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Pelling On Shartin/'Ally' Rivalry

Published: June 30, 2020 10:25 am ET

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One of the biggest rivalries in harness racing will resume tonight (Tuesday, June 30) at Yonkers Raceway, as US Horse of the Year Shartin N and reigning Breeders Crown Pacing Mare champion Caviart Ally headline the featured $33,000 filly and mare open handicap pace.

The pair of star mares were assigned the outside post positions for the Tuesday tilt. Caviart Ally will start from Post 7 for driver Andy McCarthy and trainer Brett Pelling, while Jim King Jr.’s Shartin N will start from Post 8 with Tim Tetrick.

“I actually think when you’re racing in those divisional races, when you’re in a rivalry, a rivalry is by far the greatest thing we have in the sport. It’s great,” Pelling said. “You know the other horses inside and out, the drivers get to know the horses inside and out. I think it’s cool.”

With 20 rounds between Shartin N and Caviart Ally completed to date, the record stands at 15-3 for Shartin N, with only two occasions where another horse has won when they have both been in the field. However, Caviart Ally has proven victorious in three of the last four matchups: the Filly and Mare Allerage Pace at the Red Mile on October 6, the Breeders Crown Open Mares Pace on October 26, and the TVG FFA Mares Final on November 23, the pair’s most recent faceoff.

“Last year, it took us different attempts at different ways of trying to beat Shartin. I’m not saying we figured it out, but we got better at it,” Pelling said. “It was trial and error on Andy’s part, my part, everyone’s part. We never gave up trying to beat her.

“I think one of the big things was not going 'full gas' out of the gate. We found that (Caviart Ally) was just better to be put in position rather than trying to out-speed [Shartin N] because Shartin gets off the gate extra-good and they have a lot of speed, so they take advantage of that speed. If you have three horses that are trying to race the same way, something has to give.

“A lot of times, we were drawn outside of her, so you had work that little bit harder early and you’re put in the wrong spot, sitting in the two-hole,” Pelling continued. “The two-hole is not actually a good spot to race against Shartin because she’s so quick at the top of the lane, she’d just put a length on us and we’d never really get close enough. Getting away in the three or the four spot and being able to work up close to her, that seemed to help. Sometimes the two-hole is not the best place to be; they have you stuck where they want you and horses are so good these days, they only need an eighth-of-a-mile breather and they’re tough to beat.”

While Shartin is a Yonkers veteran, owning seven victories in 10 local starts, including back-to-back Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Finals in 2018 and 2019, tonight will mark Caviart Ally’s first start at 'The Hilltop' since logging a pair of third-place finishes in the Lismore Pace Eliminations and Final in May 2017 for previous trainer Noel Daley.

“I had nowhere else to race, it’s as simple as that,” Pelling said of the decision to enter at Yonkers.

Caviart Ally was entered multiple times at multiple tracks since her last start (on June 5) at the Meadowlands, but Yonkers proved to be the only venue carding a filly and mare open. As such, Pelling was not surprised when Shartin N also showed up in the entries.

“They had the same issue that we had, so I kind of expected that,” he said. “I nearly raced her the week before, but I just tried to time it a little bit as well. We always planned on racing there through the winter. She was in the Matchmaker, we had her all ready for the Matchmaker, that was a real goal. The best laid plans have gone awry this year I’m afraid.”

Caviart Ally, a 26-time winner and earner of $1.8 million for owner Caviart Farms, qualified twice in February before winning her 2020 debut in 1:49.4 in a $30,000 filly and mare preferred at the Meadowlands on March 6. She was entered in the first leg of the Matchmaker on March 13, the same week racing halted at Yonkers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With no way of knowing when racing would be allowed to resume, Pelling kept Caviart Ally in training throughout the interruption.

“We never missed a day, we just kept right on going,” Pelling said. “I didn’t bike them up and go (1:) 53 or any of that stuff, I just couldn’t do that. We basically treated every day as if it was an off week and just let her cruise along, just keeping her on hold. I never buzzed her or anything. She had a good time; for a horse, it was a good time. It might have been a bit boring, but she definitely wasn’t put under any stress.”


Caviart Ally

Pelling describes Caviart Ally as “a machine” and says the most difficult part of training her is managing her weight.

“Every time I look at her, I think she’s carrying twins. People that see her can’t believe she’s a racehorse because she carries so much condition,” he said.

“She thrives on racing because she’ll just eat anything. She’s one of the best eaters you’ve ever seen in your life,” Pelling said. “Keeping the weight off of her is always the goal, it’s really nothing else; no soundness issues, no health issues, it’s all about keeping the weight off her. She was all up and ready to go in March and she really hasn’t done a lot. You can only train them so much.”

Caviart Ally qualified behind Kissin In The Sand on May 30 before finishing third behind the same rival upon her return to racing in a $22,500 filly and mare preferred at the Meadowlands June 5. While Kissin In The Sand dictated the pace in that start, Caviart Ally was followed the cover of Imprincessgemma, who never got closer than one and three-quarter lengths of Kissin In The Sand. Although Caviart Ally closed with a :25.4 final quarter after kicking off the cover, she could not make up the ground.

“She got away fourth, she got away in the right spot, and then a horse who was (10-1) pulled in front of her and basically just got in her way,” Pelling said. “She would have been much, much better just coming first-over and I think if she had got to Kissin In The Sand’s wheel, it would have been a dogfight, but she just never got close enough.”

Caviart Ally tuned up with a 1:51 qualifying win at the Meadowlands June 20 ahead of her return to Yonkers.


Shartin N

Like Caviart Ally, Shartin had one start in March ahead of a planned attempt at a third conquest of the Matchmaker Series. Shartin earned a neck victory in 1:50 in a $50,000 filly and mare invitational at Dover Downs March 4 before the shutdown hit. She qualified twice for her return Tuesday night; she scored a two-length win in 1:53.3 at Magical Acres training centre on June 3 and another qualifying win in 1:51 at Harrah’s Philadelphia on June 18. Owned by Poillucci, King, and Tetrick, Shartin is a 42-time winner and earner of $2.1 million.

In addition to the two heavyweights, tonight’s pacing feature also includes last week’s winner, Snobbytown, who drew Post 3 for George Brennan and Ron Burke, and last week’s runner up, Imprincessgemma, who will start from Post 5 for the Bongiornos. Machnhope scored a 1:51.4 victory in a local $20,250 overnight on June 23 and will start from Post 4 for Dexter Dunn and Noel Daley. Delishka, Sandy Win, and Anytime complete the field.

“I’d just like to stay in front of Shartin, that’s all,” Pelling said. “I’m sure that will mean moving forward. (Caviart Ally) will get around there like a hoop around a barrel. She won the Jugette, so I’m not concerned about how she gets around there or anything. She’ll be fine. She also has a long stakes season coming up, so this is another race, and it’s a race because we need to race.

“It’s a good race. I’m really thankful to Yonkers for going with the filly and mare open,” Pelling continued. “No one else is. For a Tuesday night, I can guarantee you that the harness racing world will be watching Yonkers, and I think that’s a good thing. Good on them for doing that.”

The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights until July 2. Beginning the week of July 6, the schedule will add Friday nights. Saturday night racing will resume the week of July 20, as the track will return to its normal five night per week schedule through December 19. First post time is 7:05 p.m.

(SOA of NY)


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