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The World According To Dean: UK becoming a player in harness racing

Published: November 8, 2008 8:00 am ET

Last Comment: November 10, 2008 7:11 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

You may have seen the recent notice that Arts Conquest, a stallion in Illinois in recent years, has been sold and will soon join Yankee Lariat by Western Hanover at Camden Stud near York, England.

This is just the latest evidence of a surge of interest in harness racing in the United Kingdom. The sport has long been the poor country cousin of Thoroughbred racing and, while it remains in a subordinate role, support seems to be growing for the sulky sport in what Shakespeare called the "sceptered isle."

Yankee Lariat was a $350,000 yearling trained and raced by Bob McIntosh, I recall seeing him as a yearling and he had that athletic, "ready to race right now" look of so many Western Hanover colts. Breeder Charlie Keller of Yankeeland Farm told me that when Yankee Lariat was turned out as a yearling, he ran through the fields without ever stopping.

"We just couldn't get him tired," said Keller.

Yankee Lariat got a 1:50.4 mark as a sophomore and earned $480,024.

The 12-year-old Arts Conquest won in 1:50 as a three-year-old and banked $880,576 and has sired eight pacers with marks of 1:50 or faster. Because of the deteriorating state of racing in Illinois, however, there was little demand for his services and this year he served only 18 mares, most of them owned by Cottonwood Farm, which also owned Arts Conquest.

Yankee Lariat and Arts Conquest give Camden Stud some valuable bloodlines on which to build its future. It has mares by No Nukes, Cam Fella, Life Sign, Artiscape, Presidential Ball, Abercrombie, and Northern Luck, among others.

Speaking of Northern Luck, his son Crown Manhattan won the William Hill British Pacing Championship recently, the final contested for a first-place check of about $20,000. He was sold as a yearling for $12,000 by Winterwood Farm, agent, at Harrisburg in 2004.

Alas, communication within the world of harness racing is so poor that no one at Winterwood knew about Crown Manhattan's success on the other side of the Atlantic.

The William Hill race is important to the future of British harness racing because it begins a partnership with the important bookmaking firm in the UK.

This race was contested in Wolverhampton but the primary track in England is in York, which is where Camden Stud in located. I visited the track in York four years ago and had a thoroughly delightful time.

An historic occasion took place at York recently when the trotter Need For Run tallied the first 2:00 trotting mile in UK history over the half-mile track there. While Need For Run might not be a name I'd select for a trotter, this horse drew off to win easily and his achievement is quite significant in a country where pacers far outnumber trotters.

Tonight some British harness horsemen will gather at the Moorcock Inn in Eggleston for a banquet and awards presentation. Based on the positive steps made in 2008, they have every reason to celebrate.

Dean Hoffman, one of North America's most prolific harness racing journalists and member of the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame, offers SC website readers his weekly look at international standardbred racing through his eyes.

November 10, 2008 - 7:11 amthe growth factor of any

joe k (not verified) SAID...

the growth factor of any sport is fueled by newspaper coverage. the british cover the racing scene w/ fervor. they devote full pages to prerace stories , interviews and will grow w/ exposure. try to find the entries in any canadian or us paper!!!/ jk

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