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Stable Update From Jack Darling

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Published: March 4, 2009 6:42 am ET

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Trainer Jack Darling recently chatted with Trot Insider about the status of O'Brien Award winner St Lads Popcorn as well as a few of his other promising stable stars.

"St Lads Popcorn ended her two-year-old year in great shape," Darling told Trot Insider. "I believe that in her last start she was as good as or better than she had been all year."

Through her dominant freshman campaign in which the daughter of Twin B Champ - Hot Butter captured 12 of 15 starts and banked over $602,000 for trainer-owner Darling en route to divisional honours in Canada as well as the HTA Nova Award in the United States, Darling was quick to give credit to the filly's regular pilot, Jason Brewer for helping keep 'Popcorn' fresh.

"Jason did a tremendous job keeping her well within herself throughout a long season. As a young, up and coming driver, Jason showed that he is a good money driver. He kept his cool and stepped it up a notch when the big money was on the line."

After her racing season concluded with a late November win in the Ontario Sires Stakes Trillium Series at Kawartha Downs, St Lads Popcorn enjoyed some downtime with a close friend.

"Popcorn needs a companion when she is turned out in the paddock or she goes crazy, so she spent her time off with Darlene Hayes' pet quarter horse at Long Lane Farm.

"She is now back training, looking good and just loves being on the track and doing her work. Part of the reason she has done so well is that she loves to race - and what a big plus that is with a filly."

While many pegged St Lads Popcorn to win the O'Brien, the nod for the Nova Award and subsequent speed rating by HTA's Stan Bergstein was quite a thrill for Darling.

"It was an honour when Popcorn won the Nova award in Las Vegas and was rated as the fastest filly at 1:49.2 in the experimental speed ratings, especially since she has never raced outside of Ontario. Her stakes schedule is full with OSS, SBOA, Trillium, Fan Hanover and the Breeders Crown so she won't be racing in the US again this year."

Though the spotlight for Darling's 2008 season was mostly given to St Lads Popcorn, the Cambridge, Ont-based trainer has two pacing colts that he feels will be heard from as three-year-olds this year.

"Carnivore is back training after a couple of months off. He came up sick in his last start as a two-year-old," stated Darling. "It seemed to knock a lot out of him but he is back to his old self and looks great."

With a freshman campaign that included six wins in ten starts and over $290,000 in purses, Darling points out that the son of Real Desire - Party Animal sometimes lives up to his name.

"He is a hard horse to handle around the barn because he is so full of himself - it takes two or three people to get him hooked up to the jogger but once he gets onto the track he relaxes and is a perfect gentleman," Darling told Trot Insider. "He loves the Red Mile track in Kentucky - he won all five of his starts there last year so that will be a major focus for him this year again. Carnivore is extensively staked and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do as a three-year-old."

Another colt with promise in the Darling barn is the well-bred Stonebridge Terror.

"Stonebridge Terror is back in training and looks great as well. He had a hitch in his gait last year and we could never find out what was causing it," stated Darling. "He would race with it but I was always trying to be careful with him because I like the horse so much. He is very classy and probably the most likable horse I have ever had."

Darling is so high on the winner of two races and over $110,000 at two that he's paying the son of Western Terror - No Paradise up to Canada's premier race - the $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup.

"He finished second in the OSS Super Final at the end of the year so that made it all worthwhile. I look forward to seeing what he can do this year as well because he is a bit of an unknown quantity," said Darling. "I have started the payments on him for the N.A. Cup which is always a stretch but he has shown me enough to at least keep him eligible. I will analyze the situation when it comes time to make the starting fee."


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