After overcoming knee and heart problems, Moon Beam might be ready to shine brightly.
The three-year-old colt pacer is coming off a half-length 1:51 win over Major General in the $200,000 Battle of the Brandywine Consolation I on August 17 at Harrah's Chester. Moon Beam overcame starting from Post 8 to pick up his second victory of the season.
His next challenge will come this weekend in the eliminations for the $400,000 Cane Pace at Freehold Raceway. Elims are set for Saturday with the final on Labor Day, September 1.
"He came out of the [last] race good," trainer Eric Abbatiello said. "I think he's getting in shape now. He seems to be getting better with each start. Knock on wood, he's pretty good now."
Moon Beam (Dragon Again – Sun N Moon) was a $20,000 yearling purchase and raced in the George Teague Jr. Stable as a two-year-old. A half brother to Ideal Weather ($739,688; 1:49.3), Moon Beam won four of six races last season and was second in both the Woodrow Wilson and Metro Pace.
His two-year-old campaign was cut short by knee trouble, which resulted in the removal of two bone chips from his right knee. In January, Moon Beam was sold for $750,000 at the Tattersalls Select Mixed Sale.
Life with new owner Howard Schneidler and Abbatiello got off to a rough start when Moon Beam had trouble finishing strongly in his first three qualifiers of the year. It was discovered the colt suffered from atrial fibrillation, a condition that was corrected at the University of Guelph in Canada.
"That was definitely worrisome. We knew something was wrong," Abbatiello said. "My owner was patient and gave me a chance to work on the horse and do what I wanted to do. From that point on, he's living up a little bit to the horse we thought we bought."
Moon Beam's Brandywine victory was his second consecutive win, coming on the heels of a 1:51 triumph in the August 8 Adios Consolation. In his previous two starts, he was fifth and second, respectively, but beaten by a total of less than two lengths.
Earlier this year, he was third in the Art Rooney Pace, beaten one and a half-length by Badlands Nitro, who won Sunday's $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine and has earned $1.1 million this season. Santanna Blue Chip, last year's Breeders Crown winner, was second in the Rooney.
Moon Beam has earned $228,642 this year and $636,292 in his career on the strength of six wins, four seconds and two thirds in 14 races.
"He's a natural," Abbatiello said. "He's big and has great lung capacity. He's well bred. George Teague was a gentleman and so was [former owner] Jimmy Bernstein. They both told me everything they knew about the horse. With their knowledge and my training and Howard standing behind me, it looks like we have a pretty nice horse."
How nice might yet remain to be seen, but Abbatiello is hopeful.
"Badlands Nitro won his race [Sunday] and was ultra impressive," Abbatiello said. "Somebeachsomewhere, I hope he stays in Canada. All the other ones I think he can compete with if he stays healthy. He gets around any sized track, which is also a plus.
"He's very quiet. You really wouldn't know he's a stud. He has a very good demeanor. He's a pleasure to have in the barn."
To view the entries for Saturday's card at Freehold, click here.