Hickfromfrenchlick is scheduled to race in Indiana later this season, which is likely to attract attention there thanks to his Larry Bird-inspired name. But first, the colt will try to close out a successful campaign at home on the New York circuit, beginning with Sunday’s (Aug. 18) $238,200 Empire Breeders Classic at Tioga Downs.
The Ray Schnittker-trained Hickfromfrenchlick is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line in the EBC for three-year-old male pacers and will start from post one with driver Matt Kakaley. Hickfromfrenchlick won his elimination this past Sunday by a neck over Shake That House, who is the 2-1 favourite in the final.
Hickfromfrenchlick has won five of eight races this year and finished no worse than third in any start. Last year, the son of So Surreal and My Girls A Star won four of his first five races, including the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, before finishing off the board in his final two appearances.
“He got sore at the end of last year, and I don’t think we saw the best of him toward the end,” co-owner Patrick English said. “Unlike last year, it seems like he’s gotten stronger as the year has gone on, so that’s been real impressive.
“It’s been an absolute thrill having him. He’s a gamer. It’s like an athlete, when they call your number you’ve got to be ready to go. He’s able to do that.”
Hickfromfrenchlick just reached in his Empire Breeders Classic elimination at Tioga Downs.
English got involved owning racehorses in 2016, when he started the Nolamaura Racing ownership group that includes his father, Kerry, among others. The English family owns a beer distributorship in Goshen, N.Y., and has long been active on the Board of Directors at Historic Track.
Prior to owning horses, Patrick English was taught how to drive by Schnittker. English won a matinee race at Historic Track on Father’s Day in 2012. It remains the only time he ever drove in a race.
“I’m undefeated,” English said, laughing. “People don’t realize how much Ray does for a lot of people around here in the sport. He brought me into it and taught me everything I know. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be in the sport. I appreciate everything he does for us.”
Hickfromfrenchlick was bred by Steve Jones, whose farm is located near Goshen, and purchased for $47,000 at the 2017 Goshen Yearling Sale. The colt’s name is based on the nickname of Indiana-born basketball legend Bird, who was known as “The Hick from French Lick.”
A week prior to the Empire Breeders Classic eliminations, Hickfromfrenchlick equalled the track record for a three-year-old pacing colt at Batavia Downs, winning a division of the New York Sire Stakes in 1:51.2.
“That was a good mile to watch, not only because he was the winner, but they were racing the whole way,” Schnittker said about the race, which saw Hickfromfrenchlick rebuff multiple challenges from Shake That House and then a late charge from Buddy Hill. “They weren’t giving any money away that day.
“He’s come back good this year. He’s very versatile, a nice horse to drive. I thought he was a very good horse last year, but I didn’t know how sound he would stay. Usually, whatever bites them at two comes back and bites them at three. But I got lucky and he’s been very sound this year.”
Mark MacDonald drove Hickfromfrenchlick for his first six starts this season before being sidelined because of a racing accident. English credited MacDonald with aiding the colt’s development.
“Matt has done a great job these last couple races, but it was really tough seeing Mark hurt and not able to be on the bike,” English said. “I know he’s upset about it. When he wasn’t traveling he was at the barn with Ray training with Hick. He’s also helped out with our two two-year-olds, Cigars And Port and Splash Brother. He’s been a great help.”
Following the Empire Breeders Classic, Hickfromfrenchlick will compete in the final preliminary round of the New York Sire Stakes on Aug. 29 with an eye toward the series championship on Sept. 14. He then is eligible to the Simpson Memorial at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Sept. 29 and three races at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Indiana — the Pegasus, Circle City and Monument Circle.
“We’re looking forward to that,” English said about the horse’s trip to Indiana, adding with a laugh, “I’ve got to think that name is going to bring some popular betting.”
Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday at Tioga Downs.