The colt won the Breeders Crown nearly three months after being placed ninth in the Hambletonian despite crossing the wire first.
by Sandra Snyder
On Aug. 5, David Miller crafted an IOU with nine names on it and on Oct. 28 the veteran driver paid it in full, guiding What The Hill to victory in the $527,500 three-year-old trotting colt Breeders Crown Final.
“Dave Miller said that he was going to make it up to us and he just did it. He’s a man of his word,” said an exuberant Mike Gulotta. “We’re so proud of this horse and so proud of the partnership.”
Starting from Post 3 What The Hill and Miller landed in second behind fellow elimination winner Lindy The Great, who took the field to a :26.4 quarter, a :55.4 half and a 1:24.2 three-quarters. At the top of the long Hoosier Park stretch, Miller sent the fan favourite after the victory and What The Hill effortlessly pulled away from the field to the 1:52.3 victory. Pacesetter Lindy The Great (Crazed—Highscore Kemp) was two lengths back in second and his Frank Antonacci stablemate, International Moni (Love You—Moni Maker), who was the third elimination winner and the race’s 7-5 co-favourite, delivered a late kick to be third.
“We left and got onto the horse’s back that we wanted to follow and he carried me right into the stretch, and obviously the horse did the rest. The trip made a big difference,” said Miller. “He’s a good horse. He tries very hard. He’s been a bit of a challenge, but I like that.
“We had a little bit of hard luck with him early this summer and I told them all ‘I hope I can make it up for you.’ This helps,” the reinsman added in reference to reaching the wire first in the $1 million Hambletonian, but being set back by the judges for interference.
In addition to Gulotta’s Deo Volente Farms LLC of Flemington, NJ, What The Hill’s ownership group includes trainer Ron Burke’s Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown, PA, Our Horse Cents Stables of Melville, NY, and J And T Silva Stables LLC of Long Beach, NY. The son of Muscle Hill and K T Cha Cha, a full-sister to $1.9 million winner Majestic Son, was bred by Stan Klemencic of Trenton, ON.
Acquired from the 2015 Lexington Selected Sale for $65,000, What The Hill amassed a record of three wins and five seconds in 14 freshman starts, earning $335,397 and finishing fourth behind Walner in his first Breeders Crown appearance. This season, the colt has tallied eight wins, one second and two thirds in 15 starts for $821,200 in earnings. In addition to his Breeders Crown sweep, What The Hill captured a heat of the Kentucky Futurity, the Canadian Trotting Classic Final, Reynolds Memorial and two legs of the New Jersey Sires Stakes.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure, but if I was a voter I would vote for him,” said Jerry Silva of the colt’s chances at Three-year-old Trotting Colt of the Year honours.
“I’m pretty sure (winning the Breeders Crown) will make a difference,” added Miller. “I would hope so. I think that should clinch it for him.”
“He’s a great horse. Now he’s won the Breeders Crown. He’s got to get the award,” opined Gulotta.
Whether he takes home year-end honours or not, What The Hill has provided the group with memories, both highs and lows, which will resonate long after the trotter’s racing career has come to an end
“The year-end awards are fun, but winning a race like this? You can’t beat it,” said Gulotta. “The horse is not there when you win an award. You’ve got to share it with the horse. He’s the athlete. He’s the one who created all the joy. The year-end awards are fine, but I love being with the horse.”
Both Silva and Gulotta said What The Hill is expected to make an appearance in the TVG Stake at The Meadowlands in November before wrapping up his sophomore campaign, which will give him another opportunity to impress voters and will also delay any decisions about his future. The freshly minted millionaire could be headed off to stallion duty or could return to the racetrack for a four-year-old campaign.
“We haven’t had that discussion yet,” said Gulotta. “I’ll leave that up to Gene (Kurzrok). He’s the primary owner (Our Horse Cents Stables). He’s the man that’s going to make that decision.”
For now, the partners are simply delighted they were able to collect on Miller’s IOU and hoist the Breeders Crown trophy on behalf of their talented trotter.