by Chris Lomon
He may not be the most physically imposing horse, but on a windy, rainy night at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Gimpanzee weathered the storm and came up huge in the $657,895 (CDN) 3-year-old Breeders Crown Colt Trot final.
Purchased for $170,000 at the 2017 Harrisburg sale, Gimpanzee, a son of Chapter Seven—Steamy Windows, didn’t stand head and shoulders above many of those that entered the ring.
But it didn’t take long for the horse originally known as Army of Monkeys, bred by Order By Stable (Sweden), to show he packed plenty of punch where and when it counted the most.
The most impressive ‘tale of the tape’ stat for Gimpanzee? Nine straight wins in as many starts in his 2-year-old campaign.
Not surprisingly, he was feted with Dan Patch honors in his division.
Trained by Marcus Melander, Gimpanzee was a force on the New York Sire Stakes circuit in 2018, taking six preliminary rounds and the $225,000 championship, before ending his campaign by winning his Breeders Crown elimination and the $600,000 final.
His unblemished performance yielded $591,358 in earnings for owners Anders Strom’s Courant Inc. and Lennart Agren’s SRF Stable.
Heading into his 3-year-old season, Melander heaped praise on his heavyweight pupil.
“He’s filled out nicely. He’s not the biggest horse but we’ve been very happy with him all winter. He doesn’t make any noise here at home, he just looks like a regular horse. He’s nice and calm,” Melander said.
And on Saturday evening at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Gimpanzee, who came into the Breeders Crown sporting a 6-1-2 mark from 11 starts on the year, showed he could rise up to the biggest challenge.
In order to win his Breeders Crown engagement, he’d need a Herculean effort to get by Greenshoe, a fellow Melander trainee, and winner of six straight races.
It was 33-1 outsider Soul Strong who took the lead, crossing over from post nine to hit the front into the first turn, with Hambletonian champ Forbidden Trade settling into second spot. Gimpanzee, with David Miller in the bike, sat fourth, while 2-5 favorite Greenshoe settled into sixth.
Just before the half, reached in :56.2, Forbidden Trade took control, as Miller and Gimpanzee, still in fourth, soon took to the outside flow, setting their sights on the leaders.
Ahead by a diminishing half-length at the three-quarters mark, Forbidden Trade was then overtaken by Gimpanzee, who proceeded to open up a 2 ½-length advantage at Ken Middleton’s stretch call, timed in 1:25.3.
At the wire, the bay colt bested a late-closing Greenshoe to win by 1 ¾-lengths in 1:52.3. Soul Strong finished third, with Chin Chin Hall grabbing fourth spot.
It wasn’t the most ideal path to the winner’s circle, admitted Miller.
“I was planning on leaving,” said the veteran driver. “I gave him a rough trip but he’s so tough.”
Melander wasn’t concerned about the less-than-ideal weather.
“I don’t think it would matter if it was a snowstorm and minus 20,” said Melander, whose third entrant, Green Manalishi, finished sixth. “He wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
Gimpanzee’s biggest victory this year before Saturday’s score was in the 65th Yonkers Trot in August.
Not only did he deliver his connections top prize in the $500,000 race, but he also set the track record for 3-year-old colt trotters in the second jewel of the Trotting Triple Crown, stopping the teletimer in 1:53.3.
While he’s had to live in the shadow of stablemate Greenshoe this season, Gimpanzee, whose caretaker is Natalie Norlander, had the spotlight all to himself in Milton, ON.
“I mean, Greenshoe has no problem with this weather either, but he just got very far behind and he raced great,” said Melander. “He sprinted home fantastic, but it was just Gimpanzee was too far ahead.
“Gimpanzee is a really good horse. He showed that before. A lot of people said he wasn’t fast enough or whatever, but he’s been racing good all year. Win in the Yonkers Trot, third in the Hambo, third in the Futurity, won Empire Breeders, won the Sires Stakes Final and he’s almost over a million dollars now. I’m very happy about him.”
So, too, is Strom, who co-owns Greenshoe and owns Green Manalishi.
“To be fair, Gimpanzee has not had so much luck in his post positions all year. Had he had better in the Hambletonian, in the eliminations (post seven), I think he could’ve had a shot at winning that day. Now, he showed what he is capable of and obviously I’m happy for Greenshoe. He also did really well.”
It’s been a genuine thrill ride for Strom to see his trio of trotters all enjoy success.
“That’s never going to happen again, for sure, but I’ll just enjoy it together again with everyone because Courant, the Melander family – been working with them for five years now – so it’s nice to be a part of a big team like that. It’s a good group.”
And it’s a group that’s impossible, admitted Melander, to choose a favorite from.
One has the speed, one is easy to drive, and the other has plenty of potential as a 4-year-old.
“They are all great horses,” said Melander. “Greenshoe, he’s a really fast horse, the fastest of them all. Gimpanzee, he’s really a complex horse. He can do whatever you want him to do. He’s not grabby. He’s perfect to drive. Green Manalishi, he’s a big horse and I think he’ll be… even after two great seasons over here, I think he will step up even more next year, because he’s a big 3-year-old so I think he’ll be a really good 4-year-old.”
Gimpanzee’s season may not be over yet. His connections are mulling their options.
“We haven’t decided yet,” said Strom. “We will see. Even before this race, he was in such good shape so we were actually looking into what races he has left. He has one or perhaps two races that he could start in, if he takes this race good. If he comes out right. Matron and TVG… those are on the card and then we’ll think about it. If we were going to race next year, I would say with a high probability that he’s going to continue with Marcus here in the U.S.”
Offered Melander, “He will 99 per cent race next year.”
Gimpanzee paid $13.10 for the win.