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Big M Return Brings Fond Memories

Published: January 17, 2018 6:06 pm ET

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Iron Mine Bucky and trainer Greg Haverstick return to the Meadowlands Racetrack on Friday (Jan. 19) for the eighth time since appearing there in the 2016 Hambletonian Stakes, but the trip never gets old. Haverstick relives Hambletonian Day every time he goes back.

“I do,” Haverstick said. “You never forget that day. As long as I live, I guess, I’ll never forget it. It was a dream come true. Everybody wants to go and I hope to be back someday soon. That was an incredible day.

“I love racing at the Meadowlands too. It’s just an awesome place to race.”

Iron Mine Bucky is in the seventh race Friday, which is the first of three races that will be shown from 9:00-10:00 p.m. on SNY (SportsNet New York) as part of the “Meadowlands Harness Live” broadcast. He will start from post 10 with driver Eric Carlson and is 9-2 on the morning line. Opulent Yankee is the 3-1 favourite.

Haverstick, a 48-year-old Pennsylvania native known around harness racing simply as “Stick,” is in his third year as the head trainer for Nancy and Bud Carter’s Iron Mine Branch Farm in Delaware. He previously was second trainer at the farm, working with Colby Hubble, and was the sport’s 2011 Caretaker of the Year in a contest then-sponsored by Harness Tracks of America and Hanover Shoe Farms.

Last year, Haverstick’s trainees won 23 of 154 races and earned $318,339. Two-year-old filly trotter Iron Mine Krystal, who is a half-sister to Iron Mine Bucky, was a Maryland Sire Stakes champion and two-year-old gelding trotter Iron Mine Bro was a championship runner-up on the same circuit. Iron Mine Johnny earned $81,935 competing mostly in overnights.

“I had a good year for a small operation,” said Haverstick, who has 12 horses, all trotters, in training. “I had a good bunch of horses. Nancy and Bud are great owners. They love the business and the horses come first, whatever the horses need. That means a lot.”

Iron Mine Bucky, who battled some health issues last season at age four, has won 10 of 51 career races and earned $311,760. His wins include divisions of the Currier & Ives, Keystone Classic, and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. He finished third, behind Marion Marauder and Bar Hopping, in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial.

In the Hambletonian, Iron Mine Bucky finished fourth from post eight in his elimination to advance to the final. He again started from post eight, this time finishing eighth.

“I think if he had drawn inside he would have gotten a piece of it,” Haverstick said. “I don’t think he would have been 1-2, but he would have gotten a piece.”

Competing on the Grand Circuit with Iron Mine Bucky was beneficial for Haverstick.

“I got to know a lot more people in the business,” Haverstick said. “Until you experience it, it’s just a totally different game, I think. And I learned a lot just watching the other trainers, the top trainers in the country. Watching how they do things and how they run their operation. You just learn so much, absolutely.”

Iron Mine Bucky finished last year with a sixth-place finish in the preferred at the Meadowlands on Dec. 30, but was found to be sick. He returned to action last week with a third-place finish in a conditioned race.

“He shook loose late and had trot,” Haverstick said. “He was a different horse last week; he was back on his game. He loves the track up there. He gets over it so much nicer. He handles that surface really well.

“Bucky is Bucky. He’s always dealing with some issues, but he tries every week.”

When it comes time for Iron Mine Bucky to retire, he will go to stud duty at Iron Mine Branch Farm.

“He’ll never leave the farm,” Haverstick said. “He took us to the Hambo and a lot of other big races. He’s not going anywhere.”


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