Former Clunker, Pinkman Major Threat in Hambletonian

By Bill Finley

Jimmy Takter doesn’t buy too many duds at the yearling sales. But he thought he had done just that when gearing Pinkman up for the races last year. Simply put, the horse just wasn’t any good.

“He was a very ordinary horse training down,” Takter said. “We paid $77,000 for him. Perry (Soderberg), who helps buy my horses, saw him in the field and he loved him. But he looked like a real clunker when he trained down. He just didn’t pay attention. It wasn’t like he was mean or something, but he was very laid back. He’s still very laid back, but now, he goes.”

Takter’s babies usually dominate the qualifiers at the Meadowlands, but not Pinkman. He was second in his first, going in 2:01.2. Still in qualifiers, he next finished sixth, sixth and third. At last, Takter tried a pari-mutuel race and Pinkman could do no better than second in a $2,100 non-winners of one-pari-mutuel at the Red Mile.

Takter grew so frustrated that he entered him in the Harrisburg Mixed sale, hoping that Pinkman would become someone else’s problem.

“I entered him in Harrisburg, so apparently, I wasn’t too high on him,” he said.

Once he got his act together, Pinkman was withdrawn from the sale.

But first, there was one more trick left, gelding the son of Explosive Matter. Takter, who is in the business of developing stallions for himself and his clients, doesn’t like to geld horses, but with Pinkman he felt he had no other choice. Once gelded in June, Pinkman did a 180.

“It was absolutely, totally, him being gelded that changed everything,” Takter said. “I never had a horse go from that low to that high. It’s not that common, really.”

Pinkman had a break through performance during the Little Brown Jug meet, winning a $59,445 stakes by a neck over the highly regarded Crazy Wow. From there, he’s never looked back. He lost just once more as a 2-year-old and wrapped up a Dan Patch Award with a win in the Breeders Crown. This year he is 6 for 7 and has established himself as the top male threat for the Hambletonian.

“After a while, he came around and we thought maybe he’s not that bad a horse,” Takter said. “He hasn’t raced one bad race. Every single start, he’s good. He’s a heck of a horse. He has the best résumé of any horse coming into the race. The horse that has made the most money is usually the best horse and he has made $1.2 million and there’s a big drop to the next one.”

One thing Pinkman never does is blow his competition away. In each of his last three wins he has won by less than a length. That’s part of his laid back nature. He just seems to want to get the job done and nothing more. “Some horses are like that,” Takter said. “Moni Maker was like that. She was never a horse that would open up by 20. They know what they have to do. Some horses are born with that ability, they knows what to do. Normally, those horses will last longer. Why win by five when you can win by a half-length? It’s the same money.”

Pinkman leads a five-horse challenge that Takter will mount for the Hambletonian as he’ll also send out Canepa Hanover, The Bank, Uncle Lasse and French Laundry. He admits he’s not as confident as he was last year when he had three horses and won the race with Trixton. The difference last year was that his three colts were vastly superior to anyone else in this race. This year he has five good horses, but they don’t tower over the opponents, particularly the filly Mission Brief and Centurion ATM.

Takter will be seeking his fourth Hambletonian victory. He also won the race in 1997 with Malabar Man (watch the race) and in 2010 with Muscle Massive (watch the race).

After Pinkman his best chance of winning the race would appear to be with Canepa Hanover. A $300,000 yearling purchase, he looks like this year’s Trixton in that he showed little at two but seems to be putting it all together this year at the perfect time. He’s coming off a second-place finish behind Pinkman in the Zweig and Takter will again drive him. He was also listed to drive The Bank in the same race, the first elimination, but has turned those duties over to brother Johnny.