Harper Blue Chip Set To Return

After months on the sidelines, 2014 O'Brien Award winner Harper Blue Chip is set to return to the track, built "like a tank" and with sights set on lucrative late-season stakes.

One year ago, Harper Blue Chip was hitting his stride as not only a major force in the Ontario Sires Stakes program but on the Grand Circuit as well. He finished third in the 2014 Canadian Trotting Classic (after an identical placing in the 2014 Hambletonian), comfortably handled his OSS rivals in the Super Final and then finished less than a length behind Nuncio in the 2014 Matron Final at Dover Downs. But his best performance, according to trainer Mark Steacy, came in a fourth-place finish the 2014 Breeders Crown Final at The Meadowlands. Ironically, it was also that race that kept him on the shelf for the majority of his four-year-old season.

"The last time he raced in the Breeders Crown, I think it was at the top of the stretch, he just made a little bad step," Steacy told Trot Insider. "I think what he did is he tore a little suspensory high in his front leg, and it's just been a nagging injury that won't go away.

"He's never really been what you'd call 'lame' on it, it's been there and it's ultra-sounded that it was there ...probably way back then if we had have gone too hard on it, he probably would have been lame but we never gave him that chance."

Harper Blue Chip (Majestic Son - Winning Jonlin) is owned Landmark 6 Racing Stable of Kingston, David McDonald of Cornwall, David Reid of Glenburnie and George Judson of Athens, Ont. He boasts 10 wins from 23 lifetime starts and more than $893,000 in purse earnings. Back in February at the 2014 O'Brien Awards with an award in hand, Steacy had originally ballparked a delayed return to the races would come for Harper Blue Chip in the Summer. The horse, however, had different ideas as the injury took longer than expected to heal to Steacy's satisfaction.

"It's been a long, drawn-out and slow process. Hopefully we're winning the battle," the trainer stated. "A couple of months ago we got 100 percent so we've been giving him some more serious training."

Sporting a seasonal resume that boasts nearly $700,000 banked from 15 starts and a 6-3-3 top three summary, Steacy is fully aware that the four-year-old son of Majestic Son will have to face all-star competition upon his return.

Dave Briggs, President of the Canadian Chapter of USHWA presents to Mark, Kathy, Sean and Melissa Steacy, Elizabeth Mallory, Howard & Karen Pearce, David and Mary McDonald, Diane Bertrand & Robert Gilhespy, and Rick Karper.

"He's got to race at a pretty high level starting out because he's made pretty good money so we've got to have him fairly well conditioned. So that's why it's taken a little longer too, you have to put some decent fast miles into him before we qualify him."

With an injury of that nature, the amount of serious work Steacy could put into Harper Blue Chip's training routine was contingent on that injury. Light jogging and a swimming regimen that kicked off in April, before getting back to the on-track groundwork that will hopefully see Harper Blue Chip back competing in the Open classes.

Stating that he's "got a lot more serious with him in the last two months, and especially in the last month", Harper Blue Chip has the green light for a return to the track. Steacy will send the four-year-old into his first qualifying test this Friday, a day before a number of his contemporaries hit the track for the 2015 Maple Leaf Trot eliminations.

"He's missed so much up until now there's no real set time to get him back; the main focus I have -- I'm hoping he's going to be a top horse -- he looks great, he's filled out nice and he's real strong, real sharp. If everything goes according to plan the Breeders Crown is our focus."

After what will likely be a pair of qualifiers, Team Harper Blue Chip does have some options. The Dayton Trotting Derby and the Allerage Trot are on Steacy's radar, as those events would give a decent barometer of Harper Blue Chip's Breeders Crown chances.

"It's probably going to take him two or three races to get his focus," said Steacy. "Not too many horses can go out into that Open class and start winning right away. So I'm assuming it's going to take him two or three starts to get his game face on."

And if he does get his game face on, Steacy has no reservations about racing Harper Blue Chip into the Winter.

"Sometimes things happen for a reason; maybe it's good that he didn't race early as a four-year-old because a lot of four-year-olds have a hard time adapting to racing against the older ones. Right now, he looks great...he looks like a tank."

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