by Bob Heyden
Bulldog Hanover’s trainer and part-owner Jack Darling was born on Feb. 3, 1953, making this his 70th birthday celebration 16 days before the 2023 Horse of the Year ceremony in Orlando, FL.
In a bit more than two weeks, they might have to change his name to “Media” Darling. As far as I’m concerned, he cannot win enough awards.
In case you missed the first couple of decades of Darling’s career, here’s a brief look:
• Did some driving early on.
• Broke through with his biggest year in 1996 and was named the Canadian Trainer of the Year, aided by names such as record-setting Metro winner Gothic Dream.
• Low Places, Diamond Dawn, Faded Glory and Diehard Fan formed a formidable freshmen filly quarter in the mid-1990s.
• Northern Luck entered the scene with a bang in 1997 posting a stakes record 1:49.1 in the Tattersalls and his North America Cup elim.
• Other names of significance were Lease On Life, Mattnamaras Band, Bayside Hall and Twin B Champ. You remember Twin B Champ. He was the favorite in the 2000 NA Cup won by Gallo Blue Chip.
• Northern Sky, a daughter of Northern Luck, made a name for herself.
• Jr Mint who captured the $500,000 Hoosier Cup in 2003.
So, you can see Darling is not exactly an overnight sensation.
DID YOU SAY 70?
Where would Darling rank on the older trainers list if Bulldog wins HOY?
1947 — Year one, Sep Palin (69) with Victory Song.
1948 — Year two, Bi Shively (70) with Rodney.
2023 — Year 76, Jack Darling (70) with Bulldog Hanover? We’ll have to wait and see.
HOOSIER STANDOUT, AGAIN?
There’s no doubt that Bulldog Hanover’s Dan Patch and Hoosier Park Pacing Derby’s track record of 1:46.3 in 2022 were the highlights of the Indiana track’s racing season. But I submit, it is not the first time Darling has dominated at Hoosier Park.
In fact, in 1996 he dominated in Hoosier’s first decade when he swept three $100,000 divisions of the Kentuckiana for freshman pacing fillies on the same night with Decor, Armbro Parkway and American Angel. All three were driven by John Campbell.
DARLING COULD BE IN FINE COMPANY
Here’s a list of Canadian HOY trainers:
• Clint Hodgins in 1950 with Proximity and again in 1959 with Bye Bye Byrd.
• Joe O’Brien in 1955-1956 with Scott Frost and again in 1970 with Fresh Yankee.
• Ralph Baldwin in 1963 with Speedy Scot.
• Clint Galbraith in 1979-1980 with Niatross.
• Pat Crowe in 1982-1983 with Cam Fella.
• Harry Poulton in 1989 with Matts Scooter.
• Ray Remmen in 1990 with Beach Towel.
• Bill Robinson in 1991 with Precious Bunny and again in 1994 with Cams Card Shark.
• Bob McIntosh in 1992 with Artsplace and again in 1993 with Staying Together.
• Blair Burgess in 2002 with Real Desire and again in 2006 with Glidemaster.
• Rod Hughes in 2011 with San Pail.
• Casie Coleman in 2018 with McWicked.
BOTH OWNER AND TRAINER OF HOY
Darling would be in even rarer air here:
1974 — Del Miller with Delmonica Hanover.
1976 — Stanley Dancer with Keystone Ore.
1979-1980 — Clint Galbraith with Niatross.
1995 — Carl Allen with CR Kay Suzie.
2002, 2006 — Blair Burgess with Real Desire and Glidemaster, respectively.
2015 — George Teague with Wiggle It Jiggleit.
2016 — Jimmy Takter with Always B Miki.
BOB-BING AND WEAVING
In 1987, John Campbell won his first ever Hambletonian with Mack Lobell and would go on to win a record six. Guess who was making his Hambletonian debut that same year? Jimmy Takter who finished sixth with Sir Taurus.
In the next quarter century, nobody would win more money in the Hambletonian than Campbell and Takter. But they never teamed up until 27 years later in 2014 when Campbell drove Nuncio to a strong second-place finish in the Hambletonian. Guess who was driving the winner, Trixton? Jimmy Takter.