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"We Have Nothing Figured Out Yet"

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Published: October 20, 2011 10:00 am ET

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Can a companion pony be the key to figuring out one of the older trotting division's most inconsistent yet talented performers?

Trainer Jonas Czernyson sends five horses to the Breeders Crown, with three of them, all older horses, advancing to their respective finals on October 29, as no eliminations were needed.

Czernyson Stable veteran Hot Shot Blue Chip, a five-year-old, will represent in the open trot against six competitors while mares Autumn Escapade and Yursa Hanover will be among 11 in the mare trot.

Hot Shot Blue Chip, talented but erratic, has long been a source of frustration for Czernyson. When asked if he’d yet figured out the key to this horse, which has been known to alternate making breaks with brilliant performances, Czernyson replied, “Ah, no. We have nothing figured out yet.

“We’re still trying different things and hoping we can figure out what the right thing is. I don’t know if we’re there yet. I don’t think so, but I am hopeful.”

Among the strategies and changes Czernyson made, he’d not yet tried the services of the sport’s leading money-winning driver, John Campbell, until Hot Shot Blue Chip’s two starts this month. The results were a second-place finish to San Pail in the Allerage Farms Trot on October 1 at The Red Mile and a win in an overnight at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on October 14.

Allerage Open Trot - October 1

“Campbell gave him a very good trip there (at Pocono),” Czernyson said, “and a good trip in Kentucky, so I’m hoping we’re on to something and have him somewhat figured out. I don’t think we’ll ever get him totally figured out. I’m hoping that’s our big answer. I guess we’ll never know. Let’s hope we are going in the right direction.”

Czernyson says Hot Shot Blue Chip is in good physical shape despite a schedule that has seen him race at seven different tracks in his 10 starts since July 8.

“He’s held up very well,” Czernyson said. “He has his little companion pony that lives with him and when we were in Kentucky we kept him at a farm the whole time. He gained a lot of weight when we were in Kentucky, so I’m happy with what he looks like right now. We’re hoping everything’s going to fall in to place for him.

“He’s had a pony ever since he was four; he got the pony at the beginning of last year. Her name is Back On Track Belle. She’s owned by the Back On Track company. She’s on loan, she’s actually in training for them, she just never makes it to the races,” he laughs. “She’s only two, this winter we’re going to break her. She is a white and gray pinto.”

Czernyson has high hopes for five-year-old Yursa Hanover in the mare trot, despite her most recent portfolio including one win, in a non-stakes event, in the past three months.

“She’s been kind of knocking on the door, having some bad draw luck and we kind of got her in the middle of the season,” Czernyson said. “I hope we’re going in the right direction and she will show what she can do.

“Everybody might think we’re in a little tough, but she raced pretty big in Kentucky (in the Allerage Farms Mare Trot on October 2). She got parked to the half and still finished fifth. She’s been having a lot of bad trips. Last week, up in Vernon (second by a nose in an overnight event in 1:57.1 on a sloppy track) she was locked in, got out late and there was not enough room to get the bike through, just her.”

Six-year-old Autumn Escapade, nicknamed “Esther” by stable staff, is the other entry from the Czernyson barn.

“David and Misty Miller bought her after her three-year-old year racing in the Ohio Sire Stakes. I picked her up (in 2009) at the beginning of her four-year-old year,” Czernyson said. “She’s been holding up pretty good all year long. I’m hoping we can get one more race out of her and then she should be done for the year. We’ll give her a nice break and she’ll be back next year.”

Autumn Escapade is coming off a win in the open trot at Vernon on October 14 and a third-place finish (to Friendly Amigo) in the Allerage Mare Trot.

“She’s been racing hard all year, but she’s one of those that really loves what she does and always gives everything she has,” Czernyson said. “If nothing goes wrong over the winter, she should definitely be back next year.”

Czernyzon sends out Seducedbychocolate and Pantholops in Breeders Crown eliminations for the three-year-old trotting fillies on Saturday at Woodbine.

Seducedbychocolate got her first win of the season on October 9 in a Bluegrass Stakes division at The Red Mile in a career best 1:54.3.

“I kind of felt she had it in her,” Czernyson said. “I didn’t know if she was going to be able to do it on the front end like she did. I have to say, that surprised me a little. I think she had it in her all along.

“We got her three-year-old year a little screwed up. She got sick up in Canada and got sick for the final of the Elegantimage (on June 18). Then we got home and got her over that and raced a couple of tough races before the (Hambletonian Oaks) and just got tired of racing right at Hambo time – just the time when we didn’t want her to be tired of racing.

“I took her to our farm (Millstream Farm, operated by Czernyson’s mother-in-law Claudean Cone) in Kentucky and turned her out. She just got a little exercise on the farm and was turned out all day and riding a little on her. I had to get her happy again. It seems like when we raced in Kentucky, she had the overnight (a second-place finish on September 23) and then in the Bluegrass she was back to her old self again and wanted to do that.”

Pantholops has multiple stakes wins this year, including the Zweig Filly, Duenna and Keystone Classic, but her most recent trip to Kentucky was marred by a break on the lead at the half-mile marker in the second heat of the Kentucky Filly Futurity on October 2.

“That was trainer error more than anything else,” Czernyson said. “That’s what happens when other people say, ‘Use this bike, it’s the best out there,’ and some horses just don’t fit in all race bikes. She hit the race bike and made a break. That was my fault.”

Pantholops will be back to her usual race bike for the Breeders Crown eliminations and she’ll be none the worse for the ship from Kentucky to Canada, predicts Czernyson.

“You put her on a trailer, she doesn’t care,” he said. “Whatever she gets she eats. She’s been the same weight when we came up from Florida. She qualified once as a two-year-old and we quit with her so this is her first time to Canada.”

Seducedbychocolate will race in the first of two elims for the three-year-old filly trotters. She will start from post No. 3 with driver Paul MacDonell. Inside of her are Hambletonian Oaks winner Bold And Fresh and Don’t Think Twice. Outside are Kentucky Filly Futurity winner Cedar Dove, Oh Sweet Baby, Lady Andover, Crys Dream, Jezzy, and Martiniontherocks, who won last season’s Breeders Crown for two-year-olds.

Pantholops will start from post No. 6 with driver David Miller in the other elim. To her inside are Hey Mister, Iron Lady, Eagle Canada, Cleopatre Duharas, and Magical Wheel. Outside are EL Glamour, Some Girls, Miss Sue V, and Lady Rainbow.

The $6 million Breeders Crown championships get under way with elimination races, as needed, on Friday and Saturday nights at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. The finals for every age, gait and sex – 12 in all – will be held on October 29, also at Woodbine. Complete elimination and final fields for harness racing's championship night are now available. To view the entries, click the following links:


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.

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