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Oakes Hopes Colt Can Step Up His 'Mojo'

Published: November 9, 2011 8:17 pm ET

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Taking a step up in competition for Saturday’s $401,000 Messenger Stakes at Yonkers is Mojo Terror. The son of Western Terror-Winning Mojo has made $314,897 this year, most of that while winning six New York Sire Stakes divisions plus the $175,000 final on October 1 at Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

The New York Sire Stakes champ, who will start in the Messenger from post No. 2 with driver Brian Sears, will make his first foray into unrestricted stakes racing, but trainer Chris Oakes thinks it’s a step that is warranted.

“Absolutely, yes,” said Oakes. “He had nothing after the sire stakes and he had a nice break. He’s a very good half-mile track horse as you know [all but one sire stakes win was on a half-mile track] so I thought it would be a good race for him. Even though those other colts are a little above and he hasn’t raced against those kinds of colts yet, I think he’ll hang in there pretty good.”

The six-horse Messenger field features harness racing’s top money-winner, Roll With Joe. The Messenger is the final jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Betterthancheddar won the first, the Cane Pace, and Big Bad John won the second, the Little Brown Jug.

Mojo Terror has won 12 of 20 races this year and finished worse than third only twice. One of those off-the-board finishes came on November 5 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs when he was seventh in a winners-over event. He was race timed in 1:51.2.

“It was his first start back and he was in against top open, older horses,” said Oakes. “It was just a first start off a layoff, so we raced him from off the pace.”

Oakes got Mojo Terror to train in March after a two-year-old season that saw him win one of five starts for $5,600 in earnings.

“He was a little bit sore and we figured out what was wrong with him and when I got him you couldn’t steer him at all,” said Oakes. “That was the big complaint about the horse. He got on one line real bad and you couldn’t steer him. I fixed that up and ever since then he’s taken off. Equipment was the biggest thing, we added a Murphy blind and a head pole outside, but he travels straight now. We also worked on his feet and different things.”

Oakes acknowledges Mojo Terror may be a touch below the caliber of horse he’ll face in the Messenger, but thinks he has other qualities that will help his case.

“I think his gate speed,” said Oakes. “He’s real quick off the car, gets himself in good position all the time. He’s just tough, a very tough horse. He won the final of the New York Sire Stakes from behind. Everyone figured he’d go right to the front. But [driver Jim Morrill Jr.] took him off and sat back and came from behind three deep around the last turn.

“He can go either way; very versatile.”

Mojo Terror may come back for a bit more after the Messenger and Oakes is collecting other family members as well.

“He’s actually eligible to the Matron [eliminations on November 20 at Dover Downs],” said Oakes. “I also bought his full sister [Shut Em Up] at the Lexington Selected Sale for $29,000.”

Roll With Joe is making his first visit to Yonkers for a race, although he won a qualifier at the track in 1:55.4 on October 14. He will start from post No. 3 with driver Ron Pierce.

Second by a nose to Betterthancheddar in the Breeders Crown on October 29 at Woodbine, Roll With Joe has won $1.44 million this year for trainer Ed Hart and owners Blue Chip Bloodstock, Stephen Demeter, Not To Worry Stable and Winbak Farm. He has won five of 13 races this season, including the $1 million Meadowlands Pace and the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine. He was second in the Little Brown Jug and has finished worse than third only twice.

“I think everything is good,” said Hart said. “I’ve qualified at Yonkers and he gets around a half [mile track]. He’s been the leading money-winning standardbred all year long. He’s been right there every week. He raced early on; I think the only [race] we missed was the New Jersey Classic because he cut himself. He’s been there all year long and he’s been very good. I don’t see anyone ahead of him myself. He’s the three-year-old leader to me.”

Here is a look at the Messenger field in post position order with listed drivers and trainers:

1. Sea Venture, Jason Bartlett, Tony Alagna
2. Mojo Terror, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes
3. Roll With Joe, Ron Pierce, Ed Hart
4. Sir Ziggys Z Tam, Pat Lachance, Lachance
5. Keystone Velocity, Daniel Dube, Frank Kamine
6. Rollwithitharry, TBA, Jimmy Takter


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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