by James Platz
Brian Carsey and the Indiana-based connections behind Majestic Player A scouted the trotter for five months before making the offer that brought him stateside in late 2019. Since then, the Australian-bred 7-year-old has reached the winner’s circle at an incredible clip. He enters today’s $100,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia looking for his first win of 2021 in a campaign that will see the import engage in extensive Grand Circuit action.
“We’re hoping for good things from him. He’s starting out his year really good,” said Carsey. “I think he’s got a shot to step up and prove himself and show the caliber of horse he really is.”
Bred by Yabby Dam Farms Limited, Majestic Player A competed in the southern hemisphere for three seasons beginning as a sophomore. During that time, he compiled a record of 15-2-1 in 29 attempts. Since his arrival and debut in February 2020, the Majestic Son—Another Player gelding has a nearly identical stat line. In 27 trips behind the starting gate, he is 15-4-3 with just over $290,000 in earnings and a share of the Harrah’s Hoosier Park track record for older trotters.
“They are tough to come by over there, good trotters, for sure,” said the Connersville, IN resident. “That’s why we took our time and waited and made sure he was the one we wanted to bring over here as an open trotter. He’s already exceeded that.”
Last season, the Walter Haynes Jr.-trained trotter led all horses in the win column for a time, stringing together 10 wins in 11 starts at one point. Majestic Player A finished the year with 15 winner’s circle visits. Only Slippin The Clutch and Big Petes Style recorded more victories in 2020. Owned by the partnership of Carsey, Jeff Fought Racing and Casey Myers, Majestic Player A had a limited stakes calendar last season, but made an impression when he stepped on the big stage. His first venture, the Crawford Farms Open Trot at Tioga, was a learning experience for all.
“We never really shipped him much before the stakes races. Our first stakes race was at Tioga and when we shipped him there he was just a real nervous wreck the whole time he was there,” Carsey said. “We decided to ship him very little and let him get acclimated to everything.”
After racing ninth at Tioga in August, Majestic Player A wouldn’t return to the top ranks until October, when he battled in the $175,000 Dayton Trotting Derby (fifth), $148,500 Allerage Farms Open (third) and $500,000 Breeders Crown final (fourth) on his home turf of Hoosier Park.
“When he went to the Red Mile, and that was probably his best race ever, he was as calm as I’ve ever seen him since we’ve had him. He was outside the paddock with his head out. There’s a lean-to off the paddock there. He was very content to stick his head out, he was relaxed,” Haynes said of his charge, who was raced timed that day in 1:50.1 with a :26.2 last quarter. “As soon as you close those gates, that’s what he hates. He starts shaking. It’s almost like he’s claustrophobic or thinks he’s in jail. He’s worse at Hoosier when you put the harness on him. Then he starts shaking. After you warm up he’s perfectly fine.”
Armed with that knowledge, Haynes approached the first big test of 2021 differently. After Majestic Player A finished third in the $135,000 Charlie Hill Memorial, the trainer shipped him to the Meadowlands three days before the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial. The 7-year-old, driven by Yannick Gingras, handled the trip much better and was nosed out at the wire by Manchego in 1:51.1.
“Manchego is obviously a great horse and deserved to win. But he raced really good,” Carsey said.
Majestic Player A will be making his fifth seasonal start this afternoon. If his first two starts appear uneventful, it was because Haynes made minor adjustments in preparation for his back-to-back-to-back stakes outings. The gelding is staked to all the major events with the exception of the Maple Leaf Trot and Spirit of Massachusetts Trot. Management will be key, and Haynes will give his charge breaks as needed while navigating the schedule. As the veteran racer has shown in limited starts, he has the ability to hold his own against the best.
“He’s fast. I’ve trained him in (1):55. There’s not many trotters you can train that way because they can’t race that fast,” said Haynes. “He’s just got a great attitude. He’s a beautiful horse. Just a good looking, good feeling horse.”
Majestic Player A (7-1) has drawn post two in a Maxie Lee field packed with talent. Manchego, leader in the first Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown weekly poll and 2-1 morning line favorite, has drawn post five, with Cutler Memorial third-place finisher Guardian Angel As (6-1) slotted seventh. The field also includes Amigo Volo (9-2) on the rail, Lindy The Great (7-1) and Forbidden Trade (6-1).
The trotter has already exceeded all expectations. Now the fun for Carsey and the rest of the connections is witnessing what Majestic Player A can do when tested on the Grand Circuit. They are providing him with every opportunity.
“It’s very hard to find a horse like this to come over here and do what he’s done. It’s the chasing the dream kind of deal,” he said. “He’s always stepped up.”