Lucas Wallin quickly admits that having horses in the Breeders Crown eliminations for the first time is no great accomplishment since “anyone can enter.” But he does feel it’s an accomplishment to be training horses that have enough potential to be entered.
“That’s right,” said Wallin, who has three entries in Friday’s (Oct. 23) Breeders Crown eliminations at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. “None of the horses will be the favourite, but all of them have something to do there. It’s not that we just put them in there to have fun. They can do pretty good in there, I think.”
It’s another step forward for the 27-year-old, now in his fourth full year of building up a stable since coming from Sweden in 2014. His earnings and victories have risen each year, although that won’t happen this season due to a COVID-19-impacted season. But his numbers still look good considering the huge drop-off in starts.
In 2017, he won 18 races and $183,712 in 110 starts; followed by 29 wins and $351,877 in 164 starts in 2018, and 32 wins and $692,544 in 216 starts last year. This season, in just 87 races, Wallin has 19 wins and earned $434,155, which is roughly $250,000 less than 2019 in 129 fewer starts.
“I’m happy but also I feel I’m not near where I want to be,” said Wallin, who has a stable of 16 horses at Marcus Melander’s farm in New Egypt, N.J. “I don’t want to have many more horses. But we want to do better in the big stake races.
“This year we only had two horses we raced over two years old. We haven’t done too many starts, but when we race them we’ve done good. I’m happy, we have some nice babies here in the fall. But I don’t want 60 or 70 horses. I want 20 or 25. I’d like to have a finger everywhere to see what’s going on.”
Wallin already has been involved in some major stakes races, including the Hambletonian Oaks, but he still feels emotions stirring as he readies for Friday’s eliminations.
“It’s a pretty strong feeling,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest events in harness racing. That’s a pretty special feeling. It’s the end of the year, most of the horses have raced a lot. Anything can happen. It’s a good feeling to have three of them in there.”
Hoosier hosts $25,000 eliminations for two-year-olds and three-year-old fillies Friday. The top five finishers from each elimination advance to next week’s finals. Elimination winners will draw for posts one through five for the finals.
Eliminations for three-year-old male pacers, three-year-old male trotters, and older female pacers will be held Saturday at Hoosier. Eliminations were unnecessary for the Open Pace, Open Trot, and Mare Trot.
May Karp and Mazzarati will be competing for Wallin in the two-year-old filly trot. May Karp, who will have Dexter Dunn in the sulky, is in the second of the two eliminations and is 8-1 on the morning line. Mazzarati, with Tim Tetrick, is 15-1 in the first elim.
May Karp, by Cantab Hall out of Evermore, has won three of 10 races and $90,387 for owner Shermay Stables. She won two rounds of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series and the consolation for the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. She finished second in a Bluegrass Stakes division at Red Mile and then was the favourite in her International Stallion Stakes division but went off stride and finished seventh.
“She’s a nice little filly,” Wallin said. “We put her in good races. We tried her in the Jim Doherty (Memorial) in the summer, but she made a break in the last eighth of the final, otherwise she would have been in nice shape.
“She raced good at the Red Mile and finished second in the Bluegrass, but unfortunately she made a break on the backstretch in her next race. She was getting a little aggressive when Dexter wanted to get a hold of her. We’ll adjust the equipment for this race.”
Mazzarati, by Cantab Hall out of Falls For You, has won three of eight races and $71,285 for owners Mazza Racing Stables and Stormi and Bruiser Stable. She won her elimination for the Doherty Memorial and finished fifth in the final. Her other wins came in a division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars and a leg of the Kindergarten Classic Series.
“I was pretty high on her very, very early but then she struggled with a couple issues in the summer that took time to fix,” Wallin said. “I’m a little disappointed with the season but not the horse. I trained her (Tuesday) and it feels like she’s going into this race in good shape. So, I’m going into the Breeders Crown with a good feeling but also a realistic feeling. It’s good to race with the best fillies and hopefully she can learn from that.”
Competing in the three-year-old filly trot is Absattitudexpress, who is 10-1 in the second of two eliminations and will have Brian Sears in the sulky. She has won five of 10 races this season including the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship and a division of the Bluegrass Stakes, where she defeated Hambletonian winner Ramona Hill.
The daughter of Trixton and Abbiesgotattitude has earned $171,700 this year for breeder/owner Stop The Jade Farm.
“We took our time with her as a two-year-old,” Wallin said, referring to her two wins and a second in three starts. “She did some nice things in overnights at (Harrah’s Philadelphia) and we felt she could go a little.
“Overall, she’s had a very good season and she looked absolutely perfect over at the Red Mile when she won over Ramona Hill. Tetrick drove a perfect race; it worked out 100 per cent, the filly looked really good. I go in with a very good feeling with her for this race. We drew good, post three, and I think she’s going to have a very good race as well.”
Wallin began driving ponies at age 8 and, a few years after that, began helping at his uncle Joakim Wallin’s stable. When childhood friend Oskar Florhed told Wallin about an opportunity to work in the U.S. for Åke Svanstedt in 2014, he jumped at it.
Those two years proved invaluable, in getting both an education and important contacts as a second trainer.
“I have a lot to thank Åke for,” Wallin said. “I had a good time at his place. He gave me so much responsibility with everything. He let me drive a lot of races. Without him I would probably not be here. It’s tough to get owners, but a lot of owners throw my name out there because he let me drive his horses.
“He’s for sure one of the best horsemen in the world, his resume speaks for itself. I learned a lot of things from him. We still talk a lot when we see each other on the racetracks.”
While Wallin would like to start making inroads on the Grand Circuit, he is smart enough and patient enough to realize he is still young with plenty of time to hit it big.
“I just want to get better and better each year,” he said. “I want to stay here in America and build my stable. I’m happy with where I’m located with the farm. It’s a very nice place, it’s nice and quiet. The horses like it. There’s a lot of harmony.
“I just really want to get going in the big ones. But that takes time. I learn something every day and every season I feel more and more comfortable in what I’m doing. I’m very confident in myself and my team. We’re getting better and better and I’m sure we’ll get where we want to be.”
Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Friday at Hoosier Park.