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Update On Top Pacers

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Published: March 23, 2009 10:10 am ET

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Woodbine Entertainment Group announcer Ken Middleton, Jr. has spoken with the trainers of Mister Big and Art Official, and one of the co-owners of Dali, regarding the star pacers' preparation for the 2009 season.

Middleton's updates appear below -- his questions are in bold, followed by the particular individual's answer.


Trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. on Mister Big

The worst start of the year for Mister Big was his last one, what was the problem that night?

We scoped him afterwards and he scoped a bit dirty and we drew a blood on him and his white count was high. He was shut down right after that start.

Where did he spend the winter, and when did he come back?

He went to Spring Haven Farms in Utica, Ohio; they do a remarkable job. He came back looking super; all bulked up and his flesh looked good. He’s been back with me since the first week of January.

Where is he at as far as training/jogging is concerned?

He’s been in 2:10; in fact we trained him today (Saturday, March 21). Knock on wood, he’s never been better. His attitude is great and he’s 100 per cent sound. He’ll have quite a few qualifiers before he makes his 2009 debut.

When will you aim to qualify him?

His first qualifier will be in the latter part of April or the first of May. We’ll go with him at Hoosier Park or Scioto Downs. He’ll get two qualifiers before getting polished off with three more at the Meadowlands. He’ll have a week off in between some of those preps.

What will his first month of racing consist of?

It looks like he’ll have one or two prep races before the Dan Patch at Hoosier Park and then he has the Ben Franklin at Chester Downs. Then he’s got all the big ones at the Meadowlands (Wm. R. Haughton Memorial, U.S. Pacing Championship, Breeders Crown) and the he goes to the Canadian Pacing Derby.


Trainer Joe Seekman on Art Official

What forced Art Official to the sidelines near the end of last year’s campaign?

He pulled a carpal muscle on the back of his knee. He had four months off to let it heal up, and he was x-rayed on a regular basis through the winter to make sure it was healing up properly. Once they said it was back to normal we started back jogging with him.

Where did he spend the winter, and when did he come back?

We had him right here at my farm in Centerville, Michigan, and he started back jogging in early February. He grew up a little and put some weight back on; you need that for the racing wars.

Where is he at as far as training/jogging is concerned?

We’ve been a few a few slow trips with him so far. We’ve gone some quarters in 40 seconds with him at the farm track.

When will you aim to qualify him?

We’re probably going to shoot for around the middle of June.

What will his first month of racing consist of?

We’ll try to get him started here in Chicago. In July he’s got the Wm. R. Haughton Memorial, the Ben Franklin, the U.S. Pacing Championship, the Breeders Crown and the Canadian Pacing Derby. He’ll have a busy schedule from July right through to September.


Co-owner Aaron Waxman on Dali

There’s recently been a change in his ownership, what’s the story behind that?

Joel Benson recently purchased a small share of Dali. Joel and I have been partners on a number of racehorses; we talk twice a week and has become a pretty good friend. He wanted to get in on a high-end horse, and we worked out a deal for him to get in on Dali.

Dali really came on strong at the end of the season, what kept him from being at his best early in the year?

He had some issues; not soundness issues but health issues. He got a pretty bad fungus on his face and legs and it really frustrated us. It was something that was treated, but it took six weeks to get rid of it. He couldn’t really shake it until after the Meadowlands Pace. His blood was fine, but it just kept him from being at the top of his game. It was something that that left him being a good horse as opposed to a great horse. He also matured and got stronger over the course of the year.

Where did he spend the winter, and when did he come back?

He spent the winter at Tara Hills Stud in Port Perry, Ontario. Dave Heffering (general manager of Tara Hills Stud) is a big fan of the horse. I’m hoping that Tara Hills ends up being his home after his career is over. He came back in around the third week of February. He was only off for two months because his last race was in the middle of December. He grew up and put on a considerable amount of flesh. He’s a changed horse; he appears like a different horse.

Where is he at as far as training/jogging is concerned?

He’s been back jogging for three weeks and he went his first slow training trip this past Wednesday (March 18).

When will you aim to qualify him?

In a perfect world we’d like to qualify him around the end of May.

What will his first month of racing consist of?

He’s either going to head to the Des Smith or the Dan Patch. He’ll probably have a start in the Open at Mohawk, as well. After that he has the William R. Haughton Memorial, the U.S. Pacing Championship and the Breeders Crown. He also has the Ben Franklin, the Canadian Pacing Derby, the Allerage Farms and the American National. He’s staked to everything from June until the end of the season. We’re hoping he’s going to be a durable horse this year; he’s got about 20 starts over a six month period. The one I really want to win is the Canadian Pacing Derby. Since Duane (trainer Duane Marfisi) and I have been together, we’ve had most of our success in the U.S. I’d really like get a big one at home.


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