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Race Rewind: 1984 Breeders Crown

Published: October 11, 2014 5:14 pm ET

Last Comment: October 11, 2014 9:02 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This Sunday, October 12, marks the 30th anniversary of one of harness racing's most remembered races. An upset that both shocked the masses and helped put a brand new championship series on the map.

An undefeated pacing colt by the name of Nihilator came into the first ever Breeders Crown for two-year-old pacing colts. It was just the third event in the Breeders Crown series to be contested. Perfect in 11 starts, Nihilator was trained by the legendary Billy Haughton and driven by Bill O'Donnell.

Facing Nihilator was Dragons Lair. Trained and driven by Jeff Mallet, Dragons Lair was no slouch. In fact, the son of Tyler B was a world champion over a five-eighths mile track. The race was being held at Dragons Lair's home track, The Meadows.

The Breeders Crown was contested in heats, with Nihilator winning the first heat over Dragons Lair in 1:54.3f, better than Dragons Lair's 1:55.4f mark. The other heat was won by Pershing Square in 1:56f.

Coming back for the final, it was expected that Nihilator would roll to his 13th straight win. Dragons Lair and Jeff Mallet had other ideas.

"He beat him fair and square," O'Donnell told Trot Insider. "[Nihilator] won his first heat. Dragons Lair got to the front, went fast fractions. We came first up around the half and never really got to his wheel.

"He bounced back, I think he was just tired after that season more than anything," continued O'Donnell. "He redeemed himself at three, there was no mention of Dragons Lair again after that."

It was a rare defeat for Nihilator, who won 35 of 38 lifetime starts.

October 11, 2014 - 9:02 pmsent this to my friend, Sue

sent this to my friend, Sue Crandon, assistant trainer of Dragons Lair (his groom Gary Charette has since passed away)--her is Sue's response to this article....Sue is long out of the business.
"Yes .... 30 years wow, amazing.
I still can remember the excitement in the air, losing by a neck in a new world's record in the first heat which we couldn't tell from the paddock (where we had other horses racing that night and we were kept busy), how concerned Gary was for Dragon to be parked the 1st quarter in "the fastest ever, :26.3!!" but when he came by us I told him not to be worried yet - he still looked really strong. Then past the 3/4 and opening up ....I wondered if he would he hang on but Nihilator wasn't closing and the others were having to work really hard but the wire came too soon and Dragon's Lair really was that great! It was hard to see from the angle we had in the paddock (and no tv to see) but I was pretty sure we won when my best friend's husband (a Meadows and Ohio trainer & Driver) came over and grabbed me and with his hug lifted me well off the ground! It was so surreal ... and "A New World Record" (by like one or two/fifths of a second!!) Then the ride in the golf cart to the winner's circle; from that vantage point I saw the loose horse with sulky attached come flying out of the paddock and yelled to Jeff to watch out - loose horse which he had to pull Dragon over to make sure to miss him. We never knew we had so many friends once we were in the winner's circle!! It was amazing - a real memorable moment and still an awesome double heat! Afterwards we watched the fog roll in and I went to the barn where I ended up sleeping in front of Dragon's stall while the rest of our crew went to celebrate with the rest of the Breeder's Crown celebration. In the morning, Greg & I gave a much deserved visit to the manure wagon to a barnmate (and a good sport), that was always talking shit about how we thought our horse was so great .... lol A lot transpired with ownership changes between Dragon's 2 and 3 year old racing year, unfortunately the worst of which is he got quite sick after he shipped back up to the meadows and it took a long time for him to recover. Gary took care of him wonderfully and deserves a ton of credit. I got to speak with him briefly a few days before he passed and I thanked him again for such a great job he did and how much fun we had. It was nice to see Jeff and his dad have such success; Jeff has a great eye for yearlings and is really gifted at training them. I always knew the horse would be well cared for and not abused or overextended if Jeff drove them and he often got even more from them than the top drivers available at the time.
Still, hard to believe its been 30 years though!! Thanks again for the memories "....


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