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"Probably The Best Underdog"


Published: July 13, 2011 1:34 pm ET

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When trainer George Teague, Jr. hands Custard The Dragon's lines to the youngest driver to ever compete in the $1 million Meadowlands Pace on Saturday, he will have nothing but confidence in the 20-year-old.

The fact that the 20-year-old is his son, Montrell, makes it all the more special.

"I think I'd be in trouble if he didn't have the talent, but I feel very confident having him drive for me," said George, who won the Meadowlands Pace in 2007 with Southwind Lynx. Interestingly, Southwind Lynx was driven by Tim Tetrick, who at the age of 25 became the youngest driver to win the race.

"I'm very proud of my son," Teague continued. "One thing about it is I'm not just going to give him good horses; it's not like he doesn't deserve it or isn't talented enough. He's got the talent to do it so that's always a double bonus."

Montrell drove Custard The Dragon to a one-length win over Foreclosure N in 1:50.2 in his Meadowlands Pace elimination on July 9. Montrell will supplant Mario Baillargeon as the youngest driver in the final. Baillargeon was 21 when he drove Most Happy Collins to a ninth-place finish in 1979.

"This is a big thing for my career," said Montrell, who helps train Custard The Dragon and has driven the colt in all of his races this season. "If I win this, it will be amazing."

For the year, Custard The Dragon has won four of nine races and earned $480,998. Among his victories are the $500,000 Hoosier Cup on June 25 at Hoosier Park and the $300,000 Max Hempt Memorial on May 21 at Pocono Downs.

By winning the Hempt, Montrell became the second-youngest driver to win an unrestricted stakes race worth at least $300,000. Ryan Anderson, also at the age of 20, but a few weeks younger than Teague, won the $783,484 Breeders Crown for three-year-old pacing fillies with Popcorn Penny at Mohawk Racetrack in 2000.

Custard The Dragon, a son of Dragon Again out of the mare Eternal Justice, has won seven of 13 career races and earned $551,427 for owners George Teague, Jr., Ted Gewertz, Robert Feldman and Fannin Racing.

Despite the success, Custard The Dragon has been often overlooked by the bettors. He won at 11-1 in his Meadowlands Pace elim, and was 8-1 in the Hoosier Cup and 10-1 in the Hempt.

"I guess we're trying to gain (respect); he's probably the best underdog out there," Montrell said. "Maybe they'll be looking for him (this) week."

Montrell got his first driving win in 2009 and entered Monday with 202 career victories and $3.08 million in purses. This year, he has 74 wins and $1.23 million in earnings.

"On some occasions I have to talk to him about how I want specific horses to be driven, but very rarely," George said. "If we are dealing with young horses I have to speak with him a little bit about it. But I don't say much more to him than I do with the guys who have been driving for 20 years."

Montrell's primary focus is making steady improvement.

"I just want to keep doing better and better, and (Custard The Dragon) is making it better and better for me," he said. "He's just a good horse."


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