Bulldog Hanover Still Has Bite

Published: November 3, 2021 01:04 pm EDT

Jack Darling typically doesn't campaign older competitors, but in the case of Bulldog Hanover he's looking to make an exception.

The talented son of Shadow Play has been a known quantity north of the border for quite some time, but his performance on Friday (Oct. 29) at Harrah's Hoosier Park turned heads while the majority of the harness racing world had its attention on the bright lights of The Meadowlands for the first night of the 2021 Breeders Crown championships.

Competing in a $34,000 division of the Circle City at Hoosier Park, Bulldog Hanover steamrolled his competition in his U.S. debut, winning for driver John DeLong in a career best time of 1:48. The track was listed as sloppy, the other division was won earlier on the card in 1:49.4, and none of the other races that night broke the 1:49 mark.

"You've got to think in the summertime on a fast track, that must be 1:46 and change," posed Darling earlier this week. "And the way he did it...it just looked like he was starting to get into gear right under the wire."

Suffice it to say, Bulldog Hanover impressed many onlookers that night — including his trainer and co-owner. And it's not lost on Darling that the next day Perfect Sting won the 2021 Breeders Crown at The Meadowlands, going for $650,000, in a time that was significantly slower (1:49.4). It's not fair to compare the two races, contested under different conditions on different days at different racetracks with different competition, but that doesn't stop anyone from wondering 'what if?', Darling included.

"The way the stakes were, I could have tried the Breeders Crown," Darling told Trot Insider. "But you're putting up $62,000 U.S. – I mean, you've got to kind of finish third to break even. And I believe he would have been a big factor and it would have been nice to see how we did with those. But on the other hand, we've got this race [at Hoosier] advertised at $60,000 — they ended up going for $34,000 (after it was split into divisions). So you've got, say a $60,000 race and a $220,000 race. You know, he's gonna be the red-hot favourite...This was the safest way to go, I thought.

"I'm just like one of those fans that would have loved to see him in that Breeders Crown," Darling continued. "But just the way it went this year, it was just a funny year with the pandemic anyway. He wasn't staked into some of the U.S. stakes that he maybe would have been in another year. But he's still got a big future ahead of him."

Owned by Darling along with Brad Grant, Bulldog Hanover (Shadow Play - BJs Squall) sports a 7-2-1 from 12 seasonal starts with $514,711 in earnings. In those 12 starts, he's been sent off as the betting favourite all but once. There's a strong chance he'll be sent off as the public choice in that aforementioned $220,000 race — the 2021 Monument Circle on Friday (Nov. 5) at Hoosier Park. That race is the main event of a Grand Circuit card that also includes the $165,000 Carl Erskine for three-year-old colt trotters, the $105,000 Crossroads of America for three-year-old filly trotters, and the $120,000 USS Indianapolis Memorial for three-year-old filly pacers.

A field of nine sophomore pacers will head postward in The Monument Circle, including Whichwaytothebeach (PP2, Andrew McCarthy, 7-2) and Southwind Gendry (PP8, Yannick Gingras, 9-2). Bulldog Hanover will leave to Southwind Gendry's inside from post seven with DeLong listed, and the betting will start with the Ontario invader at 7-5.

"He's fairly lightly raced and is feeling good," noted Darling, adding that there could be more appearances for 'Bulldog' at Hoosier Park over the month of November. "He does actually have two more smaller stakes at Hoosier. I think there’s a two-week gap, so we'll decide whether we're going to send him back for those last two."

After the sophomore season concludes, expect to see Bulldog Hanover back on the track as a four-year-old under Darling's care. The longtime conditioner isn't looking to have the volume his stable has managed in past seasons, but he's looking forward to another year with Bulldog Hanover occupying one of his stalls.

"I just have no real interest in selling right now. I haven't even talked to Brad about him, and I'm sure he's looking forward to racing next year," said Darling. "And in the back of my mind, I would just love to see 'Bulldog' go to stud in Ontario someday because I just like the horse so much. I'd like to breed to him myself. We've just got to keep showing what he can do."



It's unfortunate that Perfect Sting and Charlie May are both skipping The Monument Circle rather than facing Bulldog. Perhaps the horses will meet in 2022.

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