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Out Of Father Patrick's Shadow

Published: November 28, 2013 7:13 pm ET

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If not for a horse named Father Patrick, the name Nuncio might be the one at the forefront of discussions regarding this season’s two-year-old male trotters.

Nuncio has won five of nine races this year and finished second in his other four starts. All four second-place finishes have come behind Father Patrick.

“He’s just run into a great colt there,” said driver John Campbell, who will pilot Nuncio in Saturday’s $494,750 Valley Victory Stakes for two-year-old male trotters at Meadowlands Racetrack. “There’s nothing you can do about that except tip your hat to them.”

Nuncio will start the Valley Victory from post eight and is the 6-5 morning line favourite. Father Patrick, who won 10 of 11 starts this year, was shut down for the season after winning the Breeders Crown in October. Father Patrick’s only setback came by a head to Nuncio in his second start.

“He’s exceptional,” Campbell said about Nuncio, who is owned by Stefan Melander’s Stall TZ Inc. “He’s a little hard to rate sometimes, but when I can rate him and get him to relax he’s been very good. He just finishes up the mile so much better.”

Nuncio was at his rateable, relaxed best in his most recent start, winning the Matron Stakes on Nov. 17 at Dover Downs. His time of 1:53 smashed Explosive Matter’s track record of 1:55 for a two-year-old male trotter as well as Chapter Seven’s stakes record of 1:55.2. It's also faster than any two-year-old colt trotter has ever trotted on a one-mile oval.

“They made some changes to him, so I hope he responds the same way again,” Campbell said.

Nuncio’s triumphs this year also include a division of the Reynolds Stakes at Vernon Downs, where he won in a track-record 1:54.3.

A son of stallion Andover Hall and the first foal out of the mare Nicole Isabelle, Nuncio was a $7,000 yearling purchase at the Standardbred Horse Sale. He has earned $337,387 this year, which is second to Father Patrick’s $744,057 among two-year-old male trotters.

The morning line second choice in the Valley Victory’s 10-horse field is Ron Burke-trained Southwind Spirit, who is 4-1. Southwind Spirit has won six of 12 starts and $310,925. He won the Kindergarten Classic final and American-National Stakes and was third behind Father Patrick and Nuncio in the Peter Haughton Memorial.

Rounding out the field are Another Transcript, E L Titan, Expressive Action, Muscle Network, Musclesprinctonian, Odds On Amethyst, Skates N Plates and Well Built.

“There is a lot of early speed in the race,” Campbell said. “The track has shown you want to be up near the front with the bias, so I think I’ll be a part of it.”

Saturday’s stakes-filled card at Meadowlands Racetrack also includes undefeated three-year-old filly trotter Bee A Magician, who looks to complete a perfect season in the $253,000 Moni Maker Stakes.

There also is the $500,000 TVG Free For All Series Championship for older trotters, the $167,500 Nadia Lobell for three-year-old filly pacers, the $534,500 Governor’s Cup for two-year-old male pacers, $456,150 Goldsmith Maid for two-year-old filly trotters, and $394,950 Three Diamonds for two-year-old filly pacers.

(with files from HRC)

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