“He was a victim of circumstances. It just seemed like for several starts it was always something. The horse has a ton of talent and it was very frustrating at the time knowing how much talent he has.”
For a period of time last year, it seemed like if something could go wrong it did go wrong for Company Man.
But after a nearly three-month layoff, the gelding returned all right.
Company Man has won three of five starts since getting back on the track in December. He finished his 2014 campaign by winning the Valedictory Series at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto and started 2015 with a win in his opening-round division of the Escort Pacing Series at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
On Saturday, Company Man will compete in the first of two Escort second-round divisions. He will start from Post 3 in an 11-horse field and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Tim Tetrick will drive for trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. and owner Dan Mitchell.
Because the division features a horse starting in the second tier – morning line favourite Major Uptrend, from the stable of trainer Ron Burke – the race will be contested at the distance of one and one-eighth miles.
Company Man, a four-year-old son of American Ideal-Rita Hall, had two wins and six second-place efforts in his first nine starts last season. He then hit a five-race stretch that included a loss by disqualification and tough-trip fourth before ending with a seventh-place finish in which the horse had difficulty breathing.
“He was a victim of circumstances,” said Morgan, who has shared Company Man’s training duties with Al Tomlinson. “It just seemed like for several starts it was always something. The horse has a ton of talent and it was very frustrating at the time knowing how much talent he has.
“Dan Mitchell is a very experienced owner and elected to give him some time off to get ready for the winter series, and obviously it’s paid off. He was real good in Canada.
“He’s a real green horse; he’s still learning. I definitely don’t think we’ve seen his best yet.”
For his career, Company Man has won five of 20 races and $66,654.
Last week, Company Man started in Post 8 and was in fifth place at the quarter-mile point before Tetrick moved for the lead on the backstretch. Company Man was in front as the field reached the final turn and held off JK Patriot in the stretch by one and a quarter lengths in 1:51.4.
“He kind of did it on the front end, but he’s better passing horses,” Morgan said. “He loves to pass horses. I’d love to see him on a helmet second over or out of a hole and see what would happen. He’ll do it on the front end, but he seems like he likes horses a little better.”
Company Man’s second-round division of the Escort also includes JK Patriot and Blacktree, who finished second by a nose to What I Believe last week.
What I Believe is the 8-5 favourite in Saturday’s second division of the Escort, which drew 10 horses and will be raced at the distance of one mile.
“At least (Company Man) drew post position well, but it’s the tougher division,” Morgan said. “He’ll definitely get tested. But his last few starts he’s been battle tested so I think he’s ready to go a good mile. With Tim driving, that always helps.
“I think (the extra distance) will be advantageous to him,” Morgan added. “He acts like he’s the kind of horse that can go all day long. I don’t know how many horses it will affect, but I don’t think it will affect him in a negative way. If anything I think it will help him.”
The $65,000 (estimated) Escort Pacing Series final is scheduled for January 24 at the Meadowlands.
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.