by Brett Sturman
Of the horses that raced at the Meadowlands on both the Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian cards, one in particular that stood out amongst all of the stakes caliber stars was the rapidly overachieving 5-year-old horse Mr Julian.
Mr Julian (I Scoot Hanover–Julia Julia) has developed a cult following of sorts. Here’s a horse that was toiling in $7,500 claiming races and in non-winners of $2,000 last five (that’s $2,000, not $20,000) conditioned races as recently as May.
Since June 10, however, Mr Julian has won seven of eight starts, including victories at the Meadowlands and Pocono against high-level conditioned foes.
The horse ran his recent record to 8 7-1-0, $37,287 after he had earned $75,930 in his first 84 trips behind the starting gate.(Pocono/PHHA)
Mr Julian represents the second to last crop from the late I Scoot Hanover, who died in 2012 at the age of 15. Having stood in Indiana for his time as a stallion, I Scoot Hanover produced Indiana Sire Stakes stars such as Freddyscooter (1:49:1, $926,125) who still races today, and I Robin Scoot (1:49:3, $850,092) who last raced in 2015.
But it is now Mr Julian, of all horses, who represents the fastest offspring of I Scoot Hanover with his mark of 1:48:4 taken on July 8 when he blew the doors off $7,500 claimers. I’m venturing to guess it’s a near certainty that his sub-1:49 clocking is the fastest mile ever paced for a horse in for that low of a claiming price.
Leading up to “the streak” Mr Julian was trained (and driven in most cases) by Thomas Merton. Dismissed as a longshot in nearly all of his races through the spring at the Meadowlands, Mr Julian started to get good towards the end of May. After going wire to wire from post 9 with the horse in a N/W $2,000 L5 condition, Merton put Mr Julian back in for a claiming price of $7,500. Again, Merton would go right down the road with Mr Julian – this time in a new lifetime mark of 1:51:4 – and when Merton went to the well one more time and entered the horse back for $7,500 the next week on June 23, he was claimed by Delaware based trainer Jason Johnson.
Having only a couple of days with Mr Julian before entering him, Johnson entered the newly-claimed horse right back in for $7,500, a decision that Johnson came to immediately regret.
“I claimed him on a Saturday and he was pretty sore, he had really bad feet,” said Johnson. “He was still sore on Sunday and Monday, and I had the blacksmith come in on Monday afternoon to do what he had to do in order to fix him up. I had to drop him in Tuesday morning for the Meadowlands for that following week, so I made the decision to just put him right back in for $7,500. But when I trained him on Wednesday, I knew I had made a mistake.”
Predictably, Mr Julian was claimed away from Johnson following that race with the new trainer by Vincent Fusco. Johnson recalls telling his dad that if the new connections of Mr Julian put him in for anything less than $20,000 that he was going to claim the horse back.
To the surprise of many, Mr Julian was jammed right back in at the $7,500 level the next week.
Johnson was able to reclaim the horse from that race, but not without luck. As it turned out, there were four claims on Mr Julian that night and not only did Johnson win the four-way shake, but he got Mr Julian while coming off coming off a smashing 1:48:4 win for his short-lived time in the Fusco barn.
From there, Johnson wasn’t taking any chances. He entered Mr Julian for an optional claiming tag of $30,000 so that the horse could fit a N/W $11,500 condition. In that race against more established foes, Mr Julian was teamed up with Corey Callahan for the first time but looked on his way to being soundly beaten when passed on the lead by the three-quarter mark. He ended up finishing second that race, only beaten to a tripped out Maxdaddy Blue Chip, a horse that would go to sale and sell for $100,000 the very next day. “I was very, very impressed that race. He dug in; looked like he was beat around that last turn but he came back on and fought hard for second,” said Johnson.
Since that race, Mr Julian has gotten his due by beating equally tough rivals in an upper level conditioned race on closing day at the Meadowlands, and then just last week he turned the trick again against N/W $22,500 types at Pocono.
There are things that Johnson attributes the success of the horse to, but overall Johnson says it helps that he’s a pretty good horse in his own right. “He’s well mannered, doesn’t do anything wrong and all I try to do his keep him happy and help with his feet. His feet are a big issue with him.”
To assist with the foot issues, a product that Johnson has turned to is Doc Foal’s Horseshoe Pads. With the pads designed to provide a cushioned surface, it has helped with Mr Julian to relieve pressure on his heel, and to protect it.
With the Meadowlands closed for the time being, there aren’t many opportunities for Mr Julian to race. Said Johnson, “I’m kind of stuck right now. I entered him for the winners over at Pocono which is really the only class he fits right now. I guess they’re not filling and even Chester isn’t filling anything. I don’t think he does well on a half, so we’ll see. If I have to travel further I just have to travel further to race him, that’s all. I have no other classes to race him in if Pennsylvania doesn’t fill their open or winners over.”
As Johnson waits for a condition to open there is one class that we can rule out now for sure. Mr. Julian won’t be back in for a tag of $7,500 anytime soon.