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'Max' Makes Open Debut For Harris

Published: April 26, 2019 9:44 am ET

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Bettors were optimistic about Our Max Phactor N’s chances when he debuted for trainer Andrew Harris on the Levy undercard. Despite starting from post seven in a $29,000 overnight, the New Zealand-bred gelding started at odds of just 4.6-1.

Despite the strong backing, Our Max Phactor N was out of contention in the early stages of the race, 10-1/4 lengths behind pacesetting Gillys Boy after a :27.1 opening quarter. Despite joining the flow nearing the half and advancing within 4-3/4 lengths of the top, Our Max Phactor N was last of eight passing the three-quarter mark. Still, Harris was confident.

“His last quarters have been pretty scary throughout his career, not just for us,” he said. “I figured he was going to be a pretty impressive horse. I qualified him myself, and I’m a big guy, and he drove me around there in :26.3. His last quarters, we knew that they were there.”

At the midway point of the final turn, driver Jason Bartlett angled Our Max Phactor three-wide and the seven-year-old showed instant acceleration. He passed favourite Don Domingo, Sunken Treasur, and Chaching Hanover in a matter of strides and arriving at the head of the lane, zipped by Late Mail, Ghost Pine and the tiring Gillys Boy with ease. With just a slap of the wheel disc in mid-stretch, Our Max Phactor N extended past leader Dragonology and kicked clear to a 1-1/4 length win in 1:54.

“He was a real nice horse over there and we had big expectations for him,” Harris said. “They thought he was a real class animal, so we took a shot with him. I thought that he was supposed to do that, especially with those fractions. I was happy with him.”

By Art Major out of the In The Pocket mare Tact Philly, Our Max Phactor N won 21 races from 86 starts in Australia and New Zealand. His wins included the Group 3 Kersley Final at Gloucester Park last November. Our Max Phactor N also placed in the Group 2 Village Kid Stakes at the same venue last December and in the Group 3 Summer Cup Handicap at Auckland in 2017. He competed in two Group 1 stakes this January to end his career in the Southern Hemisphere as Harris worked with agent Frank Rinaldi to bring Our Max Phactor to the United States.

“I actually almost bought Mach Doro, who was in the Levy Series. That deal didn’t go through,” Harris explained. “Then (Frank) called me and said this horse was available, that this is the kind of horse you should be looking for. So, we put it together and got him bought and luckily enough, I think he’s exactly what we wanted.”

Our Max Phactor N flew to the United States in early March, but never missed a beat. In training with Rinaldi before he left Australia, the transition was seamless when the gelding finally arrived at Harris’ barn.

“We made sure he got adjusted properly and everything went kind of smoothly. He didn’t get sick or anything like that. It was really probably one of the smoother transitions of a horse coming from over there. We’ve had a few, but this one came over pretty good,” Harris said.

“When we bought him over there, you don’t know when your flight is; the flight could be at any time,” Harris continued. “Fortunately, we were able to have Frank take the horse and keep him in training. He swam him, had him in training, went a couple slow trips with him right before we got him. Keep him in motion and then we get him and take over. They never get shut down.”

Our Max Phactor N made an immediate impression on his new trainer when he arrived in the barn. The gelding showed no signs of wear from the travel.

“I was shocked at how good-looking he was. A lot of them don’t look that well coming off the long flight coming over. This horse looking like a million dollars the day I got him,” Harris recalled. “When he got here, he was one of the best-looking horses I’ve ever gotten to work with for sure. He’s a gorgeous, gorgeous animal. His coat is amazing. Just a really excellent-looking horse.”

Harris had Our Max Phactor N ready to qualify March 30. With Jason Bartlett in the sulky, the gelding finished third in a Meadowlands trial in 1:52.1 with a :26.2 final quarter. One week later, with a shortage of catch drivers, Harris qualified Our Max Phactor N himself. The trainer was impressed with the mile, which finished with a :26.3 last panel.

“I just wanted to take it easy on him; I didn’t want to go crazy, so I just sat on him, never chased him going home,” Harris said. “I had another in the qualifier against him, Trump Nation, who I think is an absolutely beast of a horse, and he drove right up beside him and did everything the right way. I was really, really happy with him.”

Off his debut victory, Our Max Phactor N will step up into the $44,000 Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night (April 27). Paired again with Jason Bartlett, he will start from post six. His rivals include Macs Jackpot, who finished fourth in the Levy Series Consolation last week, and Major Crocker, who also drops out of the series. Micky Gee will start from post five off consecutive victories at the $29,000 level while Caviart Luca looks for his fourth win in seven seasonal starts with a better draw this week in post three. Artifact Hanover and Epaulette complete the lineup.

Harris likes this spot for Our Max Phactor N and expects his off-the-pace tactics to continue as he adjusts to the American style of racing.

“We don’t want him to get hot or anything. Some of these horses from over there can get hot,” Harris said. “In Australia, he was actually always on the outside, one-one, first-up. He seems like a versatile horse who can do it any way. I don’t think there’s a need to drive him any certain way, it’s just right now, we don’t want him to get hot.

“It’s a good race for him,” he continued. “It’s not the toughest Open I’ve seen, so that’s a good thing. With the series just being finished, there’s not a bunch of killers in there just yet, so this is kind of a nice spot for him to see if he can go at that level, which I think he can, but saying it and doing it are two different things. It will be good to see what he does in there. I think if everything goes right, he should be a player all year.”

Saturday night’s card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot. First post time is 6:50 p.m.

(SOA of New York)

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