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Mister Big Enters Final Season With Big Expectations

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Published: May 27, 2009 7:03 pm ET

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Virgil Morgan Jr. is not the type of person to reflect upon triumphs and accomplishments. His focus is almost always on the future and preparing for the next race. This year, though, the trainer might allow himself a few moments to pause and soak up the atmosphere as he puts Mister Big through his paces one final season.

If all goes according to schedule, Mister Big will prep for the last time in a qualifier at the Meadowlands on Thursday and make his 2009 debut the weekend of June 6 at either the Meadowlands or Harrah’s Chester. His first stakes appearance will be in the $200,000 Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park on June 20.

Mister Big has finished no worse than second in 13 of the 16 major stakes finals in which he competed in 2007 and 2008, winning nine of them, and set earnings records for older pacers both years. Last year, he joined Red Bow Tie as the only older male pacers since 1977 to win back-to-back Dan Patch Award divisional honours. If the six-year-old can grab another trophy this year, he will join Rambling Willie as the only ones in history to win three.

Entering this season, Mister Big ranked fifth on the all-time money list for pacers, and if he comes anywhere near duplicating his efforts of the past two years, he will move ahead of Gallo Blue Chip, who banked $4.2 million lifetime, in the top spot.

Joe Muscara owns Mister Big, who will be retired following this season. Brian Sears drove the horse in the majority of his starts last year.

“It’s an honour to train a horse of this caliber,” said Morgan, a 43-year-old Ohio native who has trained the winners of 4,137 races and $31 million in purses. “I’m really bad at looking back at what some of the horses I’ve trained have accomplished, and maybe what I’ve accomplished, and I think maybe you do need to slow down and appreciate it a little more; cherish it a little more. You might not always have the opportunity to race in this caliber of races. He’s definitely a special horse.”

Beginning with the July 4 elims for the William R. Haughton Memorial – a race won by Mister Big the past two years – the schedule is demanding, with stakes including the Ben Franklin, the U.S. Pacing Championship and the Breeders Crown, contested before the end of August.

“Last year, there were some spots where you had two or three weeks off at a time. This year, it’s pretty much full tilt,” Morgan said. “At any caliber, that’s tough, but especially at that level. That’s why we wanted to wait a little bit (to start the 2009 campaign), because it’s going to be a vigorous campaign starting in July.

“We’ll take it a week at a time. You couldn’t ask for a better owner than Mr. Muscara because he always puts the horses first. He’s always been great about letting me prep (Mister Big) the right way and getting a great foundation in him. He does the right thing by all his horses.”

Morgan feels no additional pressure as he gets ready to send Mister Big into a potentially historic campaign.

“Stuff like that doesn’t really bother me,” Morgan said. “You do your best job, your best work during the week, and hopefully everything else will fall into place. All you can do is work your butt off during the week and try to keep them as healthy as possible and as sound as possible. Hopefully, you get a good draw and you get a good drive.

“With these (stakes) races, there are no do-overs. These races come once a year. You have to make the most of it.”

(Harness Racing Cummunications)


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