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Trotting Under The Radar No More

Published: June 11, 2016 9:05 am ET

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It took exactly three decades for Jo Ann Looney-King and her family to discover a horse that would return them to the winner’s circle at the Meadowlands. That feat alone renders Maestro Blue Chip as a special animal to the family, however, they are also extremely attached to the four-year-old stallion because they feel he is the most talented trotter ever to grace their shedrow.

“My sister (Susan Looney) was the youngest driver to ever win a race at the Meadowlands when she was 16,” said Looney-King. “That was 30 years ago, so you cannot imagine how thrilling it was for us to finally return there when Maestro won the first leg of the Graduate Series. Our entire family was there to enjoy it and it only made it even sweeter that he beat a horse like Pinkman to get us there. That win really was like a dream come true. Any time you win it is so exciting, but when you win like that it makes it an unforgettable evening. Especially when Jim (her husband) thinks this horse is the best trotter we have ever had.”

Purchased by Richard Poilluici for $90,000 at this year’s Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale, the son of Credit Winner and the SJs Caviar mare Up Front Hotsey will attempt to collect his 11th victory since entering the Kings’ barn on Sunday (June 12) when he competes in the $75,000 third leg of the Graduate Series at Tioga Downs.

Maestro Blue Chip will commence his journey from post position eight with Tim Tetrick holding the lines and is the 5-1 third choice on the morning line. He will have to face champion Pinkman (2-1), who will leave from post position six, and one of the hottest horses in harness racing in Musical Rhythm (3-1), who will begin trotting from the rail.

Despite amassing the highest seasonal bankroll in the contest ($154,000) and serving notice he is a top contender in his division after holding Pinkman at bay at odds of 30-1 on May 21, Maestro Blue Chip appears to remain a bit under the radar, not only at the betting windows, but within the industry. In fact, his triumph over Pinkman and Crescent Fashion was shocking to many who follow the sport, but his endeavors and success were not shocking to his connections.

“The minute Jim saw him at the sale he wanted him,” Looney-King said. “It is absolutely impossible not to fall in love with him at first sight. He is such a handsome horse and carries himself with such class. When a horse like that becomes available at the sale, you always wonder why, but this horse was co-owned by Michael Andrew and Purple Haze Stables.

“I have experience with Michael’s horses and when I talked to him about this one, he said the only reason he was in the sale was because he had 30 babies at home and it cost money to feed them. That made perfect sense to us as we have been there and sold hoses that went on to do well for other people. That is what you want to see and we were just tickled to get the opportunity to have a horse like him.”

Prior to his arrival in his new residence, Maestro Blue Chip, the second foal out of his dam who earned $433,643 during her racing career, was trained by Trond Smedshammer. He performed primarily on the New York Sire Stakes circuit and compiled a record of 13-2-2-2 with just over $78,000 in purse money.

After joining the Kings’ stable, the stallion won 10 consecutive races, including the $73,500 Yonkers Raceway/SOA of New York Bonus Trotting Series final on April 26. The only blemish on his record in 2016 came when he finished behind his elders Obrigado and Il Sogno Dream in the Maxie Lee Memorial on May 29 at Harrah's Philadelphia in his last start.

“We probably should not have skipped the second leg of the Graduate for the Maxie Lee,” Looney-King said. “But when a race goes for $200,000 and it’s close to home with no starting fee, it is difficult to turn down. Also, we always try to help out when the race office needs horses. We were very pleased with how he trotted and are looking forward to bringing him to Tioga.

“This is the first time we have ever raced there and I hate to talk about (post) positions, because that is part of the sport, but we are hoping he works out a nice trip for himself from that spot. We are also fortunate to have one of the best drivers in the business that is terrific at always providing horses with the opportunity to win whenever they are on the track in Tim (Tetrick). Our goal is just to make the final and we could not be more pleased with how our horse is right now. We expect him to race very well even though it is a tough field.”

Although his presence in the series final at the Meadowlands on July 9 has yet to be determined, the Kings have quite the season planned for Maestro Blue Chip as the horse is staked to contests such as the Cleveland Trotting Classic, Chip Noble Memorial, Centaur Trotting Classic, and Dayton Trotting Derby.

“Jim believes in the horse enough to have him eligible to five $250,000 races after this series,” Looney-King said. “We know it’s a long season and Maestro will always tell us where to go. It always depends on the horse and how he is doing, but we are so excited to have him. He really is such a pleasure in every capacity. I can’t explain how enjoyable he is and what he has already accomplished in such a short time has been amazing for us.”

Maestro Blue Chip is not the only member of the King stable that will be performing in a stakes event this weekend. The duo also have last year’s Matron victor, Newborn Sassy, in-to-go in a C$35,000 elimination for the Fan Hanover at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday (June 11).

The daughter of Western Ideal and Sass Newton -- an accomplished offspring of Storm Compensation -- went through the ring at the 2014 Lexington Selected Sale for $38,000 as a yearling. The Kings own her in conjunction with CC Racing LLC and the filly has proved to be quite a bargain as she has earned $263,569 with a resume of 14-8-2-2. She has yet to have her picture taken from four trips to the gate this year, but she has placed twice and nabbed the show spot on one occasion.

On Saturday evening (June 11), Newborn Sassy will start pacing from post six in the third race on the card. Tetrick is responsible for steering the 5-1 morning line selection when she faces the likes of L A Delight (2-1, post seven), Darlinonthebeach (9-5, post two) and Lindwood Beachgirl (9-2, post three).

“We have her because Timmy (Tetrick) was familiar with her dam and just loved her,” Looney-King said. “We were shocked he kept putting up his hand to bid on her at the sale and then he told us she would be a terrific acquisition for us. He really wanted us to have her and it ended up he was 100 percent correct about how good to us she would be.

“She got a bit of a late start last year because she had chips removed, but she was rolling at the end of the season. We realize this is a very strong division with fillies like Pure Country and Darlinonthebeach, but we really feel Sassy can not only compete but when she receives the right trip she can win.

“We are just hoping for that with her this weekend so we can make the final. Again, it’s a long year with a lot of racing, but we have her staked to nearly all the important races and are anxious to see how her year goes. We are anticipating great things from her. Like Maestro, she is a dream to ship, an absolute pleasure in the barn and will do anything you ask of her on the track.

“We just feel so blessed to have the horses we do right now. We are just overwhelmed to have the kind of horses that allow us to be involved in these races and that brings such joy into our lives. How can you ask for anything more? There are times we still cannot comprehend how fortunate we are.”

(with files from the USTA)


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