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Hellabalou Seeks Better Fortune

Published: July 9, 2021 1:37 pm ET

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Racehorses strive for consistency, but in some ways, it might not be all that great. For instance, if there’s one unfortunate certainty about Hellabalou, it’s that he hasn’t been enjoying much good fortune before his races.

“He’s had some bad luck here lately with draws,” owner Eric Good said. “He’s drawn the eight-hole (at The Meadows) and the 10-hole (at The Meadowlands) in his last two starts.”

The status quo remained intact for Saturday’s first $50,000 elimination of the Meadowlands Pace for three-year-olds, as the colt drew post seven in a seven-horse field. But driver Andy McCarthy is hopeful he can reach the final for Good and trainer Eddie Dennis, who both have their first horse in the Pace. The top five finishers from each elim advance to the final on July 17 at The Meadowlands.

“He’s got a lot of gate speed,” the veteran driver said. “It’s just a matter of trying to put him in the right spot, get him on the helmet. I think he would go a big mile, but he’s got to make sure he’s on the helmet. I don’t think he’s the type of horse you’d want to pull first-over.”

Hellabalou has made marked improvement over his two-year-old season, when he was hindered by health issues. The colt has two wins and a second-place finish in seven 2021 starts, having earned $50,003. This will be his biggest race to date, along with the biggest for Good.

“I’m excited for it, and I think he has it in him (for a top-five finish),” the Maryland resident said. “In my opinion, and I think Eddie believes the same, he can race multiple ways from behind or on the lead. He doesn’t always have to get to the front.”

McCarthy offers the same evaluation.

“He’s a very nice horse; he’s very, very handy,” McCarthy said. “I think he’ll follow any kind of speed. We’re looking to get him through to the final and then you’ve just got to get lucky.”

Good, whose family owns a company that manufactures vinyl and aluminum fences and railings, got into harness racing 12 years ago. His uncle was a longtime groom, and his grandfather took him to the races as a kid. Eventually his friend, trainer Gary Simpson, coaxed him into the business. He and Dennis now have a stable of 15 to 20 horses, including some solid overnight campaigners and a two-year-old they are excited about.

But Hellabalou is at the head of the class. The son of Sweet Lou out of Magestic Blue Chip was purchased as a yearling for $42,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale.

“I just liked his conformation, his breeding,” Good said. “Sweet Lou is one of my favourite sires. We bought him as a baby, and Eddie’s done all the training to get him where he’s at.”

The colt had an unfortunate two-year-old campaign, in which he had a win and a third in seven starts, good for $18,883. After Dennis qualified him to open the campaign, the colt finished third in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division at Harrah’s Philadelphia. A month later, his first career win came at The Meadows, where he finished in 1:53 in a division of the Arden Downs. But the shine of that day slowly dulled as Hellabalou finished out of the money three times before being shut down in early September.

“We believe he had some breathing problems we had to take care of,” Good said. “He did start to decline, so he had surgery at the tail end of the season and that seemed to help. He put in a good mile at The Meadows, but we had some things we needed to work on, so we turned him out and thought enough of him to keep him over until he was three. It seems like it was a good decision.”

Indeed, it was, although the owner was not trumpeting high expectations entering the season.

Asked what his hopes were, Good chuckled and said, “I don’t know exactly. You just hope for the best because it’s a sport to kick you when you’re down. You want to stay healthy, put out good efforts and hope for the best.”

Those hopes got a boost right from the get-go, as the results from surgery could be seen immediately. Hellabalou made his seasonal debut on April 14 in an $11,200 conditioned pace at Harrah’s Philadelphia and covered the oval in a winning time of 1:51.1. He paced his final half mile in :53.

“That was a nice mile for the first start of the year,” Good said.

“His first start at Harrah’s was quite impressive,” McCarthy said. “He went from off the pace, which he really didn’t know too much about doing as a two-year-old, so it was nice to see how versatile he’d become. He’s just a better racehorse this year.

“He didn’t finish last year off as good as he started the year. But Eddie’s done a great job keeping him consistent this year.”

Three weeks later, Hellabalou won a $30,000 division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 1:52.1, and two starts later was second at Philadelphia to Meadowlands Pace contender Southwind Gendry in a PASS division.

He finished out of the money in his last two races, getting no help from the draw, but Dennis liked the horse enough to enter him for the Meadowlands Pace.

“He talked me into it, and hopefully it was a good decision,” Good said.

McCarthy will do his best to make it the right decision.

“I’d love to be able to get him through for Eddie,” he said. “Eddie’s a great guy, a terrific horseman; I know he’ll get a thrill out of being in the Meadowlands Pace. If everything goes right on the night, hopefully we can give him some excitement.”

Hellabalou is 15-1 on the morning line in his elimination. One Eight Hundred, trained by Nancy Takter, is the 9-5 favourite.

Perfect Sting, last season’s undefeated Dan Patch Award winner, is the 2-1 favourite in the second elim.

Saturday’s card also includes the finals of the Graduate Series for four-year-old pacers and trotters, as well as two divisions each of the Reynolds Memorial for three-year-old male and female trotters.

Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands.


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