by Murray Brown
In this week’s column, instead of following my normal routine of profiling of someone involved in the sport, I am instead answering some questions asked by Joel Kravet, a reader of this column. Mr. Kravet suggested that I do so in light of Saint Trixie, a filly of which I own a small part winning a $100,000 stakes race at The Meadowlands on Sept. 16. In effect, he asked that I follow the timeline from when I first expressed interest in the filly until her exciting (to me) win a week and two days ago.
I will start at the beginning. I have been friends with Fred Grant for nigh on 60 or so years, tracing back to his Silent Majority days, then onto his second trainer days when also bring a caretaker for the great filly Handle With Care in the Haughton Stable. In recent years, he has been kind enough to allow me to buy partial ownership in one or sometimes two of his yearling purchases.
I’ll trace the game plan for our group. I was at the sale, but I had gone home by the time this filly was to enter the sales ring. We had several goals, almost none of which we followed. That isn’t unusual. It often happens that way. I’m certain that there have been others who ended up buying a yearling in which they hadn’t previously been interested but didn’t buy the yearling that they were most interested in.
Get a New York eligible, hopefully one by Chapter Seven. We had a few that interested us, but they ended up bringing a whole lot more than we had to spend. Fred actually bid $170,000 on one that we didn’t get. I’m almost certain if he had bought that filly, I wouldn’t have had enough money to even buy a small part of her.
Our fall-back position was to get a Bar Hopping filly. The thought was that they wouldn’t bring a whole lot of money as they had done with his first two crops. Bar Hopping had reached the level of the top trotting stallions in the sport. We obviously were not the only ones who recognized Bar Hopping’s success. We came up empty in our Bar Hopping hunt.
Over 500 yearlings had been sold and we hadn’t bought anything. Grant was anxious. He told me that there was a Trixton filly coming up that he kind of liked. Heading into the sale we decided that one thing was certain, we weren’t going to buy a Trixton filly. Trixton was alright, but the feeling was that under no circumstances were we going to buy a New Jersey-sired yearling. The competition for trotters was just too tough. Muscle Hill and Walner represent one of the greatest one-two punches in the history of the sport. Waiting in the wings were about 100 more yearlings from the first crop by Tactical Landing. The dams of last year’s yearlings by Muscle Hill, Tactical Landing and Walner were rich in Blue Hens or Blue Hens to be. Those three were a stallion threesome unmatched in the sport. Sure there were yearlings by Chapter Seven, Father Patrick and Bar Hopping. Usually, with those horses the fallback position might be the sires stakes program. In this case, the sires stakes might have presented tougher competition than the Grand Circuit races.
So, what did we buy? You guessed it — a Trixton filly with New Jersey eligibility.
There were some glimmers of light. Her sibling, Ambassador Hanover, was close to being one of the top 3-year-old trotters last year. He earned $434,189 in 2021.
Saint Trixie comes from a top trotting family. I watched her video. I thought it was quite good. She trotted with a light, reaching stroke. Her ears were up. Just watching the video I got the feeling that she was a pleasant sort. Best of all was her price. In a sale that had ostensibly little in the way of bargains, I thought that she was one. I didn’t think based on her pedigree alone, she would ever be worth less than the $25,000 we paid for her. I asked Grant why she brought so little. He said he felt there were two main reasons for that:
1. The competition she would be facing in New Jersey.
2. She wasn’t a perfect individual. She toed in. That usually means that the horse will paddle. I watched her video many times. To my eye, there was no paddling there.
ON TO FLORIDA
She shipped to Sunshine Meadows where I would hopefully be able to see her regularly. It was not to be. Where in the past we had stayed in an apartment that was all we wanted, we weren’t able to secure one. In its stead, we chose to spend several weeks in hotels. Neither Carol nor I liked it. Even worse, COVID-19 came along. We didn’t like hotel life. We were staying quite a distance from the training center. I didn’t get to see her much.
Grant said she was doing okay. She showed some speed. He didn’t think she was his best filly, but she was okay. We were a little behind when we shipped North, but that didn’t bother me. The filly, Anegada Hanover, had a new name. She was now named Saint Trixie. Grant really didn’t show much enthusiasm, but I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. She was just a nice filly. When she started racing, she showed some ability, much more than she had done previously. She won a couple of races and finished second as well.
A couple of weeks ago, Grant told me that a series for mid-class Jersey breds was being started at The Meadowlands, It consisted of a qualifying race for $15,000 and then if she made the final, she would go for $100,000. I had owned pieces of horses for 62 consecutive years. I had never come even close to racing for that kind of money. I guess I was just being skeptical, but I doubted that she was good enough. The public didn’t think that. They made her the 3-5 favorite while leaving from the outside. She wasn’t much good. Timmy Tetrick was driving. I thought he did a masterful job in keeping her on gait. She looked like she was trotting on eggs. She made the final.
We were going for $100,000 the next week. I spoke with Grant during the week. He said, “I’ve got good news and bad news.”
The good news was that she had made the $100,000 final, the bad news was she drew the 10 hole. Tetrick left with her. He got covered up before the half. He then went with her at the top of the stretch and she trotted right by the leader. She won by about a length in a new lifetime record of 1.55.3. I was ecstatic. I didn’t think she stood a chance leaving from the extreme outside. I was hoping that she would race well and pick up some money.
We were now going to Tioga to face Grand Circuit competition for the first time.
I’m still dreaming. Those are the type of situations that keeps owners in the game.
Have a question or comment for The Curmudgeon? Reach him by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org