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Bergman: Jenny Melander takes a slow and steady approach to training

Jay BergmanApr 17, 2017

Golden Son
Mike LizziGolden Son has won 6 of 9 starts since moving into the Jenny Melander barn

It was a magical Tuesday night for Jenny Melander. Just a few months earlier the trainer was be shopping for new talent for her growing stable. On Tuesday the newcomers were on display in two series for young trotters. One of her most recent purchases, Golden Son captured the second consecutive leg of the SOA Bonus Trotting Series at Yonkers pushing his first-year bankroll for Melander to nearly $70,000. Even those investing in the recent stock market boom would have trouble finding such gains in this short a period of time.

“We bought him for $20,000,” said Melander of Golden Son. “We liked his lines in Ontario and he showed that he was a winner.”

The price was an issue with Golden Son and it’s been something of a constant with Melander since she went out on her own five years ago after working for Erv Miller and Mark Harder as an assistant.

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“It’s really important to make a profit,” Melander said. “I think if you spend too much money it makes it much harder to recover that money.”

In Golden Son, she found a son of Majestic Son that she was confident could get around the half-mile track.

“Our goal was to race him in this series,” Melander said.

Golden Son was already a winner before heading into the SOA Bonus Series. He made his debut for Melander winning on a chilly night at The Meadowlands in December, then strung together three more victories when Yonkers re-opened. He’s now won six times in nine tries for Melander, who gives credit where it’s deserved.

“Jason (Bartlett) did a great job with him last night (Tuesday). He can get a little grabby and then not finish up his miles, but he was solid.”

Ameliosi was a trotting mare that Melander picked up midway through her sophomore campaign. Now 4 years old, she has benefitted from the transition. “She fell in the paddock and was injured,” said Melander. “I told the owners that I thought giving her extra time was necessary. Thankfully they agreed.”

Ameliosi, a 1:57 2/5 winner at Yonkers on Tuesday and third in the opening leg of the Bonus Trot, has a good chance of reaching the $95K estimated final on April 25.

While Melander’s crew was winning at Yonkers she had some impressive young stock on display at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in the Weiss Series.

Hilarious Hero is a 4-year-old that Melander purchased around Christmas time in Ontario. At that point the son of Deweycheatumnhowe had gone winless in two seasons of racing, or 24 starts if you prefer. The price was a bit under $20,000 but Melander liked the physical presence of the horse, something she believes is essential to bringing out their best. Hilarious Hero is a maiden no longer, having won his first start at Pocono a few weeks ago and then returning from post eight to capture a division of the Weiss on Tuesday impressively for Matt Kakaley.

The 1:56 3/5 mile was obviously a career best, but perhaps more telling is the fact that he has trotted wire-to-wire on both occasions and looked strong finishing.

It’s a great time in the sport for those training younger trotters. Purse money continues to build in the metropolitan area for non-winners types with Yonkers and Pocono offering lucrative purses in those classes. It has helped Melander play out her philosophy about this business.

“We really don’t like to spend too much money staking our horses. We’ll put them into the minor stakes but it’s too expensive with some of the others,” said Melander.

Some might think that’s not enough wishful thinking, but in the case of Melander and many other trainers, keeping costs down is essential to profitability. The fact that races are carded for young horses up to non-winners of eight races provides a platform for many future stakes horses to earn a living.

Perhaps the best performance from the Melander stable on Tuesday night came from a 3-year-old that finished second. Perseverance was purchased at the same Harrisburg sale for $20,000. Again Melander is picking up someone else’s rejects, but the trainer doesn’t exactly look at it the same. “I asked Steffan Lind about the horse after the sale,” said Melander. What she found is that the horse had some maturity issues and perhaps would be a better racehorse if he was gelded.

With the change in place, Melander has seen improvement in Perseverance’s attitude on the racetrack.

“In his first race with David (Miller) driving he just over-trotted himself on the final turn. He hadn’t made any mistakes at all training down,” Melander said.

Back at Pocono on Tuesday, Matt Kakaley took the long and wide way around the track and the son of Cantab Hall, an 80-1 shot, finished sharply missing by just a half-length in a 1:56 mile.

It was the kind of mile you would expect any trainer to marvel at. Yet Melander didn’t appear to let it get to her head. “I hope he can become a good Sire Stakes horse,” Melander said while indicating that he does have some stakes races ahead should the need arise.

Perseverance typifies what Melander has done and continues to do in this sport. Her stable that trains at Wingate Farms in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania now numbers 28 and is made up primarily of trotters and younger horses. She has 10 2-year-olds in training. Unlike many in the field, she appears to be hoping to get them to the races and have them make money while not looking that far down the road.

“Sure I’d like to have a horse that can win those big races,” Melander said.

With the ability to take on horses that some others have given up on and prosper, there’s no doubt Melander will have the opportunity to find that horse. She understands what it takes to have a horse fit and sound so that they can perform at a peak when on the track, whether in overnight races or some day for the biggest prize.

 

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