Breeders in the spotlight during Saturday’s Breeders Crown finals

by James Platz

Saturday’s (Oct. 29) Breeders Crown finals were marked by many memorable performances. Over the course of the eight championship events, seven winners originated from farms with Crown winners in their history. Multiple horses added championship designations to pedigrees already overflowing with Crown success. How these victories translate on a pedigree page, and the weight they carry going forward, is one reason why they say, “It all comes down to the Breeders Crown.”

David McDuffee had visited the Breeders Crown winner’s circle multiple times as an owner, but a victory as breeder had eluded him until Bella Bellini broke through last season in the 3-year-old filly trot final. Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park, the Bar Hopping—Bella Dolce 4-year-old rocketed past the competition and delivered a second trophy to the owner and breeder with a 1:51.1 score in the $350,000 mare trot final. The dam, also bred by McDuffee, was a Crown finalist in 2008, finishing sixth in the final for sophomore trotting fillies. Now, her most successful foal is on the verge of eclipsing $2 million in career earnings.

As breeder, McDuffee becomes the first recipient of the Charlie Keller Memorial Award, a $10,000 bonus to be paid out in each of the next 10 years to the breeder of the mare trot winner.

White Birch Farm statistically ranks among the top breeders in Breeders Crown competition. Saturday night, the Allentown, NJ operation added more hardware as Grace Hill held off a hard-charging Test Of Faith in the $400,000 mare pace final. The Always B Miki—Western Silk 4-year-old equaled the stakes record, set by Hana Hanover and matched by Kissin In The Sand, with her 1:48.4 effort.

Sold at the Lexington Selected sale for $75,000 as a yearling, the mare became the sport’s newest millionaire with the victory. For her part, Western Silk was a three-time Breeders Crown finalist, winning an elimination at 2 and finishing third as a sophomore. The O’Brien Award-winning dam now has her first champion. It is the eighth trophy for White Birch and fifth champion bred by the farm.

Two races later, White Birch added yet another winner as the royally-bred Treacherous Dragon and driver Scott Zeron captured the $600,000 final for sophomore pacing fillies in a time of 1:49.1. The Captaintreacherous—My Little Dragon filly, a $260,000 Lexington purchase, pushed her earnings over the million-dollar mark with the victory.

Treacherous Dragon is out of the Dan Patch, Nova and O’Brien Award-winning mare My Little Dragon, herself a three-time Crown champion. She is sired by Breeders Crown winner Captaintreacherous, and is a half-sister to Crown victor and O’Brien winner Stay Hungry.

The pair of wins moves White Birch past Castleton Farm in total Crown starter earnings with more than $4.6 million. The farm now ranks fifth in the category.

Jiggy Jog S provided Swedish breeder Vestmarka AB its first Crown champion with a stakes, track and Canadian record in the $675,000 Crown final for sophomore trotting fillies. Driven by Dexter Dunn, the filly stopped the clock in 1:51.1. The Walner—Hot Mess Hanover 3-year-old, owned by Jorgen Sparredal Inc., became the breeder’s first finalist last season, where she raced third in the freshman filly trot final.

On the track, Hot Mess Hanover earned just shy of $100,000 before being exported overseas. Her first foal is now a millionaire with the victory. The winning time eclipsed Next Level Stuff’s 1:52 mark, set at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in 2020.

Ray Schnittker earned his first Breeders Crown win as a breeder with Huntsville in 2016. Steve Jones has two finals wins to his credit as breeder of Deweycheatumnhowe (2007) and Well Said (2008). Together, they added their newest winner when King Of The North trotted away from the field in the $600,000 final for sophomore colts in a stakes, track and Canadian record 1:50.3 display.

The Walner—Check Me Out colt sold for $190,000 at the 2020 Lexington Selected sale, with Schnittker keeping a piece of the trotter and serving as trainer. Like Treacherous Dragon, King Of The North possesses royal bloodlines on both sides of his pedigree. A Dan Patch Award winner at 2, King Of The North is sired by Crown champion Walner and is out of Crown winner and two-time Dan Patch and O’Brien Award winner Check Me Out.

The winning time fell one-fifth shy of the all-time Canadian trotting record and lowered Jujubee’s stakes record, set last year at the Meadowlands.

Brittany Farms-bred finalist reached the winner’s circle in the $675,000 Breeders Crown final for sophomore pacing colts. After annexing the North American Cup earlier this year, Pebble Beach added a Crown victory at Woodbine Mohawk Park, pacing in 1:48.1. The Downbytheseaside—Santa Rosa colt fetched $85,000 at the Lexington Selected sale.

The Versailles, KY nursery finished Friday evening knotted with Hanover Shoe Farms atop the standings with 29 total finals wins. Pebble Beach broke the tie and raised the mark to 30 trophies and 22 different champions. Brittany Farms-bred starters surpassed $12 million in earnings over the weekend. San Jose, the colt’s Captaintreacherous brother, brought $300,000 earlier this month at Lexington.

Ecurie D successfully defended his Breeders Crown open trot title with a 1:51 effort Saturday evening. The Infinitif—To Soon 6-year-old captured the $600,000 final with a stakes record-equaling performance. The win also served as breeder Jean Pierre Dubois’ second trophy. He was previously represented by Dr Ronerail, a finalist in 2000 and 2001.

Ecurie D matched the winning times of Market Share (2013) and Commander Crowe (2014) in his successful defense.

Hanover Shoe Farms and Brittany Farms are arguably the two most recognized breeders in the industry. It is only fitting that at the conclusion of this year’s Breeders Crown finals, the two farms are tied in finals won to date. With Bulldog Hanover’s dominating win in the $600,000 open pace, Hanover has accumulated 30 trophies. The Keystone State breeder has produced a record 27 Crown champions.

It has been well documented that ‘Bulldog’ sold for a mere $28,000 as a yearling at Harrisburg. Now a winner of over $2.2 million, the Shadow Play—BJs Squall stallion earned the win with a powerful 1:46.4 mile, equaling his track and Canadian record. The time bested Won The West’s 1:47 mark, established in the 2009 Breeders Crown final.