by James Platz
Breeders Crown — 2YOFT
Woodside Charm wrote the perfect final chapter in what has become a dream 2018 campaign for owner/trainer/driver Verlin Yoder. Starting in his first Breeders Crown final, Yoder and his Chapter Seven—Fireworks Hanover lass dominated Saturday’s $600,000 contest for freshman trotting fillies at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Taking command from the beginning, the world champion raised her record to a perfect seven-for-seven in a dominant 1:54.1 performance over an off track.
The filly that earned Yoder his first Breeders Crown is a far cry from the baby that sustained an injury as a suckling. It would have been hard to imagine her going on to become one of harness racing’s elite performers, but she still carries the scar to remind the trainer.
“She got hurt in the paddock and she had four inches of cannon bone showing for a month and it all healed up. That’s where (the name) Charm comes into it,” Yoder explained. “When a baby is hurt as a suckling, you can’t really… you’re not going to shoot for the moon. You just hope… It’s unbelievable that she got this far.”
Yoder, a Hoosier that now calls Bell, FL home, has carefully managed Woodside Charm’s freshman season. He has picked his spots with the trotter, starting with her pari-mutuel debut at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, a nine-length romp in 1:55.4. After three starts – and three wins – in New York Sire Stakes, she returned to Hoosier Park to score a four-length victory in her $236,000 Kentuckiana division.
“About the middle of March, I figured out that she could be something very nice,” Yoder said. “I didn’t know how far she would go… when I qualified her for her first start at Hoosier and the way she had been training all summer, I kind of figured. She acted very special.”
Woodside Charm did more than act special, she showed the racing world she was something special, setting a 1:53.4 world record and serving notice to the division. After five wins in as many starts, Yoder pointed the freshman to Pocono and the Breeders Crown. If there was any question about whether she belonged, she delivered a statement win on Oct. 19. Competing in a $25,000 elimination, Woodside Charm destroyed the field to win by more than 12 lengths.
Saturday the veteran horseman again played catch me if you can. When the gate folded in the Breeders Crown final, the night’s fifth race, Yoder immediately sent Woodside Charm to the front from post two. Rail horse When Dovescry and Simon Allard settled into the pocket seat, following a :27.4 opening panel. Yoder continued to call the shots on the lead with the 1-9 favorite, rating the filly through a :29.2 second quarter (:57.1 half) and :28.1 third split (1:25.2).
Racing through the last turn, Allard pulled from the pocket to challenge the leader, but When Dovescry could not touch the winner. Yoder looked like a statue in the bike, sitting chilly with his filly and only flinching once to tap Woodside Charm in the lane. The duo would go on to win by a length and three quarters, followed by When Dovescry and Could Nine Fashion.
“I figured I’d move a little early and come to her bridle; maybe she never had someone coming to her bridle. And, yeah, I had no shot. The only way we could beat that filly is if she was very sick or something,” Allard said afterward. “That filly is a world champion. Just following her is like following a Lamborghini. Wow, she can fly.”
Bred by Av&Son Bloodstock LLC, Woodside Charm is a sister to millionaire and world champion Explosive Matter. The victory pushed her seasonal earnings to $521,658 and left Yoder pondering his first win in harness racing’s championships.
“Oh, it feels pretty awesome, but reality won’t set in for a couple of days,” he said with a laugh.
Now, he and Woodside Charm will return to Florida for the winter and gear up for the 2019 campaign. The filly is not eligible for the Hambletonian Oaks, but the owner and trainer will look to get her involved in the Grand Circuit as a sophomore should she return to form.
“She’s very smart. She’s still growing and hopefully she keeps on growing and developing. She’s just a smart horse,” he said. “We’ll see how she comes back and where we end up. We’re not trying to jot everything out. We kind of figured it out in March, so I set her pattern and we stuck to it, so we’ll probably do the same for next year.”
The immediate question is whether Woodside Charm did enough to wrap up divisional honors. A Dan Patch Award was not even on Yoder’s mind.
“I’ve got no idea. I don’t even try to think that way,” he said.
He may want to clear Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 on his calendar.