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Betterthancheddar The Derby Fave

Published: August 29, 2012 10:30 pm ET

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Betterthancheddar is out to confirm his status as the big cheese in Saturday’s $787,000 Canadian Pacing Derby, but he will need to fend off nine rivals, including a rejuvenated Golden Receiver.

With wins in eight of nine races this year, Betterthancheddar is the top-rated older pacer in harness racing and sits at No. 4 overall in the sport’s most recent Top 10 poll. Betterthancheddar’s only loss this season came by a nose to We Will See in the Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational on June 16 and the four-year-old Casie Coleman trainee has won 13 of 14 starts dating back to last October.

Betterthancheddar most recently won the $50,000 Canadian Pacing Derby elimination by one length over Bettor Sweet in 1:49.1 last Saturday. The top eight finishers from the elim advanced to the final, where they joined Golden Receiver and Foiled Again, who both received byes.

“You never know how they’re going to come back as a four-year-old going against older horses like Bettor Sweet, Foiled Again, (and) Golden Receiver,” said driver George Brennan, who has been at the lines for four of Betterthancheddar’s last five wins. “That’s part of the reason Casie didn’t stake him to so many of the open events.

“But, you know, he’s come back strong, probably better than our expectations. She races him sparingly, which helps, and he’s answered every call.”

In the Canadian Pacing Derby elim, Betterthancheddar was fifth through the opening quarter-mile before moving first on the outside on the backstretch. He was second coming around the final turn and was able to briefly tuck behind leader We Will See before sweeping to the front in the stretch.

“Any time you can duck in and braven them up a little bit, they appreciate that,” Brennan said. “He obviously did because when I pulled him out he went right by. It was a great performance.”

Owned by Steve Calhoun and West Wins Stable, Betterthancheddar won the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace in June at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and the $174,735 Des Smith in July at Rideau Carleton. His 1:48 victory in the Franklin equaled the fastest mile ever by a four-year-old pacer on a five-eighths-mile track.

He has earned $495,750 this year, good for third among older pacers, trailing only Golden Receiver and Foiled Again.

Last season, Betterthancheddar finished his campaign by winning five races in a row, including the Breeders Crown, American-National Stakes and Windy City Pace. For his career, he has won 18 of 27 starts and $1.2 million.

Golden Receiver, who is ranked No. 6 in the Top 10, has earned $744,300 this year thanks to 12 wins in 19 starts while Foiled Again, who is $36,949 from becoming the third pacer in North American harness racing history to reach $4 million in lifetime earnings, has banked $541,045.

A seven-year-old, Golden Receiver is heading to the Canadian Pacing Derby off wins in the $431,400 Haughton Memorial on August 17 and the $242,500 U.S. Pacing Championship on August 4, both at the Meadowlands. In both races, Golden Receiver led gate-to-wire, which is not unusual. He has led after the opening quarter-mile in 15 of his 19 races this season and been second on three occasions.

“It’s the same every week right now; he just keeps doing it,” Golden Receiver’s trainer Mark Harder said. “Every week he has a target on his back, and every week he keeps fighting them off. He keeps digging. He’s just iron tough.”

The only time Golden Receiver was not first or second at the quarter-mile point this year was the last time he shared the track with Betterthancheddar. It was in their elimination for the Franklin, which Betterthancheddar won, when Golden Receiver was unable to get into the race from post nine.

Aside from that defeat and setbacks in his two starts immediately prior to the Franklin while battling illness, Golden Receiver has finished no worse than second in 15 races this season. He has started at least once in every month this year and made at least one start in 17 of the last 18 months.

Other wins for Golden Receiver include the $180,000 Graduate, $125,000 Spring Pacing Championship and the $110,500 Presidential. He is owned by Stable 45, Richard Taylor, Stephen Springer and Nina Simmonds.

“After what he’s been through, racing in January and he’s still going, you kind of wonder when it’s going to end,” Harder said. “But I don’t see any chink in him right now. He’s got great weight to him, he’s healthy and happy. We’ll keep rolling while we can.”

We Will See won last year’s Canadian Pacing Derby by a neck over Won The West in a stakes-record 1:47.4. We Will See, Foiled Again, Bettor Sweet and St Elmo Hero are returnees from last year’s event.


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


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