Father Patrick Meets Father Patrick


When the Rev. Patrick McDonnell found out there was a two-year-old named after him, he was flattered. He also was a little perplexed.

The two-year-old in this case was a racehorse. Hall of Fame harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter, who lives in East Windsor, named a colt trotter Father Patrick in honour of the Rev. McDonnell, who is the pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Hightstown.

“A lot of people have babies named after them, but how many people have a 1,000-pound two-year-old named after them? That’s kind of cool,” the Rev. McDonnell said. “It was a surprise and it’s an honor. I’m thankful for that.

“But I don’t know what you do,” he added, laughing. “When you have a two-year-old or someone has a birthday you buy them a little toy. I guess I have to buy him 60 pounds of carrots or something.”

Father Patrick has seen his racing career get off to a strong start. He has won two of three races and will likely be the favourite in Saturday’s $280,500 Peter Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Father Patrick will start from post three with driver Yannick Gingras in a field of 10 two-year-old male trotters.

The Peter Haughton Memorial is one of harness racing’s top stakes races for two-year-old trotters. The premier race for three-year-old trotters, the $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes, also will be contested Saturday at the Meadowlands. Takter has three horses – Corky, Dontyouforgetit and High Bridge – in the Hambletonian. He has won the race twice, with Muscle Massive in 2010 and Malabar Man in 1997.

CBS Sports Network will air live coverage of the Hambletonian from 3:30-5 p.m. Saturday.

Father Patrick is a full-brother to stakes-winning trotter Pastor Stephen, who was named after the Rev. Stephen Heinzel-Nelson, the pastor of Allentown Presbyterian Church. Pastor Stephen won 10 of 22 lifetime races and earned $1.04 million before seeing his career cut short by injury.

“I know of Pastor Stephen,” the Rev. McDonnell said, referring to both the man and the horse. “Hopefully we’ll be as successful as he was.”

Father Patrick’s father is Cantab Hall, who won $1.44 million in his career and finished second in the 2004 Hambletonian. His mother is Gala Dream, who was unraced but is a half-sister to stakes-winners Sugar Trader and Chocolatier. Father Patrick was purchased for $105,000 as a yearling (under the name Royal Press) at the Lexington Selected Sale and is owned by a group headed by Takter’s wife, Christina.

“I don’t think I’ve had a more gifted two-year-old trotter at this point in his career,” Takter said about Father Patrick. “He has all the things I like in a horse. He’s a good sound horse. You can’t find any fault with him.”

Takter became friends with the Rev. McDonnell through attending early morning services at St. Anthony. The two have known each other for a little more than a year.

“It was nice that it started off with him coming to morning prayer when he could,” the Rev. McDonnell said. “The door was open and we got to know each other.

“We know there is a little community here of people working with the horses and maybe someday we can work with them a little bit. We have a lot of people in our parish that are from Central and South America and they work in the stables. They’re kind of forgotten and sometimes fall through the cracks. This may be a way to begin ministering to them.”

The Rev. McDonnell, who grew up in Elizabeth and knew little about racing prior to following Father Patrick’s career, has been a priest for 40 years, the last 13 of which have been spent at St. Anthony.

“He’s such a great guy and I think this is a really, really, really special horse,” Takter said. “It’s a big congregation and hopefully we’ll get some people interested in the races. It’s a lot of fun.”

This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.

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