Thirty-three years after Artsplace’s epic Breeders Crown victory

by Bob Heyden

Is it really 33 years since the Nov. 30, 1990 Breeders Crown with Artsplace?

In the 1990 Breeders Crown, with the freshman title up for grabs, Die Laughing was sent off at 3-5 against 9-5 Artsplace at Pompano Park. It was a chilly, windy evening and 1:51.1 later, the fastest ever freshman mark that would stand for 17 years. Artsplace cemented his name in both Breeders Crown history and in all our memory banks with a mile so outrageous you still hear it brought up today. Parked to a :26.2 and :53.2 first half, he cleared the top and sailed to a 1:23 flat three quarters. The son of Abercrombie two years removed from an unblemished HOY season, kept on opening up. Completely laughing off his difficult trip, he won by 8 lengths over 101-1 shot Stormin Jesse. Cambest was eighth beaten almost 14 lengths and Die Laughing faded to last. The year end balloting was just a formality from there, 270-30, for the Gene Riegle trained standout.


Brett Pelling is 65 and his trainee Confederate is the likely HOY. Pelling was 63 in 2021 with Test Of Faith. Jack Darling was the co-oldest trainer of a HOY last year at 70 with Bulldog Hanover. Jim King, Jr. was 67 in 2019 with Shartin N. Sep Palin, when Victory Song won the very first HOY title in 1947, was 69, and Bi Shively followed that up in 1948 at age 70 with Rodney.

Pelling is 35 years removed from making the move to New Jersey. in 1988 and opening a public stable, starting out with a star named Kiwi River N and progressing the next several seasons with names like White Ruffles, Stoneridge Scooter and the 1991 Cane Pace winner debuting for Pelling, Silky Stallone, who was ninth in that epic Breeders Crown 2YOCP won by Artsplace.


The list is now up to three. Feel free to add to this list of horses who went on to greatness with just a lone start/win at 2: Hot Lead in 1995, Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2014 and now Bythemissal in 2021.


The career “Horse of the Year” leaders after the 1976 season are the same today. No change. No dent. 

Stanley Dancer with seven, Frank Ervin had five, Jimmy Takter has four and Nancy Takter has a pair.


In no particular order:

1. The Dan Patch — Ponda Warrior with one start in nine months took on the best pacers in the sport, debuting for both Kyle Wilfong and Jay Hochstetler at their home track. In ultra-dramatic fashion, he was not a threat at any point, until the seven-eighths when he exploded to paydirt. It was six days after the Hambletonian.

2. The Hambletonian — Scott Zeron from post 10 gets away last. Forget about winning his third Hambletonian pre-35 years old, right? Wrong. He stayed inside saying hello to each and every pylon and found an opening once in the stretch as everyone else angled clear and got there! The only driver to do this prior to 35 (Campbell 1987, 1988, and 1990 at 35) Quite a Tactical Approach!

3. The Breeders Crown 3YOCP — Confederate rolls up first over and buries a strong group to likely cement the HOY title and build on a bio that included a 1:46.1 3-year-old world record. Like No. 1, this was also at Hoosier Park.

4. The Kentucky Futurity — Nobody wins a race, let alone a Triple Crown race, from where Scotty Zeron was sitting at the three-quarter pole. “Nancy is going to kill me” was his quote right after the race when asked what he was thinking as they turned for home. But somehow the son of Tactical Landing from his first crop, Tactical Approach found a seam and knifed through for the win in the 507th Triple Crown race in the sports history in the oldest Triple Crown test. A perfect 2-for-2 in Triple Crown tests for the Nancy Takter trainee.


There’s going to be a battle for “Trainer of the Year” likely between the strong season put forth by Ron Burke, a kind of dream season experienced by Linda Toscano, and of course the four-time Breeders Crown winning Ake Svanstedt with three as a driver.

How do you choose?

Imagine, as a driver, going to the post 318 times in a single year.

Imagine the purse for every one of those 318 races is $36,662.

Imagine winning every one of those races.

And that a winner’s share in each start was $18,331.

That is what Ake Svanstedt just did in 2023.

At 64, versus the best drivers everywhere, he has averaged $18,331 every time he went onto a racetrack.

That figure is the highest ever in harness racing history by
a lot.

In 318 drives he had 92 wins, 73 seconds, 36 thirds and $5,829,463 in driving earnings. His .455 UDRS was by far the highest of any of the top 50 drivers in North America.

As a stable, remember Dunn drove Jiggy Jog S, etc., the entire barn’s numbers were: 594 161-113-77 and $9,831,829.


These ’80s records are still safe.

Redskin as a 2YO in 1986 with $1,407,263. They took serious shots at it in 2023 but it’s still good.

John Campbell winning the Hambletonian in back-to-back in 1987-88 (Mack Lobell and Armbro Goal). Tim Tetrick came the closest winning in 2012 and being runner up in 2013.

The six richest races ever contested are all still Wilsons from the 1980s. This one ain’t budging.

Two undefeated horses 1-2 in the HOY balloting, Forrest Skipper and Jate Lobell, in 1986.

Bill O’Donnell back-to-back HOY titles with a trotter then a pacer, Fancy Crown in 1984 and Nihilator in 1985.