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Harris Elated They Voted For 'Pedro'

Published: January 26, 2018 11:36 am ET

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On the heels of an impressive freshman campaign, Pedro Hanover is one of two O'Brien Award nominees for Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year. Pedro Hanover or Stay Hungry will receive the coveted honour as the winners of the 17 categories will be announced at the O’Brien Awards Gala on Saturday, February 3, 2018 at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ontario.

The nomination is truly a gift for Harris, who didn't even have Pedro Hanover in his barn one year ago.

"I think Dan Lagace had him first for a little while, and he staked him to the early stuff. He felt that was the way to go with him," stated Harris. "And then Corey Giles got him for a little bit. Corey was high on him and thought he was a really nice horse, and that’s how I got him...Corey sent him to me."

Pedro Hanover started his career in Ontario with a pair of qualifiers at Mohawk Racetrack for Corey Giles. The son of Somebeachsomewhere - Paulas Best came from off the pace to power past Shadow Moon in 1:56.4.

Owners Brad Gray of Dundas and Denise Guerriero of Toronto, Ont. sent Pedro Hanover stateside to Harris for some Pennsylvania Sire Stakes assignments. He scored victories in two of those PASS tests, including a dazzling 1:51 mile at The Meadows. His next start was his first against Grand Circuit competition in a division of the Nassagaweya at Mohawk, where he flew home to win going away in 1:52.1.

Already typecast as a closer, Pedro Hanover would win his next start -- the 2017 PASS Final -- on the engine in a lifetime best-matching 1:51. Harris considers his that start his highlight of 2017 as it was here that Pedro Hanover elevated himself into the conversation of the best of his class.

"Everybody had it in their heads that this horse could only race one way, which was to come from off the pace, and in the Nassagaweya, I said in the post-race interview that we have to change up the plans at Pocono, and Andrew [McCarthy] executed it perfectly and drove him aggressively," Harris told Trot Insider. " It’s the way to drive at Pocono for sure, because it’s a front-end type track. But, I think everybody was caught off guard when he did it, and I think that’s when people really started to recognize that he was a great colt, not just an average colt or a horse that got lucky. He was actually a contender."

Pedro Hanover's next two starts cemented his upper-echelon status with a win in his 2017 Metro elim, followed by a solid third-place finish in the final. That Sept. 23 race was Pedro Hanover's final on-track appearance of 2017. The colt wasn't sore, and the colt wasn't injured...the colt just wasn't staked. Harris hopes that schedule plays into his favour when bringing back Pedro Hanover as a sophomore.

"For whatever reason, he wasn’t staked heavily, but I think that could be a better thing for him coming into next year. If he’d have waited for the Breeders Crown, he would have had a month in between waiting for those races and it's not always easy to keep one tight and fresh between those types of races so I think this is a better plan for him.

"At the time I was probably a little upset about [shutting him down], but in hindsight I’m actually pretty happy about it. Those horses raced late, that Meadowlands race was so late in November, and those horses didn’t get as much time off in the nice weather. My horse got to get out in the grass during nice weather, and probably was able to take advantage of more days outside."

Physically, that time off would seem to have suited Pedro Hanover just fine. Harris recently started back with his stable star and was wowed by the maturation over those months.

"He just trained back for the first time last week," noted Harris. "He’s up to a 62-inch hopple, so he’s grown quite significantly. He was turned out at Anvil & Lace Farm in Lexington for a couple months, and he really did sprout up. I was actually shocked when I got him."

Blessed with "rocket-ship speed", Harris considers Pedro Hanover one of the top three colts heading into 2018 and doesn't think much separates that group. He feels it's more a case of racing luck and beneficial trips that will tell the tale.

"I don’t think there’s a colt out there that scares him."

Harris will be in attendance on February 3 with hopes to hear his colt's name called. The nomination fulfills a lifelong dream of having a horse worthy of O'Brien Award consideration.

"You know what, it’s a great night. [Standardbred Canada does] an absolutely amazing job. It’s put on top class," gushed Harris. "I love going to mix and mingle with people that I don’t get to see all the time, so it’s a great time for me to go. And to be nominated is extra special as I am Canadian; it’s the one thing you always want. Growing up, you’re like ‘I wish I could be nominated for that,’ and so to finally get to a point where there’s a horse in my barn that got nominated, even though there’s a team effort behind him -- it wasn't just me with the horse through his career, it’s definitely special and it puts a smile on my face just talking about it."

That smile comes courtesy a special pacing colt and two owners that placed full trust and confidence in the young trainer. Harris quickly credits Gray and Guerriero for making this dream season a reality.

"They allowed me to do what I thought was right for the horse. They gave me the opportunity with the horse, and then when they gave him to me, they gave me full power to do what I wanted with him. When you get a horse like that and you can see him every day and manage him accordingly, it does make your job so much easier."

Follow the latest updates on the O’Brien Awards on Standardbred Canada’s Facebook Event page and on the SC website.

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