Between Indiana and Maryland, horsemen Clark Jr. and Reeser bond over Savannah’s Lucy

Between Indiana and Maryland, horsemen Clark Jr. and Reeser bond over Savannah’s Lucy

June 16, 2019

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The trotting filly is making waves on the Indiana Sires Stakes circuit.

by James Platz

Horsemen Bobby Reeser and Bill Clark Jr. share a common thread in that they are each long-time harness racing devotees with roots intertwined in east coast venues both past and present. Despite their familiarity with the industry on the eastern seaboard, neither man had much more than an awareness of the other. Everything changed last summer with a phone call centered on the interest in an Indiana-sired trotting filly. Shortly thereafter, Reeser would take on the training duties for freshman Savannah’s Lucy, a Guccio lass that Clark and his wife, Deb, purchased via onGait.com.

“I didn’t know them really well, but I knew of them. They are from back home,” Reeser explained of the connection with the Clarks. “They called me last year when they found the horse on the Internet. They said, ‘We want to buy this filly, would you go look at her and make sure everything looks okay with her?’”

Reeser obliged and made the trip to Luckiana Farm in Goshen, IN. Savannah’s Lucy had been consigned to the Hoosier Classic sale the previous fall. The filly was out of the Enjoy Lavec mare Seductive Lady, already a productive dam with Indiana Sires Stakes champion Russell Mania, a winner of just over $260,000, to her credit. Hammered down as a no sale for $14,000, Savannah’s Lucy returned to Luckiana Farm, where Aaron Stutzman would put her in training for the 2018 campaign.

The filly would successfully qualify at Harrah’s Hoosier Park and make four starts for Stutzman. Savannah’s Lucy captured a $20,000 Indiana Sires Stakes consolation early on, winning at odds of 47-1 and stopping the clock in 1:58.1. Clark, who had stepped away from the business for a spell but had the itch to return to the sport, found her listing on onGait.com.

“I’ve been out of the business for a couple years and I happened to see her. I had been looking on onGait because I bought another trotter about a month before her,” said Clark, a resident of Salisbury, MD. “I watched the video and it caught my eye. I didn’t know anybody in Indiana, but by luck, a friend of mine knew that Bobby had been racing there. I knew Bobby from way back.”

Clark placed the call and set things into motion. A decision hinged on Reeser’s feedback, and the veteran trainer provided the reinforcement they needed.

“She was very level headed and she stood really good, and the main thing after that was soundness,” Reeser said. “I couldn’t find much wrong with her at all. She was really very sound for a 2-year-old.”

When Savannah’s Lucy lined up to battle in the $85,000 ISS final last June 31 at Hoosier Park, she did so campaigning for the first time out of the Reeser barn. The trotter would register a runner-up performance in an ISS elimination and qualify for two $85,000 finals, but sickness kept her from showing her true potential. She would finish just out of the top 10 in points and miss the $220,000 Super Final.

“The biggest problem we had is that she would get sick a lot. Every time we thought we had her really good to go a nice race she would come up sick, but she was making a little bit of money,” the trainer said.

Although she missed a chance at a big payday, Savannah’s Lucy finished out the season on a high note, winning a $20,000 contest for ISS eligible fillies. Driven by Todd Warren, the freshman closed out the mile with a :28.4 final quarter, trotting clear of the field by four lengths to stop the clock in 1:57.3. In that mid-October contest Reeser witnessed the performance he knew his charge was capable of demonstrating. The filly finished the year on the board in six of 13 starts with just shy of $38,000 in earnings.

Over the winter, Savannah’s Lucy “grew up better than my other two fillies” in the Reeser barn and the conditioner brought her back without hobbles because she was perfect without them. One of the characteristics that the trotter displayed last year was the tendency to get nervous, grab a little more, and cut her air off. For that reason, Reeser and Warren opted to race her conservatively early on. In her first six starts of 2019, Savannah’s Lucy registered a runner-up effort and four third-place performances.

“She did everything that I asked for. I knew we had to race her off the back and make sure she was breathing okay,” Reeser said. “Todd always does what I ask of him. We didn’t want to do anything as far as leaving the first several starts. We raced her in hand and from the back and she kept getting stronger and better.”

The strategy changed in the opening round of Indiana Sires Stakes action for sophomore fillies. With two $48,000 divisions carded, Reeser’s filly drew away from some of the better fillies, slotted in post six in the nine-horse field. This time the trainer instructed Warren to “get a spot” and the veteran driver did just that, slipping into third when the gate folded. Warren was able to sit with Savannah’s Lucy through a :56.2 opening half, and when he asked the filly, she moved first up and charged home in :28.2 to beat favored Swanind Fastlane by nearly two lengths in a lifetime best 1:55.

Under the old sires stakes format, that mile would have earned Savannah’s Lucy a spot in the next week’s $85,000 final with a chance to compete for valuable points towards the Super Final. With the revised program, money for each round is divided based on the number of horses entered, with points doled out over each division. Reeser likes the new formula, and his charge immediately benefitted with her first seasonal win.

“I like the new program. I like it the way it is because you can miss the real good ones sometimes,” he said. “Everybody has more of a chance in this new program to make money. It is not all directed at the very best horses. I just think it’s way better for everybody.”

For Clark and his wife, the new program structure helps them in getting a quicker return on their investment. Their filly has already earned $33,545 in 2019 with a good chunk of valuable ISS points. Savannah’s Lucy will attempt to build on her tally Wednesday, June 19 at Hoosier Park in the second round of sires stakes action. She has drawn into the second of two $47,500 contests, again avoiding some of the tougher competition in the group. It is all part of the racing luck in which Clark, a former trainer and owner with Maryland and New Jersey champions to his credit, is well versed.

“She should be right there with them. I don’t think she’s really trotted to her ability yet, but that will be coming I’m sure,” he stated. “She’s got the speed, there’s no doubt about it. She likes to come home, and that’s where the money’s at. She can trot those last quarters.”

The experience with Savannah’s Lucy has led the Clarks to double down on Indiana, partnering last fall with Reeser on six babies. A few of them will soon qualify, and the couple are excited to see how Year Two of their Indiana adventure plays out.

“We’re happy in Indiana,” Clark said. “It takes a lot of luck with the business, but Bobby has had some luck there, so we’ve decided we’ll go right with them.”

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