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The Quietest Million-Dollar Winner

Published: May 30, 2013 11:45 pm ET

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“He couldn’t be doing better, physically or mentally. He’s made the transition from (age) three to four very good; a lot of horses struggle with that transition. I didn’t want to start him too early because it’s a long year."

Timing is everything for trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. as he gets Pet Rock ready for his four-year-old campaign.

Pet Rock will make his season’s debut in Saturday’s second round of the TVG Free For All Championship Series for older pacers at the Meadowlands Racetrack and will start from post No. 2 in the field of 12, with driver Simon Allard at the lines for Morgan.

"With all the horses coming back this year it’s going to make for a long and vigorously demanding year," said Morgan. "Once we saw the stakes schedule we thought waiting a little was the right thing to do. You want your horse to peak at the right time, when the most money is on the line. They’ve only got so many starts at 1:48 or 1:47 in them. Hopefully, we’ll be around at the end.”

Golden Receiver, who will start from post No. 7, is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line and the Ron Burke-trained entry of Sweet Lou and Hillbilly Hanover is next, at 5-2.

The TVG Free For All Series features nine preliminary rounds with a $500,000 final on Nov. 30 at the Meadowlands. Golden Receiver and Fred And Ginger, who will start in Saturday’s race from post No. 1, won first-round divisions on May 11 at the Big M.

Morgan, who has won more than 4,800 races as a trainer, is best known for conditioning two-time older male pacing division champion Mister Big.

“This isn’t like racing overnight horses, where if you have a bad race one week you get another chance the next week,” Morgan said. “There are no do-overs when you’re going for $500,000 or a Breeders Crown. You want to do everything possible to prep and be ready.”

Last year Pet Rock won the Art Rooney Pace and Windy City Pace and finished second in the Meadowlands Pace, Battle of the Brandywine, Messenger Stakes and Cane Pace. He earned $934,518 for owner Frank Bellino.

For his career, he has won 10 of 27 starts, hit the board a total of 23 times, and has banked $1.01 million.

“He’s a very consistent horse,” Morgan said. “I don’t know if anyone has made a million dollars quietly, but it seems like that’s what he did.”

Morgan qualified Pet Rock four times heading into this season, twice at Scioto Downs and more recently at the Meadowlands. He won three qualifying races, with his times dropping steadily from 1:56.1 in his first start at Scioto to 1:50.2 on May 25 at the Meadowlands.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Morgan said. “I can’t say enough about Frank (Bellino) and (his son) Joe and the role they played in letting me bring (Pet Rock) along and not rush him. We always do what’s best for the horse, and hopefully it works out in the long run.”

To view the field for the TVG Free For All Championship Series field, click the following link: Saturday Entries - Meadowlands Racetrack.

This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit

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