvin Katz sends out top pair in Kindergarten

Derick Giwner
Haughty finished second in the Breeders Crown on October 24 at Woodbine.

Fresh off picking up a win and a pair of seconds in the Breeders Crown, owner Marvin Katz is hoping his good fortune extends to Saturday night at Vernon Downs where his Haughty and Hollywood Highway will compete in the Kindergarten Trotting Classic Finals for 2-year-olds of both sexes.

The Crown victory came from All The Time, who Katz co-owns with breeding partner Al Libfeld. The 2-year-old homebred trotting filly under the care of Jimmy Takter took control and won by 3-3/4 lengths defeating another Libfeld/Katz (and Sam Goldband) filly named Haughty. Also in the Takter barn, that daughter of Donato Hanover-Letsjusttalkaboutme has the opportunity to grab the spotlight in the $174,500 Kindergarten, race nine on the program.

[VERNON DOWNS: Watch top 2-year-olds in the Kindergarten Classic--Live on DRF Saturday!]

“All The Time is a little more experienced and faced a better level of competition,” said Katz, comparing the two fillies.

Haughty entered the Breeders Crown final perfect in seven starts but took a conservative route to that destination. She raced in lower level conditioned races and the Kindergarten series before scoring her first stakes win in the International Stallion series at The Red Mile.

“She was a project training down. There were several times were I wouldn’t have been shocked if Jimmy (Takter) stopped with her and waited for her 3-year-old season. Jimmy, the great trainer that he is, persevered,” said Katz.

In her second baby race at the Meadowlands on July 31, Haughty finally began to show why she was worth the $80,000 Lexington Selected price tag. “I remember speaking to Jimmy and him saying, ‘where did that come from?’”

On Saturday Haughty (5-2) will start from post one with regular driver Dave Palone in the bike. She is coupled in the wagering with Hollywood Hill, who has accumulated a 10-3-2-1 record this year for Takter.

While the immediate future is undecided, Katz is now expecting his “project” to have a bright future.

“We are taking it race by race,” said Katz on the plan for the rest of 2015. “I don’t think she has reached her full capacity by any means. She is a big, powerful filly with a lot more to give.”

Not to be outdone, Katz and Libfeld team up with another homebred in the $191,500 Kindergarten for colts in race eight. Hollywood Highway has a similar profile to Haughty in that he started late (first baby race on July 31) and raced in easier conditions to start his career, but the story goes even deeper.

Hollywood Highway was originally sold at the Lexington Selected Sale for $50,000 but was found to have OCDs (a developmental disease that affects the cartilage and bone in the joints) in his stifles when x-rayed by his new owners. To the credit of Katz and Libfeld, they offered to buy all or part of the colt back.

Typically a very serious issue, Katz and Libfeld got somewhat lucky. They opted to treat the OCDs with a round of stem cell injections rather than surgery. The chances of success were deemed to be 50/50. After two rounds of treatment all of the OCDs were gone.

Once cleared for training, Hollywood Highway had to play catch-up. “He was way behind in terms of the training program compared to the other 2-year-olds,” said Katz, who gave the horse to Staffan Lind, the original trainer after the sale.

Hollywood Highway won his first race in his third career start on September 10 at The Red Mile in a leg of the Kindergarten. He paired that up with another win before finishing a close second in his first stakes assignment in the Bluegrass series. The following week he was back at The Red Mile and won a division of the International Stallion Stakes.

“He is clearly a colt that is capable of competing with the top end of the division,” said Katz on the potential of Hollywood Highway, who will start from post four as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line with Tim Tetrick in the sulky. Dog Gone Lucky, a five-length winner in a Kindergarten leg at Vernon last week, is the 5-2 favorite.

Katz and Libfeld have over 40 broodmares and are continuing to expand their operation that started as a means of keeping the best trotting mares in North America from shipping to Europe. They currently have near-millionaires Creamy Mimi and To Dream On among the top group of mares on their roster.

The Saturday Vernon card gets underway at 6:00 p.m. and offers 11 races.