Will Steacy's 'Crown' Luck Continue?

Published: November 19, 2014 06:16 pm EST

Mark Steacy has a pretty good batting average in the Breeders Crown.

The trainer of Harper Blue Chip, who is entered in this year’s three-year-old male trotting final, has won three finals with 10 starters and narrowly missed a fourth.

“I’ve been kind of lucky as far as the Breeders Crown,” he said. “We haven’t raced in a lot of them, but I guess we’ve made the best of what we’ve been in.”

He won with Majestic Son in the Three-Year-old Colt Trot in 2006, Stylish Artist in the 2007 Two-Year-Old Filly Pace and Hana Hanover in the 2009 Open Mare Pace. She placed third the year before in her division. Steacy narrowly missed a fourth win last year, finishing second by only a neck with Sunshine Beach, who started eighth in the field of nine and was parked a good deal of the way.

Asked to pick if any of his winners stand out from the rest, Steacy chose Majestic Son, who would go on to win Horse of the Year honours in Canada that season.

“By far my best horse was Majestic Son,” he said. “He was a great horse, comparable to any of the three-year-old trotters that have raced. That’s how I feel about him.”

Majestic Son, with Trottin’ Trevor Ritchie handling the lines, won by a third of a length, beating odds-on favourite Glidemaster, who won the Hambletonian.

Hana Hanover, driven by the Minister of Speed, George Brennan, registered a win at more than 13-1 odds in a time of 1:48.4, the fastest mile of her career.

“Hana Hanover was a real gutsy mare, not so much blessed with talent, but she just had a big heart and tried real hard all the time,” Steacy said.

Stylist Artist, also driven by Brennan, went postward in her race at just under 5-1 odds, leaving from the rail. She sat in second for part of the race, dropped back to fourth, albeit by only a half-length, and poured it on with a final quarter mile in :27.3 to prevail by 1-1/2 lengths.

“Stylish Artist was a nice filly, but she got lucky,” Steacy said. “She got a very nice trip and it just worked out well. George Brennan drove her perfectly. She was a nice mare, but not a great mare.”

Harper Blue Chip, who finished third in the Hambletonian at 45-1 odds, is one of 10 entered in his Breeders Crown. He will face two of trainer Jimmy Takter’s horses – Nuncio and Father Patrick – who are also entered. (Harper Blue Chip subsequently drew post nine and was assigned a morning line of 12-1).

“It’s hard to compete against him when he has two real live horses like he has,” Steacy said. “If his horses are 100 per cent healthy and everything, realistically we’re not going to be first or second in that race, but it’s been a long year and Father Patrick is vulnerable now, and Nuncio beat [Harper Blue Chip] by three-quarters of a length last time out [in the Matron], where we were back four or five lengths at the start of the summer. So I think we’re closing the ground on these horses. The horse that scares me a lot if Riina Rekila’s [E L Titan, which won the Erskine in his last race]. He’s a nice horse and I think he’s peaking at the right time. I’m quite worried about that one as well. Post position is going to mean a lot." (E L Titan subsequently drew Post 10).

“Finishing third [in the Hambletonian] was probably the best I expected to happen. There’s nothing like winning the Hambletonian, which I’d like to do some day, but going up against [Takter’s horses] and finishing third was like a win because we were such a long shot.”

Harper Blue Chip, a $40,000 yearling purchase, has won six of 14 starts this year and $657,029 after winning four of eight last year and $196,883. He is undefeated in four Ontario Sires Stakes races this season. He is owned by Landmark 6 Racing Stable that includes Steacy, David McDonald, David Reid and George Judson. McDonald and Reid have been with Steacy since the early 1980s. Judson is another longtime client and the octogenarian is enjoying his great success in the business with Harper Blue Chip.

“I knew George was looking for a nice horse and I felt this was going to be a nice one, so we swung a deal where I sold my 25 per cent share to him in the horse’s two-year-old year and it’s worked out really well for him,” Steacy said.

Landmark 6, led by Howard Pearce of Kingston, Ont., is a syndicate that owns one quarter of the horse. Steacy and Pearce started putting together syndicates six years ago to give relative new owners in the business a chance to be involved in a group with minimal financial risk. Some of the original syndicate members have reinvested in the subsequent Landmark groups.

“Fortunately for Landmark 6, they got the ultimate horse in Harper Blue Chip,” Steacy said. “That’s made it even more rewarding for the Landmark groups. He’s been our best horse, by far, but we’ve had a couple nice ones, but nothing like Harper Blue Chip. When we cash out at the end of the year, they’re all going to make money in this group.”

As part of the process of creating the syndicates, the members have to relinquish their investment after the horses’ three-year-old seasons. The members pay up front to cover all the costs through to the end of the three-year-old year.

“That quarter will probably be sold, we’ll just have to figure out a price,” he said. “If a good enough offer came along, we’ll sell the whole horse. It would have to be a decent offer because I think this horse can make a very nice aged horse as well. I know it’s tough for four-year-olds but there’s a few more opportunities next year for four-year-olds. And the Majestic Sons have shown they can go on as four-year-olds.”

Steacy’s 2013 three-year-old pacing star, Sunshine Beach was recently retired to stand stud at Seelster Farms. He had a tough four-year-old campaign winning only one of 10 races and a mere $27,330 after winning eight of 20 last year and $913,702. He was one of the few to pin a loss on Captaintreacherous. Sunshine Beach battled with a bladder stone problem all of his three-year-old season, which was not publicized, and this year he had to endure a kidney stone issue.

“It took its wear and tear on this poor horse,” Steacy said. “He was a very talented horse and he got off to a slow start because he had a few complications early at two, and once we got that figured out he matured into a nice three-year-old.”

“He was parked every step of the mile from the eight-hole [in the Breeders Crown] and just got beat,” Steacy said. “He was a champion three-year-old, maybe a half a step behind Captaintreacherous.”

The $5.4 million Breeders Crown championships will be conducted this coming weekend on Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22 at The Meadowlands featuring the 'Fantastic Four' on Friday, followed by the 'Great Eight' on Saturday.

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