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Seeking A Super-Nifty Saturday

Published: October 11, 2019 7:05 pm ET

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How does trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman feel about having four horses racing as part of Saturday's $1.8 million Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final card at Woodbine Mohawk Park?

“Yeah, it’s a blast,” said Norman, whose Canadian operation is aided by son-in-law Scott Petherick. “I’ve always had either a two-year-old or a three-year-old trotting filly [make the final]. I had a few more Ontario-breds than I normally do, but we got four in the final [and] we’re in tough spots. But we’re in there so we have a chance, yeah?”

Sitting in seventh with 138 Johston Cup points but boasting the second most OSS money earned ($638,094) this season, Norman is no stranger to Super Final success with the likes of Poof Shes Gone, Bee A Magician and most recently Smoke And Mirrors in 2018 -- one of three Super Final starters a year ago. He heads into the 2019 OSS Super Finals with four shots at glory.

Norman’s night starts in the first race on the card with Haveoneforme starting from post 1 in the $225,000 Three-Year-Old Filly Trot. The Kadabra filly, unraced at two due to soreness in her knees, has amassed nearly $250,000 in earnings from 15 starts this season. However she enters the Super Final having lost by a combined 27 lengths in her last three starts.

“We brought her back at three and started off fantastic,” Norman told Trot Insider. “I think perhaps now, because she didn’t have any racing at two, the campaign might have caught up with her. I mean she’s been very good but [it] appears she’s run out of gas. She seems sound, she looks good and everything but just doesn’t seem to have much left; she just seems tired. We gave her a little break, changed her routine a little bit...did some swimming and things. So we’re hoping she can come in fresh and bounce back.”

Due to having no starts as a two-year-old, Nifty debuted Haveoneforme early in the year. She debuted a winner on Jan. 25 at the Meadowlands and went on to win against Ontario-bred stakes competition later in the spring.

“We really didn’t know what we had,” Norman said, “and it was a pleasant surprise [that] she came up real good and then went up to Canada and won the SBOA. You think ‘Hell, I’ve got a top filly here.’

“She really had no issues, she’s probably sounder now than she’s ever been her whole life. I just think it’s foundation. She came up quick and went from zero to [1]:53, [1]:54; she got good maybe too quickly for herself. I didn’t think she was as good as she was. She got on the track [and just] has a very competitive nature in her races. At home training she never showed that; she was just sort of very laid back, very blasé, nothing very exciting about her, just good and solid. But when you put her on the track, she seemed to really like it and get very competitive. That part of her seems to have tailed off. It’s hard to fathom really...I think a couple of fillies in that group have gotten better but she’s gotten worse there’s no doubt about that.”

Dexter Dunn will make his OSS Super Finals debut with the drive on Haveoneforme for Norman's Enzed Racing Stable Inc. and co-owners Mel Hartman and Little E LLC. No matter how she fares on Saturday, Haveoneforme will head to the breeding shed after the Super Final start.

“[We hope to] just try to get away in a good spot, see what happens and hopefully get a piece,” Norman said. “That was one of the reasons the owners decided to bring Dexter [Dunn] up -- they just feel like the filly needs a change, just something to try and wake her up. We’re just sort of looking for any angle we can to get the last cheque out of her.”

Norman then sends a pair in the OSS Super Final for two-year-old filly trotters, including 3-1 morning-line favourite Wine Rack Hanover. The Kadabra filly made her career debut in a Grassroots prelim before moving into the Gold ranks and solidifying her place among the province's best.

“She always had enough ability but lacked manners or class or whatever you want to call it,” Norman said. “I put her in the Grassroots because I just thought if she gets in trouble and [the driver] couldn’t hold her or something she’s good enough to sit in the middle of the track and still win. I just thought we’d get some races to her and [hoped] she would calm down with the racing.

“She was a handful in the winter. When she came north we got her calmed down a little bit, but then you’d get her into a race and she didn’t seem to have any idea about how to handle a horse or driver in front of her. She just wanted to run over them. We tried many combinations of bits and name it, we tried it.”

After winning on debut, Wine Rack Hanover had a long bout of breaks caused by Norman trying to find the proper equipment. “We had some [different] bits and things in her mouth,” he said, “and she just resented them. It wasn’t soundness or any issue physically.”

Owned by Pinske Stables and Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, Wine Rack Hanover last galloped on Sept. 9 in an overnight at Woodbine Mohawk Park. She has since stayed flat in her next three miles, two of which were in OSS events and both being wins.

“We had [equipment] on her that worked quite well but we just had to get it the right length,” Norman said on getting his filly to calm. “You couldn’t have it too tight. We fiddled with it a little bit more and then had a longer one. She’s seemed to have accepted it a little better and that’s what she’s raced with the last three starts. And Trevor [Henry] did a good job sitting her in and teaching her to follow a horse. It was just a process.”

Wine Rack Hanover, starting from post 2 with Trevor Henry driving, draws better than stablemate She Rocks Kemp, who Norman thought “was a much better filly earlier in the year and she was. I thought she was maybe the best filly up there at the start of the season and through the middle,” he said, “but she’s a little bit the same as the three-year-old...she’s gotten a bit tired; she’s had quite a few starts.”

She Rocks Kemp, a Kadabra filly owned by Melvin Hartman, David McDuffee and Pinske Stables, has raced 10 times as a two-year-old and won only once. But, hitting the board in nine outings, she has earned almost $150,000 competing mostly in OSS splits.

“She’s never gone out and dominated a race because she’s never really been handy enough to leave the gate hard,” Norman said. “But the thing I liked about her was that she was always strong at the finish and always driving through the wire good; she always had trot at the end of the race and still does to a degree. I thought she would go from strength to strength and get better and better at that. [She’s] plateaued maybe, I don’t know. She’s been okay without being great lately; she’s just been a little flat. She was okay at Flamboro in her last start but just couldn’t get into the race, and that’s a little bit of a problem.”

Dunn will also drive She Rocks Kemp for Norman as she will try to overcome post 10.

“There’s a lot of speed in that race,” Norman said. “She’s still good enough to get into it if they happen to get there too quick and she lobs some good cover or something like that. I still think she can be a factor in the race if they get down there faster than they should.”

Norman caps his Super Final night with his once Hambletonian hopeful Southwind Avenger in the Three-Year-Old Colt Trot. Ending his freshman season with a victory in the $435,900 Valley Victory, Southwind Avenger entered his sophomore campaign on track to race on the first Saturday in August but ducked and instead stayed in Canada.

“I probably shouldn’t have even brought him back to Jersey, I should’ve just left him in Canada,” Norman said. “He’s not the greatest shipper in the world. I brought him down to race in the Stanley Dancer [and] he was just okay. He wasn’t actually all that healthy that week and lost a bit of weight. I thought he was definitely not good enough for the Hambo; he’s just not as good as those other horses. I couldn’t get a ride back to Rideau so I had to go back to Toronto and then back to Rideau. He did a lot of shipping and lost a lot of weight and [it] just really put him back. Bad management on my part.”

Despite the misstep, Southwind Avenger has returned from his fourth-by-12-lengths finish in the Stanley Dancer with two second-place efforts in OSS prelims and, more recently, a fourth-place finish in the final OSS leg.

“[His health has been] really good lately,” Norman said of the son of E L Titan. “We just gave him a week out of the paddock in the grass, took him out of the training centre and turned him out for a week and let him just relax. He put a bit of weight on, his appetite’s been good since. He’s better than he’s been so we’ll just see how it plays out.

“I really liked the horse,” Norman also said. “He’s been one of my favourites since I bought him as a yearling. He’s been a neat horse to have. He’s a good honest bugger, he trots good, he’s sound, he goes straight, he can leave or he can duck...he’s a good horse to have. We’re considering bringing him back next year and just having him race at Yonkers and stuff because he gets around a half good. He’s a good horse, I just think the travelling got to him a little bit. He’s actually training really good [now] and I think he’ll go a good race, but he’s just in a tough spot.

Trevor Henry will steer the winner of nearly $600,000 for owners Mel Hartman, David Mc Duffee and Little E LLC from post 10.

“He can make his own luck,” Norman said. “He’s got good gate speed if Trevor [Henry] wanted to do that. I don’t know if that’s the way to go but [we] just have to rely on a little bit of luck there. If he can trip into it and pick up a chunk, well that’s what we’re looking to do.”

“I’d be real happy with four cheques,” Norman also said. “That’d be great.”

To access free, printable program pages of Mohawk’s Saturday races, courtesy of TrackIT, click here.

To view the harness racing entries for Saturday at Mohawk, click the following link: Saturday Entries – Woodbine Mohawk Park.

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