Trainer Trond Smedshammer knows about late blooming three-year-old trotters. He hopes Break The Bank K and Pilgrims Taj fit the category
Break The Bank K and Pilgrims Taj are among the 10 horses in Saturday’s single elimination for the million-dollar Canadian Trotting Classic at Mohawk Racetrack. The top eight finishers will join Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive and Colonial winner Lucky Chucky in the final on September 18. Muscle Massive and Lucky Chucky received byes based on earnings.
After starting the year with a win in a division of the New Jersey Sire Stakes, Break The Bank K was winless in his next 10 races. He ended the skid with a 13 and a half-length victory in a division of the Simcoe Stakes on September 4 at Mohawk. He was timed in 1:54 over a track labeled 'sloppy.'
Smedshammer hopes Break The Bank K’s story becomes similar to Strong Yankee and Arch Madness. In 2005, Strong Yankee was winless in his first seven starts before closing the year with eight victories in 13 races. His victories included the Yonkers Trot, Kentucky Futurity and Breeders Crown. In 2007, Arch Madness won six times and finished second five times over his final 12 races of the campaign. His wins included upsets of US Horse of the Year Donato Hanover in the Breeders Crown elimination and final.
“(Break The Bank K) started off looking like a killer and then things started going wrong for the horse,” Smedshammer said. “I knew that could be a big deal for the horse. All along I knew the weakest part about the horse is his mind; his head. It’s not physical. He’s got plenty of 'go.' When things started going wrong for him it was a big deal. It was just one thing after another. It’s nobody’s fault. He’s just been a tough-luck horse.”
In the Simcoe, Break The Bank K and driver Brian Sears sat third until brushing to the front at the halfway point. From there, a 27-second third quarter-mile propelled the colt to victory.
“Brian made the move and it was the right spot against the right kind of competition,” Smedshammer said. “Horses get brave like that and he just took off. Hopefully it will do him some good. I think it will (carry over). He’s going to face tougher horses, but I do think he’s going to be good.
“He came out of it great. This is the first time I had the horse away from home (in New Jersey). Some horses don’t like it, but this horse loves it. He loves being up there (in Canada).”
Break The Bank K, owned by breeder Bob Key, has won eight of 26 career races and earned $395,104.
“It’s been a huge disappointment for all of us to watch him all year not live up to the expectations,” Smedshammer said. “You saw glimpses of his ability (early in the year) and you saw it again Saturday night. It’s there. I don’t care what horses they are, he’ll go with them if he wants to.”
Pilgrims Taj won last year’s Breeders Crown on his way to seven victories in 10 starts and $746,939 in purses. This season, he has won three of nine races and earned $259,264 for owners Robert Bongiorno, Pilgrims Taj Stable, Bix DiMeo, and Val D’Or Farms. He joined the Smedshammer Stable in July, prior to the Hambletonian eliminations. He won his elim and finished fourth in the final.
Since then, Pilgrims Taj was fifth in the Colonial at Harrah’s Chester and seventh in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship at The Meadows, where he went off stride in the final turn while contesting the lead.
“He’s been on a bumpy road since the Hambo,” Smedshammer said. “At Chester he was sick and was in a lot of stress after the race. I was a little worried about the horse. We took him to The Meadows. I didn’t feel a hundred per cent certain he was ready for that. But Mike (driver Mike Lachance) said he had a lot of pop, he just got in a real deep spot on the track and hit a knee on the turn and lost it. He’s definitely on his way back. We had to put him on lasix; he bled at Chester. He’s been on some antibiotics and inhalers to try to heal up his lungs. He should get better and better all the time.
“I think he’ll be all right up there. I don’t think he’s a horse that likes a lot of work. I was probably a little bit hard on him after the Hambo. He seems to do better with lighter work.”
To view the entries for Mohawk's Saturday night program, click here.
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.