Wakizashi Hanover Is Still Sharp

Published: July 13, 2019 01:15 pm EDT

O'Brien Award and Pepsi North America Cup winner Wakizashi Hanover recently resurfaced on his home turf with a victory at Truro Raceway but the popular pacer has yet to race since. Rest assured, the millionaire is ready to race again and his connections are eager to see him back on the track in short order.

For almost six months Wakizashi Hanover did not step foot onto a racetrack. The Nova Scotia-owned titan shipped north from Jim King Jr.’s barn to begin a slow rehabilitation process.

“We gave him some time -- three months of no shoes and no racing, and we had him on a farm in Pictou (Linden Leaf Farm), 30 miles away,” co-owner Bruce Kennedy told Trot Insider. “We decided we would bring him to the track, put him into a jogging and training program, and it's worked out real well for us. We got ourselves to this point where he never really had a so-called break since we started with him as a baby. So we decided to bring him home, get him off the track, and take some time and see if he could get freshened up and have a desire to race again.

“Through his career, he had the two throat operations in 2017, and then we had a tendon operation last May. He's recovered from all that stuff, and he's a happy horse. We couldn't be any more pleased with him than we are now. We've got what we call the old timers' group, three or four of us looking after him on a volunteer basis, and we're all over 70. We're having a lot of fun with a horse that enjoys company. You just couldn't get a better horse to work with.”

Kennedy and his co-owners always planned to bring Wakizashi Hanover back to Truro. They wished to bring him back as a two-year-old, but instead got caught prepping for what eventually materialized into a $1.5-million career.

“We've forgiven everybody for not getting him home at two,” Kennedy said. “There's a lot of local interest in the horse because of his achievements -- a lot of people calling and a lot of people want to see him go on the track. And the guys that are racing against him, they want to see him go too. I talked to a couple of them [recently], and they always feel, 'We're not going out to win because we can't,' but that's not true. It's a horse race. We went to the North America Cup, we weren't anywhere close to being favoured. We beat Artspeak in the elimination — he was undefeated — and we came back and got Wiggle It Jiggleit the next week. We didn't really know what happened to us until six months later, and that was after watching the video 100 times.”

Following a 1:58 qualifier at Truro Raceway on June 21, Wakizashi Hanover returned the next week in a $1,675 pace where he cruised to a 1:54.4 victory as the 1-5 favourite for driver Darren Crowe and trainer Brent MacGrath. Where he races next remains inconclusive.

“We were pretty happy with that,” Kennedy said. “He seemed very comfortable going like that. We’re in the waters and currently biding our time with opportunities. We’re just trying to get some fun out of him and race him where he can go. [He went 1]:54 and a piece here, which is a pretty good mile, but we raced ourselves out of competition here.”

The connections had considered entering Wakizashi Hanover in the eliminations for the Governors' Plate but realized they needed two Maritime-based starts to qualify. By the time the draw came out for the elims, they were one short. That race also pulls top class horses away from the open ranks, leaving Wakizashi Hanover on the proverbial bench.

“They go for two weeks and Charlottetown doesn’t run any Open classes when Summerside’s going, so we’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place there. So over the next two weeks we’re just going to go along with him, keep him up and see what kind of opportunities come up for him.”

While Team Wakizashi will carefully pick their next start, the premier Maritime event -- the 60th Guardian Gold Cup & Saucer -- remains a potential stop.

“We're not sure; it would depend. Sometimes they ship some pretty good horses in out of Ontario. We don't have an anchor driver; we have a starting driver. We don't want to wreck him. I've got to kind of see how he goes the first two or three starts and how bad he wants to race,” noted Kennedy. “You've got to go for your life there, no different than the [Little Brown] Jug, for us. We opted out of the Jug the same as Brent did [with Somebeachsomewhere]. That wasn't anything to do with Brent, but we tried to protect our horse a little bit. I think we may have goofed a couple times by giving him seven weeks in a row instead of giving him a break, looking back, but the Gold Cup & Saucer is definitely an option for us if we want it. There's some good invitational horses going at the same time at the same track, and we'll either be in the invitationals or in the Gold Cup.

“We’ve got him so he’s raceable, but he’s [still] not without his wear and tear,” Kennedy also said. “We know the kind of career he’s had -- he’s had a couple of throat operations and he had [another] operation last year -- so we’re kind of babying him through that stuff. If we can get a few races out of him where he goes out to the track and is good enough, we’ll have to stop racing him [here] and go to Ontario. We’re not opposed to that yet if he can withstand a few starts here.”

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