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‘Darlin’s Time Is Now

Published: August 22, 2016 3:37 pm ET

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It’s been less than 48 hours since Darlinonthebeach decimated her foes in the $350,000 Valley Forge at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and while any Grand Circuit triumph is a momentous occasion, the joy from this particular victory will not diminish over the passage of time for the filly’s connections.

“She's just been very sharp the last three starts and she's holding her form really good," Darlinonthebeach’s regular pilot, David Miller, said in the winner’s circle that evening. "I've always had a lot of confidence in her. She just ran into a few hiccups there, but she's stuck with it, she's getting through it, and now she's getting what she deserves."

The most recent obstacle the regally bred daughter of Somebeachsomewhere and Darlins Delight tackled was a bout with atrial fibrillation while competing in the $300,000 James Lynch Memorial over the same oval as Saturday evening’s contest. In that July 2 event, Darlinonthebeach was second at the half-mile marker, suddenly dropped back to eighth at the three-quarter pole and ultimately did not finish the race.

“When we got her back to the barn her heart rate was very high and we immediately suspected it was an atrial fibrillation,” trainer Nancy Johansson said, in regard to the White Birch Farm homebred’s condition. “The vets then confirmed it was.

“All of the Scandinavian trainers closely monitor heart rates and hers was at 140 at the time. In her (August 13) race (a win in a $79,880 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes leg), when she came back to the barn it was 84, so that just shows you the difference in what happened that night and what her normal heart rate really is.”

Atrial fibrillation is simply when the heart beats in an abnormal rhythm. It is the most common cardiac problem in horses, who rarely develop heart disease as humans know it, and is diagnosed frequently in racehorses as well as sport horses. Some medical research on the condition shows atrial fibrillation occurs more often in Standardbreds, draft horses and Warmbloods.

It is treated fairly easily and the majority of horses make a full recovery in short order, such as Darlinonthebeach.

“We just watch her to make sure she doesn’t get too hot,” Johansson said. “We do things like keep cold towels on the back of her head and generally try to keep her relaxed. Since this happened she has really responded well and it seems like everything is coming together for her.”

At age two, Darlinonthebeach, like her mother, was a tenacious competitor. She compiled a record of 10-2-5-2, banked $215,391 and paced in 1:51.4 at the Red Mile. This season her zest for racing is also readily apparent, as she has collected $447,881, her resume stands at 13-8-2-1 and her lifetime mark of 1:48.4 was just established on August 13 in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes company at Pocono.

Since relegating atrial fibrillation into her rearview mirror, the filly has captured three of her last four trips to the post and with each race has only appeared to accumulate more power.

Throughout her career she has always been in the elite echelon of her division, but has often remained in the shadow of defending champion Pure Country, who just happens to reside in the barn of Johansson’s Hall of Fame father, Jimmy Takter.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Pure Country,” Johansson said. “She is a great filly and my father does train her, but I think a lot of people forget that ‘Darlin’ has beaten Pure Country twice in the four Pennsylvania (restricted) races they have both been in this year. We feel our filly has the same kind of ability and it has always been about everything falling into place for her. We think now is the time this is happening for her.”

Johansson made that statement about her charge on Friday (August 19) and Darlinonthebeach went out in the Valley Forge to deliver upon it. She paced effortlessly towards the wire that evening with her ears standing at attention and obviously enjoying her work. Pure Country made her bid and eventually finished fourth after encountering some traffic trouble.

The rivalry between the two fillies is certainly real and as the season heads into the fall, the thought of them facing off in the stakes races yet to come is indeed tantalizing.

“She has matured and grown into herself this year,” Johansson said. “We have had to do some work with her, but the most part it is just realizing what she needs to do out there. She knows now she doesn’t have to go out and pace in :26.1 every quarter. David (Miller) is very happy with her and how much she has learned. He can do a lot more with her now than he did last year.

“We are pleased with her right now, but we do plan on keeping her in training and racing her next year. David is already very excited about it and is really looking forward to what she can accomplish as an older horse. It’s great he is so enthusiastic about her, but I keep telling him, let’s just get through this year and then we will see what the next one brings.”


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