It was another crowning moment for Chapter Seven. Chapter Seven and his connections received the Dan Patch Award for harness racing's Horse of the Year on Sunday night before a crowd of more than 400 people at the Westin Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The ceremony came four months after Chapter Seven won the Breeders Crown Open Trot over an international field at Woodbine Racetrack; a victory that many consider his defining moment.
Chapter Seven, who won eight of 10 starts last year and earned $1.02 million, won the $600,000 Breeders Crown in 1:52.3 by 1 1/4 lengths over Mister Herbie despite racing on the outside for the entire mile.
"He was phenomenal,” said Tim Tetrick, who was honored Sunday as Driver of the Year and was at the lines for all of Chapter Seven's races last season. "He was parked every step of the mile and raced his heart out. It was pretty amazing.
"I drove him terrible and he overcame it and made me look like a genius,” Tetrick added with a laugh.
Chapter Seven, who was the first 4-year-old trotter be named Horse of the Year since Mack Lobell in 1988, also received Dan Patch honors as best older male trotter and Trotter of the Year. He is owned by Richard Gutnick, Southwind Farm and J&T Silva Stables and was trained by Linda Toscano.
Other trotters to receive Dan Patch Award divisional honors were Wheeling N Dealin (2-year-old male), To Dream On (2-year-old female), Market Share (3-year-old male), Check Me Out (3-year-old female) and Frenchfrysnvinegar (older female).
Award-winning pacers were Captaintreacherous as Pacer of the Year and best 2-year-old male pacer, Somwherovrarainbow (2-year-old female), Heston Blue Chip (3-year-old male), American Jewel (3-year-old female), Foiled Again (older male) and Anndrovette (older female).
Captaintreacherous was the first 2-year-old pacer named Pacer of the Year since Camtastic in 1987. Check Me Out, Foiled Again and Anndrovette were repeat winners.
Gutnick received the award for Owner of the Year and Toscano for Trainer of the Year.
Chapter Seven, a son of Windsong's Legacy out of the mare La Riviera Lindy, was bred by Richard Banca, a former trainer from New Jersey who has bred only a dozen horses during his career in the sport.
"This means the world to me because I'm not really a breeder,” the 58-year-old Banca said. "It's like a freak thing. But I love the business and I love the horses, so it's very special to me.”
Banca's favorite memory of last season was Chapter Seven's Breeders Crown performance.
"It's unbelievable the heart he's got,” Banca said.
Gutnick said the Breeders Crown win gave Chapter Seven the nod for Horse of the Year over runner-up Market Share. But Gutnick, who also owns Market Share, had another favorite memory of Chapter Seven.
"When he was a 2-year-old, during his second baby race, I saw two horses (go off stride) in front of him and he had to come to almost a stop and then went on to win the baby race,” Gutnick said. "That race has always been implanted in my mind. That's when I thought he had the makings of a top horse. I'm not saying a great horse, but a top horse at that point in time.
"He's just an amazing horse. He always gave a hundred percent. He had that desire to win.”
In addition to winning the Breeders Crown, Chapter Seven equaled history's fastest mile on a mile racetrack by winning the Nat Ray Invitational in 1:50.1 at the Meadowlands and also won the Titan Cup, American-National Stakes, Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational and Allerage Open Trot.
His 1:52.1 victory in the Maxie Lee, at Harrah's Philadelphia, set the stakes record and missed equaling the world record for 4-year-old trotters on a five-eighths-mile track by one-fifth of a second.
Chapter Seven's losses came in the Maple Leaf Trot at Ontario's Mohawk Racetrack, where he was defeated by three-quarters of a length by Mister Herbie in the fastest mile ever trotted in Canada (1:50.4), and in the Credit Winner at Vernon Downs, where he was edged by a head by Hot Shot Blue Chip in a time (1:51.2) that missed the track's fastest-ever trotting mile by one-fifth of a second.
For all the great moments on the racetrack, it was the quiet times with Chapter Seven that Toscano will most remember – and miss.
"I was the only person that sat behind the horse (jogging and training), except for maybe a few times when I couldn't be there for some reason,” Toscano said. "But this is a horse that for three years almost exclusively I got on the racetrack with every single day.
"The time I got to spend with him just walking around The Red Mile, or walking around Showplace (training center), where it was just me and him, was my favorite time of day with the horse. I learned his personality, and how competitive he was on the racetrack, and how much he loved his work.” (HRC)