After Foiled Again became the richest pacer in North American harness racing history with his win in last weekend's Canadian Pacing Derby, trainer Ron Burke was asked if he is ever surprised by the 8-year-old horse's ability to perform at an elite level season after season.
"It's almost to the point now where we're going to be surprised when he doesn't, Burke said without hesitation about the defending Pacer of the Year. "He's a freak; there's no other way to put it.
Foiled Again added to his resume with his Canadian Pacing Derby victory, as his share of the $794,870 purse pushed his lifetime earnings to $4.35 million, eclipsing the previous record of $4.26 million established by Gallo Blue Chip upon his retirement in 2005. Gallo Blue Chip was Horse of the Year in 2000 as a 3 year old and voted the best older male pacer at age 4 in 2001.
"Growing up, Gallo Blue Chip was one of my favorite horses, said Kevin Koury, who along with his father Joe and brother Joe Jr. is part of the JJK Stables partnership that owns Foiled Again with the Burke Racing Stable, Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. "He was a special horse and to pass him is unbelievable.
Last year, Foiled Again earned a career-best $1.4 million and at the age of seven became the oldest pacer in history to have a million-dollar season. He is on the verge of topping $1 million again, having banked $933,439 this year.
Foiled Again also was the first pacer older than the age of four to receive Pacer of the Year as well as the first older pacer to get the award since Real Desire in 2002.
"He's the horse of a lifetime, Koury said. "It's special to be involved with him, and not just because he's a great horse, but because of the people involved. We're all great friends. The fact he's given us unbelievable memories just makes it all the more sweet.
Koury is credited with suggesting the current ownership group purchase Foiled Again in 2008. The horse was bred by Barbara Matthews and purchased as a yearling for $20,000 at the 2005 Standardbred Horse Sale by trainer Hermann Heitmann for owner Patrick Lacey.
He was raced lightly as a 2 year old, but had earned $101,809 lifetime by July of his 4-year-old season, when he was sold to the Burke group.
"They did an excellent job of bringing him up and racing him early in his career, Koury said about the previous connections. "Without that foundation, I don't know if he would have done all this.
Foiled Again earned a reputation as a half-mile-track specialist thanks to repeated stakes victories at Yonkers, Northfield and Harrington, but when he won the Graduate in May 2011 around the mile oval at the Meadowlands Racetrack, it pushed him to another level.
He also won the American-National Stakes and Indiana Pacing Derby on mile ovals last season in addition to finishing second in the Breeders Crown, William Haughton Memorial and Allerage Farms Pace on big tracks.
His successes have led to Foiled Again bettering his seasonal earnings in every year of racing. For his career, the son of Dragon Again-In A Safe Place has won 63 of 162 starts and finished no worse than third a total of 122 times.
"People talk about his toughness, and he is tough, but his durability and the way he comes in and out of races fresh is what impresses me, Koury said. "You can have all the talent in the world, but if you can't stay on the track what good is it? It's amazing when you talk about what he can do.
Since joining the Burke Stable, he has won 55 of 116 races and failed to earn a paycheck on only four occasions.
"I couldn't imagine one one-hundredth of what he's done, Burke said. "Every year we thought he found his level and then he would just keep going. Finally last year, his level was he's the best aged pacer there is. It's been incredible the whole way.
Foiled Again entered the Canadian Pacing Derby off fifth-place finishes in the Haughton and U.S. Pacing Championship in August and was seeking his first win since the Molson in May. He was sent off at odds of 14-1, his highest odds since going off at 19-1 in the 2010 Haughton.
With regular driver Yannick Gingras at the lines, Foiled Again was seventh as the leaders--Golden Receiver and Aracache Hanover--battled to the fastest opening half-mile in Mohawk history, :52.2. Gingras found room along the rail to advance Foiled Again's position before moving outside on the final turn and squeezing between Betterthancheddar and Bettor Sweet in deep stretch to get the win.
"I think it was probably the best drive I've ever seen, Burke said. "Nothing could have worked out any better.
"This takes over Sweet Lou winning the (2011) Breeders Crown as the most thrilling moment I've had in harness racing, just because the trip, the purse, the record--all in one.
There are still records to be broken. Three trotters have earned more than Foiled Again: Varenne ($5.63 million in U.S. dollars), Moni Maker ($5.58 million) and Jag de Bellouet ($4.97 million).
"I think $5 million is a realistic number, Burke said. "Being honest, that's a lot, but that's what we shoot for now, I guess. I would say becoming the richest Standardbred is our goal now. That's all that's left in front of him.
"We're talking numbers that are like Monopoly money at this point, he said, laughing. "We might as well make it the goal. We'll shoot for the highest and see what happens.
Given the way Foiled Again keeps going, it might be tough to bet against him. (HRC)