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Kennedy On 'Wakizashi's Cup Win

Published: June 24, 2015 8:27 pm ET

Last Comment: June 25, 2015 10:44 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Three days after watching Wakizashi Hanover win the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk Racetrack, owner Bruce Kennedy was still unsure whether the magnitude of the accomplishment had sunk in completely.

“I’m wondering myself,” said the 74-year-old Nova Scotia resident, who heads the horse’s Tri County Stable ownership group. “It’s a lot to take in because it’s a brand new level of enjoyment for us.”

Not that there is a lot of time to sit back and relax. Wakizashi Hanover is getting ready for his next challenge in Saturday’s eliminations for the Max C. Hempt Memorial at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The three-year-old gelded pacer competes in the third of three $25,000 Hempt elims; the top three finishers in each division advance to the $500,000 final on July 4.

Wakizashi Hanover, trained by Joann Looney-King, will start his elimination from post four with driver Tim Tetrick and is the 5-2 morning line favourite. Brian Brown’s Lost For Words, unbeaten in four races this season, is the 3-1 second choice from post seven with driver David Miller.

Also competing in the eliminations are Wiggle It Jiggleit, who is the 5-2 favourite in the second division, and Artspeak, who is the 5-2 choice in the first elimination.

Wiggle It Jiggleit saw his career unbeaten streak snapped at 11 when he finished second by three-quarters of a length to Wakizashi Hanover in the North America Cup. Artspeak, who received the Dan Patch Award as the sport’s best two-year-old male pacer of 2014, finished fifth in the North America Cup after getting an outside trip from post 10.

Betting Exchange, who finished third in the North America Cup, is the 3-1 second choice in the second Hempt elimination, and In The Arsenal, who was fourth in the Cup, is 3-1 in the first division.

Wakizashi Hanover, a son of Dragon Again out of the mare Western Gesture, was purchased for $23,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale and has won seven of 12 career races and earned $698,257. Kennedy owns Wakizashi Hanover with Percy Bonnell, Wayne Burley, David Bugden, David Chabassol, and Dr. Scott Bowen.

Kennedy, who has more than four decades of experience in harness racing ranging from training, driving and working in an administrative capacity, is in the convenience store business in Bible Hill. On Tuesday afternoon, he took time to talk about Wakizashi Hanover with Ken Weingartner of the USTA’s Harness Racing Communications division.

Ken Weingartner (KW): You have several new owners involved with Wakizashi Hanover. Do they think this is easy now?
Bruce Kennedy (BK): That’s a good question. (Laughs.) They’re well aware of how long it normally takes to get to sort of the halfway mark in this industry. To get the full distance in one shot, it’s like a hole-in-one in golf for these people.

KW: It’s like a hole-in-one the first time you take the clubs out of the bag.
BK: Exactly.

KW: Were you getting anxious in the weeks leading up to the North America Cup?
BK: He kind of flew under the radar prior to the race, and that suited our demeanor just fine. The people we have associated ourselves with in Jim King Jr., his wife Joann, and Tim Tetrick – those people have been so good to us and so good to our horse. They bonded really well and they know that horse inside out. The caretaker of the horse, Phil Moore, he bonded with the horse. The horse has such a personality that it was kind of an easy match-up. The horse is so well cared for, so healthy and so happy, and we think the key to a good horse is good health and happiness.

KW: What’s his personality like?
BK: This horse wants to be a friend with everybody. He’s very easy to be around. He likes to be around people. He’s nice to jog on the track. He’s so simple. He wears simple clothing; he wears a closed bridle, a pair of hopples, and just for precautionary measures they wrap a pair of shin boots on him when he races. He’s a pretty slick-going character, this guy.

KW: As you watched the race unfold, what was going through your mind?
BK: I kind of thought I was at the Indy 500; they got off to such a wicked pace in :25.1. Wiggle It Jiggleit is no slouch by any means; he’s a speedster. When they got past the eighth pole and he took over, the race was on. Timmy’s strategy from where we sat appeared to be to get out early and fend off all comers knowing almost for sure that Wiggle It Jiggleit was going to want to go to the top. We ended up sitting in the pocket and that’s exactly where Tim wanted to be.

KW: What did you think as you watched that trip?
BK: It couldn’t have worked out any better. He wasn’t sitting back a length; he was sitting on the helmet. It appeared from our perspective that he was ready to strike. He was staying close and looking to tip out when it was the right time and hope he had a little horse to go with. That’s when it became really exciting, halfway down the stretch when Tim pulled up beside [Wiggle It Jiggleit] and then was able to overcome the small lead he had on us.

KW: What was the party like afterward?
BK: I’ve been to a lot of parties, but none with more enthusiasm than we had with our group. (Laughs.) It was a nice gesture from the Woodbine Entertainment Group for how we were treated and looked after and cared for. The hospitality was second to none. That kind of makes you feel that everyone is just as important as another. It was a great feeling for us. We didn’t really call it a party, but we were able to celebrate with some of the connections of the other contenders and it was really great. We found that people were there to win, but they were there for everybody.

KW: Does it make it more enjoyable that way?
BK: It does, it does. We know that only one [horse] is going to surface as the winner. We trucked from Delaware to Toronto with the Teagues [and Wiggle It Jiggleit] and we’re grateful for that. [Trainer] Clyde [Francis] is a super guy. Phil trucked with him, stabled with him; we were stabled across the aisle from each other at the Ideal Training Centre. Everything was just so great about the trip and experience. The camaraderie there, it was great.

KW: What was the reaction back home?
BK: It was phenomenal. We’ve been told a lot of stories since we got back, from the grandstand at the racetrack to some very large house parties on race night. There was adrenaline flowing and tears flowing. This is the most excitement we’ve had since [Nova Scotian-owned 2008 Horse of the Year] Somebeachsomewhere. And the media has been super good. They’ve covered this story extremely well, from all corners of the continent. We’re extremely pleased that TSN carried the race, that Pepsi stepped up to sponsor with Woodbine Entertainment Group, and we’d like to thank those people in a public forum. That’s what makes it all worthwhile to stay in the industry and keep trying.

KW: You’re going to the Hempt elims this weekend. What are your thoughts? Are you sort of playing with house money now?
BK: We are. The feeling was that if our horse was fresh and ready to go again, we’d go. If he was showing any fatigue, we would have given him a break before the Meadowlands Pace. We felt with his frolicking in the paddock, with the way he’s been acting since they left Toronto, there’s not a reason in the world to not go to the Hempt.

KW: This division seems like it could be deep and competitive.
BK: That’s the way our group feels. Our owners are saying this is going to be a pretty nice ride, hopefully it will be smooth, and hopefully the competition will be good and as credible as it’s been to this point. And we look forward being part of the level of competition that we’re in.

KW: When we talked last time, you said you’ve been doing this for more than 40 years and you had to take one more shot at getting a big-time horse. Was it worth the wait?
BK: When you’re on the winning end it’s always worth it. Actually, it was worth it for us when we bought this horse and he made the races. To be a great horse and be on the Grand Circuit and compete at this level, it’s over the top. We’re ecstatic. I have to give credit, too, to Gordon Corey and the connections in Pinehurst, North Carolina, where they broke the horse. They were so kind to our horse and took their time with him and brought him along. Then he went to Jimmy and has been a family pet, if you will, at a competitive level. We couldn’t be happier. If we’d known this was waiting for us, we would have waited another five years – if we thought we had that in us. (Laughs.)

KW: Well, congratulations again and good luck with everything in the future.
BK: We feel pretty blessed. When you see horses bought inexpensively and see them compete at a high level, it should give hope to the small buyer and small stables to know they could be part of it at any given time. Hopefully it will encourage people to go to the sale and try to find one that might turn out.

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

June 25, 2015 - 10:44 amGreat Article ! Chalk one

ozzie mackay SAID...

Great Article ! Chalk one more up for the Maritimers !

Bruce, I have known you and most your partners my whole life. This could not of happened to a better group of people. Congratulations and best of luck on your journey :)

All the BEST,

Ozzie MacKay

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