R J P On A Roll

Published: September 12, 2019 07:53 pm EDT

In 2017 when Mark Weaver of Weaver Bruscemi LLC was scouting prospects for Team Burke for the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids, he came across a handsome Somebeachsomewhere-Vysoke Tatry gelding named R J P.

Weaver’s group purchased him privately for $200,000 and did start him in the Adios, where he finished a respectable third to Fear The Dragon.

He followed that up with a neck loss to Huntsville in the Cane Pace. But soon after a poor performance in the Little Brown Jug, R J P all but disappeared from the harness racing map.

Now, thanks to an extraordinarily patient and painstaking rehabilitation, he’s won four straight starts and will look to extend that streak in Saturday’s feature at The Meadows, an $18,000 Open Handicap Pace. It goes as race 1, with R J P and Mike Wilder leaving from post 2. The card kicks off at 1:05 p.m.

Weaver indicates that R J P ’s owners spent more than a year trying to determine what was wrong with him before they sent him to Dr. Keith Brown, a Somerset, PA veterinarian, who diagnosed throat issues and performed surgery. R J P returned for an abbreviated 2018 season in which he was winless in 11 starts.

Brown performed a second surgery and, as Weaver recalls, “took on R J P as a personal project.”

“Dr. Brown thought his breathing problems had become almost a mental thing and that he needed to relearn how to breathe while racing,” Weaver says. “He jogged R J P out in the wilderness for eight or nine months, putting a lot of miles on him. To be honest, the owners, including me, wondered if enough was enough and if we shouldn’t find a new vocation for him.”

Even in his July 18 qualifier, R J P — who campaigns for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Jack Piatt II and Purnel&Libby — was up to his old tricks.

“He wasn’t sharp and didn’t come home well,” Weaver says. “Ron made a couple rigging changes, and he’s been racing great.”

He won a low-end conditioned event on July 26 and hasn’t lost since. Is he ready for the track’s elite pacers, including his stablemate, Windsong Leo, who leaves from post 5?

“At this point, nothing would surprise me,” Weaver says. “If he wins the Breeders Crown in 2020, it wouldn’t surprise me. If he’s a riding horse next month, it wouldn’t surprise me. He’s not your typical horse. You’re not able to tell which way he’s going.”

(Meadows Standardbred Owners Association)