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Enduring The Highs And Lows

Published: April 6, 2017 2:10 pm ET

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When most people possess an exciting three-year-old pacing colt that could position himself to become a world champion and a stakes winner they are brimming with pride and joy as the ultimate, yet elusive reward of this business just may be in their grasp. The Dombecks and Biers, however, are well acquainted with the peaks and valleys that are the chief component of this sport and can certainly speak from experience in regards to both sets of circumstances.

Although both families are cautiously optimist that Highalator will separate himself as a top competitor in his division, the demoralizing loss of their beloved Modern Family in 2014 remains a shroud cast over their hearts that perpetually inhibits their expectations, hopes and dreams of what will transpire for not only this colt, but all their stock.

“I try not to get too excited anymore,” said Charles Dombeck, who co-owns this son of Somebeachsomewhere-Higher And Higher. “We have been fortunate to have Wind Of The North and Bandolito and this colt looks like a nice horse, but we just don’t know. The top horses from last year have not returned yet, so he could be a top 10 horse, a top 20 horse or a top 50 horse.

“Losing Modern Family the way we did is something that will always remain for all of us, so when my friends ask me why I am not really excited, I explain to them if you remain realistic and take things as they come, then enjoy them if they do, it makes it a lot easier to accept the disappointments.”

Also co-owned by Daryl Bier, Highalator is a homebred conditioned by Jenny Bier and seeks his seventh consecutive victory on Sunday (April 9) when he leaves from post position four with Victor Kirby holding the lines in the fourth and final division of the second leg of the Bobby Weiss Series at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. He is the 2-1 morning line favourite in the $15,000 contest but Chillin Matisse (post seven, Corey Callahan, 3-1) and Youcaniknow (post one, Anthony Napolitano, 7-2) are also receiving their fair share of attention.

“He received a nice, easy trip in the first leg and we are hoping for the same in the race this weekend,” Dombeck said. “We are not sure exactly what we are going to do with him, because the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes begin five days after the Weiss final which is on May 1, so we might end up skipping a leg or the final to take him to the sire stakes. It will be whatever the horse tells us to do with him and whatever is best for him.”

Highalator, with a resume of 9-7-1-0 and $40,620 in the bank, is the first foal out of his world champion dam Higher And Higher, who Daryl Bier and Dombeck purchased in 2012 from Ongait.com. The daughter of Western Terror-Pro Bowl Best earned just under $1 million before being transferred to the breeding shed.


Higher And Higher winning a leg of the Overbid at The Meadowlands in 2012

While Bier and Dombeck both agreed to keep Highalator, as well as his yearling half-sister Dancin With Jammy (A Rocknroll Dance), the colt’s younger full sister, JK Higher Power, was sold to the 3 Brothers Stables for $110,000 at the 2016 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale.

Demonstrating he had ability as a two-year-old, Highalator, in rein to Scott Zeron, made a powerful middle move from sixth to sweep the field and reach the wire a half-length over his rivals, several of which were older than him, on July 17, 2016, in a $12,000 non-winners contest upon the very same surface his hooves will grace on Sunday evening.

After a fourth place finish on July 31 at the same facility Dombeck and Bier decided the colt had done enough and gave him time to grow for his sophomore season.

“When he was training down in Florida he was coming along fine, but had a cough and some allergies,” Dombeck said. “As soon as we took him up north they disappeared and he’s never had a problem since. His first race, I watched on the computer and he was so far back, then I couldn’t even see him until he finished with that rush. The next time I saw him was at the wire and after his next race we just decided to put him away. We don’t believe in making two-year-olds do too much and allowing them some time to mature and fill out.”

Highalator returned to the racing ranks on Jan. 18 in a $6,000 conditioned event at Dover Downs and was second by a nose. The following week, the colt received the services of Yannick Gingras at the same location and was extremely impressive in a 1:52.2 triumph after a first-over journey from post position seven.

“We wanted to know what Yannick thought of him,” Dombeck said. “It was around the time we needed to make stakes payments and after he brought him back, he told us we should definitely stake him.”

Highalator’s next engagement was a $10,000 non-winners contest at The Meadowlands on Feb. 4, where he absolutely strode through the lane as much the best, while stopping the clock in 1:52.4 after a :26.2 final panel. Victor Kirby, who will now remain the colt’s regular pilot, steered him through the mile, which one again included older horses in the field.

The colt started on two more occasions at Dover Downs on Feb. 16 and March 16, again taking on older rivals and collecting two more wins, before returning to The Meadowlands on March 25 with another stellar performance. Competing against older horses in a $12,000 non-winners race, Highalator paced another final quarter-mile split of :26.3 while defeating the 5-year-old Migrate Blue Chip by a neck in 1:52.2.

Migrate Blue Chip visited the winner’s circle in his next start on April 2 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the same evening Highalator captured a first leg division of the Weiss Series with a wire-to-wire performance in 1:54.4.

“Victor said he can be a bit lazy and you have to get into him for the first part of the race, but once you straighten him away and it’s time to come home he is all business,” Dombeck said. “He has been racing against older horses and defeating them, but like I said we still don’t know what kind of horse he is until he faces stakes competition.

“He really looks the part though. I had not seen him for a while and when I saw him at Pocono last week, I was impressed because he has turned into such a gorgeous animal. He also has a terrific attitude, unlike his mother, who only Jenny could get near, and hangs his head right on your shoulder.”

Although Dombeck insists he is maintaining an even keel when it comes to Highalator’s future, there is a mere hint of anticipation and enthusiasm when he discusses plans for the rest of the colt’s season.

“He is staked to nearly everything except Canada and the Jug,” Dombeck said. “I have no desire to return to Canada after what happened with Modern Family and I know Daryl feels the same. We didn’t nominate him to the Jug because we don’t want to put him on a half-mile track, but he is in everything else including the Meadowlands Pace, Lexington and the Breeders Crown.

“I hope I will be in the position to be kicking myself for not staking him to the Jug when the time comes, but we are looking forward to seeing what happens with him. It definitely is more special when the horse is a homebred.”


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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