by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent - For the Breeders Crown
A pacing mare has never won a million dollars in a single season, but that could change in the coming weeks thanks to Shartin N.
The 5-year-old Shartin N has won 17 of 22 races this season and earned $833,361. She races Saturday (Oct. 27) in the $270,000 Breeders Crown Mare Pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and could surpass Dreamfair Eternal’s seasonal earnings record for a pacing mare of $925,575 set in 2010 as well as move nearer the million-dollar mark.
All 12 Breeders Crown championships, with $6.4 million in total purses, will be raced Saturday at Pocono. Post time is 5:30 p.m. (EDT) for the first race.
Shartin N, who won her Breeders Crown elimination last weekend by a length over Twinkle in 1:52, starts the final from post two with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Jim King Jr. and owners Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King.
“She’s definitely all that,” King said about Shartin N, who was supplemented to the Breeders Crown for $31,250. “She’s had one hellish year. She has the opportunity to win a million this year, which I think is a pretty good feat for an older mare.
“To start out the year with the Matchmaker (Series in March) and still be going and looking and feeling as good as she does, she’s the one that gets the credit, not me. I’m just along for the ride. Geez, I hate the year to end.”
King believed Shartin N would be a nice racehorse after watching her win four of five starts prior to the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers, but knew there was work to be done in terms of dealing with the mare’s demeanor.
“I knew she had talent when we were racing her at home, but she was very hard to get along with then,” King said. “It took us right to the Matchmaker final to really get to where we felt we understood her. From there it’s been pretty much a good go. We made a few adjustments and she seems to thrive on work.
“It’s so impressive just how she can do it the way she does it. She doesn’t have to have things go perfect for her, which is a good thing because it’s not always easy to get her to do what you want. But she just overcomes everything and keeps going. She’s a good horse. Whenever anything is wrong, she does what good horses do -- she takes it with her. She doesn’t lay around and complain about it. She gets up and goes to work.”
King and his wife have a second horse in the Mare Pace, Newborn Sassy, who finished third behind Call Me Queen Be and Pure Country in her elimination.
“She had the rail so I was pretty sure that was going to be to her benefit,” Looney-King said. “I was hoping that she would sneak in and get fourth. Even better, we were third. I think it will be tough for her to beat these mares, but we’re going to give it a go. It’s just been a great year. I don’t know why I deserve it, but I’m taking it.”
The 5-year-old Newborn Sassy was a Grand Circuit winner at ages 2 and 3, even winning a Breeders Crown elimination at 3 before finishing sixth in the final, but was not staked the past two seasons.
“She wasn’t staked last year or at all this year,” Looney-King said. “We just decided to put her in the Breeders Crown this year. Her gig has been Yonkers in the mares open and it’s been a good gig. Those checks are nice. She was just so consistent, man, she paid some bills.”
And she does so while making life easy.
“It’s such a great thing to have a horse like her,” Looney-King added. “She’s easy going, she just falls in line. She is the perfect horse, she really is. She’s good to take care of, good to jog, good to drive -- just everything. She doesn’t do anything wrong.”
Pure Country and Call Me Queen Be are both previous Breeders Crown champions and Pure Country is chasing history of her own. Pure Country is attempting to become just the fourth pacer to win three Breeders Crown titles. Jenna's Beach Boy, Eternal Camnation and My Little Dragon have also hit the trifecta. Pure Country won as a 2- and 4-year-old and is attempting to become the first repeat winner since Shelliscape in 2013-14.
Owned by Diamond Creek Racing and driven by Yannick Gingras, Pure Country was sixth in the stretch in last week’s elimination before rallying for second.
“She closed,” trainer Jimmy Takter said. “She ended up behind a horse that was in the way a little bit. When you have bad cover, second over is a bad spot here. I’d rather be first up. But she always closes that last sixteenth like a demon. She raced good.”
Pure Country, a three-time Dan Patch Award-winner, has a win, two seconds and two thirds in her past five starts. She was winless in her first eight races of the year but hit the board four times.
“She started a little bad, but she’s been racing good the last couple months of the year,” Takter said. “She will be a contender in the final. It wouldn’t shock me. I would not rule her out.”
Call Me Queen Be didn’t do much wrong in her Mare Pace elimination, as Eric Carlson drove her to victory in 1:50.3 while negotiating a sloppy track.
“She was tremendous,” trainer Ross Croghan said. “She was extremely good last week here at this track, the best start I’ve seen in a long time. We didn’t intend to come here until her performance last week and we changed our mind and took a shot. We drew the eight hole (for the elimination), but she’s got such tactical speed that she got to the top easy and cut out a nice even mile. She was impressive.”
Owned by Let It Ride Stables and Dana Parham, the 5-year-old -- who won a Breeders Crown at age 3 -- seems to be one of those horses that doesn’t mind the thermometer dropping in late October.
“I was never a believer that weather had anything to do with it, but I’m starting to change my mind,” Croghan said. “I think she might like the cooler weather a lot better. The last six weeks she’s been surprising because she did struggle through the summer. The last six weeks she’s picked it up and (Saturday) she was even better. The colder it gets, the faster she goes. Let’s hope for cold weather.”
Croghan has a second horse in the final as Twinkle sat in the pocket and then came up the inside to finish a length behind Shartin N in her elimination. The horse was coming off some health issues, but improved after 10 days off.
“I thought she would race good (Saturday),” Croghan said. “It was her first start in four weeks. I think (this) week she will be even better. I’ve always been very high on that filly. She’s got great speed. She’s a very talented filly. She has issues on and off, but when she’s good, she’s good.”
Another horse trying to finish strong after some tough times is Blue Moon Stride, which finished fourth in her elim.
“I was very, very happy,” trainer Mark Harder said. “Six weeks ago, we were struggling a little bit. She had a couple really bad races. I thought she might not get back to this level again. But her last race at Lexington and then (Saturday) I think she’s coming into the final just about spot on. She paced right through the wire, very strong.”
Harder felt one of the biggest issues he had was working Blue Moon Stride too hard to get through her tie-up issues. He noted that when he backed off, it freshened the horse up.
“Luckily I didn’t completely mess her up,” he said.
In discussing the division, Harder said, “There are a bunch of them that take their turns. It’s a tough, even group. You’ve got to be on your ‘A’ game to win. Shartin has been the ‘A’ one for a while, but Moon and Pure Country, Caviart Ally -- they’re an even group. Maybe not Shartin right now, she’s the standout.”
Following is the draw for the $270,000 Breeders Crown Mare Pace. Elimination winners drew for post one through five in an order determined by lot.
1-Twinkle-Scott Zeron-Ross Croghan
2-Shartin N-Jim King Jr.-Tim Tetrick
3-Call Me Queen Be-Eric Carlson-Ross Croghan
4-Lakeisha Hall-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke
5-Pure Country-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter
6-Carol’s Z Tam-Brian Sears-Jamie Macomber
7-Newborn Sassy-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.
8-Blue Moon Stride-Corey Callahan-Mark Harder
9-Caviart Ally-Andrew McCarthy-Noel Daley
by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent - For the Breeders Crown