Local Hero To Try American National

Published: August 20, 2008 06:10 pm EDT

Maxter, racing from Post 3 in Saturday's $200,000 American National for three-year-old male trotters at Balmoral Park in Crete, Illinois, will see some unfamiliar faces in the race.

He's piled up 10 wins in a row, with only one off-the-board performance this year, along with $146,485 in earnings, all without leaving the state.

Trainer Roger Welch has purposely kept the son of Valley Victor close to home.

"Last year he raced right here in Illinois and he was the two-year-old trotter of the year for Illinois breds," Welch said. "This year we've stayed strictly in Illinois with him; he's just the best of the class. He's never had to step up, stayed right here at home, raced against his own class. He has won 10 in a row; [catch driver] Brent Holland's won quite a few with him, Mike Oosting's won with him, so he's showed he can win with other drivers. I hate to say it, but he's the best of a weak class."

Welch's trainee brings a career mark of 1:55.1 in to the race, but says the gelding's versatility should help him against unfamiliar competition.

"The nice thing about him, he's so handy, gets out of the gate good, gets good position," Welch said. "The other horses respect him, so he gets away with an easy quarter or an easy half somewhere in the mile. He can control his own race and then he's always so strong at the end. He always finishes well within himself, never had to step on the gas pedal with him, never had to rush him or be rough with him."

Welch was somewhat reluctant to take Maxter out of his usual competition element, but thinks it's worth the risk.

"I hate to slip him in the American-National, but it's $200,000 and it will give him a good test to race against the good ones," Welch said. "Last year he won his [American-National] elimination and he was second [by 9-3/4 lengths to Muscle Mass]."

Maxter comes into the race with a sound body and a good attitude, helped perhaps by a very small big advantage.

"He's a very sound horse, very sound. No serious injuries, he's keeping fresh," Welch said. "I keep him home at the farm quite a bit; I'm able to turn him out every day. He's got a pasture mate that's a little miniature horse and those two get along good. He and Bucky [a buckskin] have been best friends for two years. He's raised a lot of good ones. Bucky's the pasture mate for the real good ones, you don't want them to get hurt with someone else. He's not going to hurt anyone; he's 34-inches tall.

"We used to race Bucky down at the Ocala [miniature] Raceway; he's a world champion. He time-trialed at Springfield and set a World Record years ago when my boy [Ryan] was about five, he drove him. They set the world record for miniature horses; I can't remember what it was but they went a quarter mile. He did win six or seven in a row, too."

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's race, Maxter will stay close to home. The August 30 World Trotting Derby in DuQuoin, Illinois, is not an option.

"I never thought about that," Welch said. "Maxter will stay strictly in Illinois, he'll race here [in the American-National] and then he's got Super Night [September 20 at Balmoral Park] in the Su Mac Lad and then he's got a few more stakes in Illinois. He's very good on a half-mile track, although he's never raced on a half-mile track, he can just fly on a half-mile racetrack. I was stabled at a training center called Sunrise Stable in Beecher, Illinois during the Hawthorne meet and this horse can just fly on a half. So he's eligible to the Galt Trot [October 10] at Maywood [which is a half-mile track] and a few other Illinois-bred stakes."

Welch thinks his trotter might benefit from a somewhat less forward placing early in the mile.

"I'm looking forward to Max not having to race on the front-end," Welch said. "He's strong out of a hole and he's strong off the pace, but he's been always the best in the Illinois-bred races, so naturally you make a move to the front. Here he's not going to be able to overpower this field, so he's going to have to get some racing luck and get the trip. He'll definitely sit in a hole, he drives with two fingers, and he's very comfortable."

Maxter's breeder, Morty Turndorf, has had a good run of success with Maxter's family, so much so that he named this horse after a member of his family.

"Morty Turndorf owned his mother, Oprah, and still does," Welch said. "She was the track record holder here at Balmoral Park [where Welch is stabled]. Her first foal was Arcola, a full sister to Maxter and I trained her. Arcola's made over $400,000 and was the top two-year-old here and one of the queens of trotting here in Illinois. I raised him [Maxter] here at the farm so it's kind of fun to raise him, watch him grow up and break and train him.

"Maxter's named for Morty Turndorf's grandson, whose name is Max; he's about four. He'll be here this weekend with his father Michael, along with Morty."

The two Maxes have met before, but the human Max does have a favourite. "He loves Bucky more than Max, I think," Welch said. "What little kid wouldn't?"

To view Saturday's entries, click here.


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