by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY
Yonkers, NY — Sunday morning (Oct. 7), there was no time for celebration in Chris Oakes’ barn on the backstretch at the Red Mile. Homicide Hunter, who set a world record for the fastest trotting mile ever the afternoon before, stood in his stall after going out to jog several laps with caretaker Therese Pierce.
Despite his remarkable achievement on the track, in the barn, Homicide Hunter was barely noticeable, standing silently in a dark corner of his stall without so much as a fuss as Pierce tended to him with the stall door wide open.
“Not crazy. We went out for dinner afterwards, shared a few laughs, and we’re back to work today,” Oakes said as he looked admiringly into the trotter’s stall. “You can’t dwell on it too long, we have to work now, we have to keep going.”
Homicide Hunter shipped back to Oakes’ Pennsylvania farm this week and will ship to Yonkers Friday to arrive in time for the 24-hour detention barn ahead of Saturday’s Harry Harvey Trot, a $250,000 invitational on the Yonkers International Trot undercard. The stake will mark Homicide Hunter’s first local start since Aug. 12 and his first start after setting the record.
“He has a 10-hour ship back to Pennsylvania, then gets hauled Friday up to Yonkers, race, then be back to Pocono for the Breeders Crown. It’s a lot to ask of these horses,” Oakes said. “He’ll be getting a nice, easy week in the field. I’ve got a pool at the farm right inside the barn, they’ll get swimming a lot and get turned out. That’s what he really enjoys.”
Homicide Hunter’s easy week comes off a grueling schedule. After winning the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series Final over 10 furlongs at Pocono Sept. 2, Homicide Hunter had a tune up at Pocono Sept. 12 before shipping to the Midwest. He finished third in the Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park Sept. 21 and fourth in the Dayton Trotting Derby Sept. 28 before heading to the Red Mile for the Allerage Farms Open Trot.
The Allerage set up perfectly for Homicide Hunter, who has come from off the pace in all of his recent stakes tries. Lindy The Great put up a quarter in :26.2 and after taking the lead heading up the backstretch, Will Take Charge passed the half in :53.2.
Homicide Hunter followed Lindy The Great and Pinkman in the flow third over to three-quarters in 1:22. Brian Sears tipped Homicide Hunter four-wide into the stretch and with a :26 final quarter under minimal urging from the Hall of Fame driver, Homicide Hunter swept past the field to win by three lengths in 1:48.4.
Oakes thought Homicide Hunter could trot sub-1:50, but never expected a world record. He was thrilled to share the moment with owners Al and Michelle Crawford. The win improved Homicide Hunter’s record to 38 wins from 75 starts and boosted his earnings to $1,463,927.
“I knew instantly that was a world record. I’m just very happy for the horse and for the owners, too,” Oakes said. “They bring so much to the game and you like to see good people like that do good. When they spend the money they do on horses like this, it’s nice to see things go right.
“Luckily, they were on time in front of him, they were getting down there. That helped,” he continued. “The horses that were in front of him were racing hard and of course, he hadn’t been used yet. So, when he did get free, he was loaded.”
Homicide Hunter raced barefoot in his record-setting mile, a decision Oakes grappled with before the race. It was his second time racing barefoot for Oakes; the only other instance came in the same race one year earlier when Homicide Hunter was second to Hannelore Hanover in a 1:49.2 mile. The shoes were back on Sunday morning, as they will be for his start in the Harry Harvey Trot.
“The track was extremely fast; the conditions were perfect,” Oakes said. “I was contemplating whether I was going to take his shoes off or not, but if you don’t do it on a day like that, you’ll never do it. I thought it was the right conditions and he was OK with it.
“This year, the only thing I did differently was I put no boots on him at all. He wears trotting boots behind, like most of them do, the only thing I put on his hind legs were two wraps, keep it as light as possible, and it worked.”
The Harry Harvey Trot will be a completely different style of racing for Homicide Hunter than what he encountered at the Red Mile. He will shift from the mile track to the half, will face a big field of nine rivals, and will stretch back out to 10 furlongs. Although Homicide Hunter won a local Open Handicap Trot at 1-1/4 miles from off the pace earlier this year, Oakes doesn’t want to be too far back against a tough field Saturday.
“He’s OK with Yonkers. Big change and maybe even a change in strategies too,” Oakes said. “I don’t know if we can be that far back at Yonkers, it’s a different style of racing there, a little bit more speed involved.”
Homicide Hunter drew post 10 and with Sears back in the bike, is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the Harry Harvey Trot. He’ll face Guardian Angel As, the runner-up in the Allerage for Annette Lorentzon, who drew post three and is 4-1 early. Warrawee Roo, who finished second in the Dayton Trotting Derby last out, is 6-1 from the inside post. The field also includes a host of recent local winners, including Top Flight Angel, In Secret, Yes Mickey, Gruden, NF Happenstance, Sortie and DW’s NY Yank.
After his world record score, a win in the Harry Harvey Trot heading into the Breeders Crown would make an impressive campaign for the 6-year-old gelding. Oakes is just happy to be along for the ride.
“This horse was a good horse long before I ever laid hands on him. His 3-year-old year in a very tough program in Indiana, this horse won 16 out of 18 (for Curt Grummel) and that tells you right there what kind of horse you’re dealing with. He’s a winner. He’s won half of his lifetime starts. It’s really all about him. I’m glad to be part of him.”
Saturday’s card also features the $1 million Yonkers International Trot and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational Pace. First post time is 1 p.m. For entries to the card, click here. For more information on the International Trot and its participants, visit www.internationaltrot.com.