Trainer Nancy Takter has had a number of world champions in her barn over the years, so what’s one more?
Takter recently added the Ohio-bred Ocean Rock to her stable roster, with the Buckeye State’s 2020 Three-year-old Male Pacer of the Year sent her way this past winter by breeder-owner Sandra Burnett to compete on the East Coast, primarily in the Graduate Series.
The first leg of the Graduate Series for four-year-old pacers was contested on May 1 at The Meadowlands, with the second leg set for this Saturday (May 15) at the Big M. Ocean Rock will make his season’s debut in this week’s Graduate, and he’ll be joined by stablemate No Lou Zing in the first of two $50,000 Graduate divisions on the 14-race program.
Ocean Rock, who won a May 8 qualifier at The Meadowlands in 1:50.3, will start from post two with Yannick Gingras driving. No Lou Zing, who won his 2021 pari-mutuel debut in a May 8 overnight at the Big M in 1:49.3, will be in post one with driver Dexter Dunn. Captain Barbossa, who won a division of the Graduate opener last time out in 1:48.4 as the 3-5 betting favourite, will start from post six.
Ocean Rock put his name in the world-record books on Aug. 24, 2019, when he won an Ohio Sires Stakes division in 1:51.1 at MGM Northfield Park, the fastest mile ever by a freshman gelding on a half-mile track. Last year, he lowered his career mark to 1:48.4 in an OHSS contest over the five-eighths-mile oval at Eldorado Scioto Downs. That was one of six wins in 10 starts overall in 2020 for Ocean Rock, whose earnings of $363,360 boosted his career total to $519,737 for Burnett.
In addition to his OHSS victories, including capturing the state’s Triple Crown in 2020 with wins in the OHSS championship, Ohio Breeders Championship and Ohio State Fair Stakes, Ocean Rock finished a close second to Odds On Osiris in the $250,000 Carl Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park.
In the last start of his sophomore season, Ocean Rock was supplemented to the Hollywood Dayton Pacing Derby where he took on older horses. He missed the only cheque of his 10-start campaign last year in that race, tiring late to an eighth-place finish after leading the entire way through the stretch call.
Ocean Rock was raced his first two years by the husband-wife, driving-training team of Dan and Christi Noble, who remain at their home base in Ohio. Ocean Rock was sent to Takter after a Feb. 3 qualifier at Miami Valley, and she sent the pacer out to a 1:53.4 qualifying score on Feb. 27 over a “good” track at The Meadowlands. Despite the victory, Takter was not totally pleased with the effort, so she decided to pause the son of Rockin Amadeus’ campaign.
“I only had him about a week before I qualified him, and I wasn’t happy with how he qualified,” said Takter, the 2020 Glen Garnsey Memorial Trainer of the Year. “So I called the owner and told her I needed a little bit more time.”
Not returning until that May 8 qualifier, and with Gingras in the sulky for the first time, Ocean Rock led gate-to-wire, closing out the mile with a final quarter of :27.3 to draw clear by 4-1/4 lengths. Saturday’s Graduate leg was recently added by The Meadowlands to fill a void on the calendar for the division with the cancellation of the May 23 Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs, and Takter didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get Ocean Rock’s season underway.
“I would have maybe liked another qualifier, but he had already missed one leg,” said Takter. “He qualified well enough so I think he will be all right in there. I don’t think Yannick will be overly aggressive with him though.”
Gingras said he is looking forward to racing Ocean Rock in Saturday’s Graduate.
“He was good in the qualifier but he hadn’t gone a real mile in a while,” said Gingras. “It was good to stretch him out a little bit. This week we’ll try him out and see what he’s made of and see how much speed he has. It’s all a learning experience, to try and figure out what type of horse he is.”
As for the Takter-trained No Lou Zing, the four-year-old gelded son of Sweet Lou was a prominent player in 2020 as a sophomore, posting a 16-7-6-2 slate with $523,558 in earnings for 3 Brothers Stables, Rojan Stables and Caviart Farms.
“He’s an honest horse and he always puts in a good performance,” said Takter. “He’s a gelding so we can take our time with him and he’ll be around for awhile. I will give him the opportunity to be a free-for-all horse after the Graduate and toward the end of the summer with the free-for-all races.”
Takter also has a horse in the second Graduate division on Saturday, as 2020 Progress Pace champion Fortify will start from post position three with driver Tim Tetrick. Another son of Sweet Lou, Fortify banked $297,296 last year as a sophomore for owner Diamond Creek Racing.
Live harness racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands.