The Six Million Dollar Man is back, and it could be another year when he is better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.
When dealing with Foiled Again, that's no longer a surprise.
The 10-year-old pacer on Friday made his first trip of the season to the racetrack for qualifiers at the Meadowlands. Foiled Again, with regular driver Yannick Gingras in the sulky, won in 1:53.1 with a final quarter of :26 as he starts preparing for the upcoming George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers.
Foiled Again, with $6.03 million in career earnings, is the richest harness racing horse in North American history and is coming off a season in which he garnered his third consecutive Dan Patch Award as the sport's best older male pacer. He joined Rambling Willie (1975-77) as the only horses to accomplish that feat.
Last year, Foiled Again won 11 of 29 starts, banked $1.40 million, and became the oldest horse ever to win a Breeders Crown. He capped the campaign by winning the $512,000 TVG Free For All Championship on Nov. 30 at the Meadowlands and had six victories and three second-place finishes over his final nine starts.
"He ended last year as good as he's ever been and he's started this year better than he's ever come back,” said trainer Ron Burke, who owns the horse with Weaver Bruscemi LLC and JJK Stables. "Last week he trained better than ever. When we pulled up, me and Yannick just looked at each other and said ‘That was unbelievable.'
"People ask me all the time if he surprises me, but he quit surprising me a long time ago. I came to the realization that he's just different.”
Foiled Again won the Levy Series in 2009 and 2010. He was second by a neck to Razzle Dazzle last year and second by a head to stablemate Atochia in 2012. He finished third in 2011, beaten by a half-length.
This year's Levy Series begins March 22. The Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, the companion event for older female pacers, starts March 21.
"All of our horses will come back next week for another qualifier,” said Burke, who also saw pacers Sweet Lou, Charisma Hanover and Summertime Lea post wins Friday morning, along with trotter Money On My Mind. "With us racing so late into last year, we know there's no room for error getting ready this year. We're going to stretch them out a little more next time.
"But it sounds like everybody went great today. Yannick was happy. I can't wait to get going. I love it.”
Sweet Lou, a 5-year-old horse, has won 22 of 55 lifetime starts and $2.11 million in his career. He won four of 23 races and $348,638 last year. He won his qualifier in 1:52.1 with a :26.4 last quarter with Matt Kakaley in the bike. Burke's Hillbilly Hanover, with Gingras at the lines, was second, a half-length back.
Summertime Lea and Charisma Hanover, both 4-year-old mares, won in 1:52.3 and 1:53.2, respectively.
Charisma Hanover won 13 of 20 races and $555,729 last season. Her victories included the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, Lady Maud and American-National Stakes. Summertime Lea won eight of 16 starts and $258,568 while competing primarily on the New York Sire Stakes circuit.
Burke's Rocklamation and Camille finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the qualifier won by Summertime Lea. Camille, who won last year's Artiscape but but endured a 12-race winless streak before capturing her final start on Dec. 6, raced with Lasix for the first time and Burke was encouraged by the results.
"I wasn't happy with the way she finished last year and the way she trained coming back,” Burke said. "We scoped her and found she bled. We put her on Lasix and she was very good. I'm happy that it looks like we were right and maybe Lasix is the answer.”
Other winners Friday were trotters Dream Of Thunder and Daylon Magician and pacer The Lunch Pail. (HRC)