Like many of us this winter, the pacer Shaws Creek Buff is just looking to shake off some lingering sickness so he can put forth a top effort at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
His prospects look good as the 4-year-old son of Mach Three comes off a nose loss to Exit 16W Series standout Holdingallthecards in the first leg last Saturday in a 1:52.4 mile.
Once again, Dave Miller will drive Shaws Creek Buff for trainer Nik Drennan from post four (head number five) in the second of two $18,000 divisions on Saturday, carded as races two and 11 on a 13-race program. First-race post time is 7:15 p.m.
Shaws Creek Buff sports six wins, four seconds, three thirds and $85,930 in 25 career starts for Lockewood Stables and Frank Brundle of Orangeville, Ont.
Drennan, 30, from Burlington, Ont., is managing the horse's New Jersey stint through a family connection.
"The guy who trains him in Canada, Brian Lee, knows my father and brother, they paid him into these winter series and sent him down to me to race him,” he explained.
Although Shaws Creek Buff has had his moments in New Jersey, health issues have kept him from performing his best.
"The horse has had a lot of problems staying healthy down here, and if he ever did he'd be so much better,” said Drennan. "He actually hasn't raced one start here when he's been one hundred percent. It's been an ongoing battle with viruses. Then, he started bleeding, so we added Lasix last week. He was a good second closing from a tough spot, but we're still working on him.”
Shaws Creek Buff is a homebred for owners Jeff Bryan and Frank Brundle, and it's been a thrill for these partners to race one under the Big M spotlight.
"The people who own him don't have many horses, and I believe they go back to the days when Orangeville Raceway was there,” noted Drennan. "Mr. Brundle was pretty excited the night this horse won here (in 1:54 on Jan. 11). The guy raced at some of the smaller tracks in Ontario, so it was a big deal for him to win a race at the Meadowlands.”
Drennan's career highlights came winning the 2011 Presidential and William Haughton Memorial with Alexie Mattosie, and he is currently stabled at White Birch Farm in Englishtown, N.J. He started with his father, John Drennan, right out of high school, then went to work for Tony Montini and handled his string in New Jersey. They won the 2008 Nat Ray with Misterizi in a world record of 1:51, and also enjoyed success in the claiming ranks.
"I have 18 horses, including four 2 year olds and four 3 year olds coming back,” said Drennan. "I have a 2-year-old Western Ideal filly, who is a full sister to Authorize, and she looks good, and a couple of Andover Hall freshman colts that look alright. It's still early. I've also got a promising 3-year-old trotting colt, Winemaster Hanover, who's staked to everything except the Hambletonian. My good trotter Take My Picture (1:53.3, $660,716) went back to Canada and won at Flamboro Downs the other day.”
With the uncertainty in Ontario racing, Drennan shares the frustration of his Canadian colleagues.
"My brother works in the race office at Woodbine and fortunately he kept his job through the recent layoffs. When I came here about seven years ago I didn't really see it coming. I just needed a change at the time. When I was running Tony Montini's stable here we would always go home after the Meadowlands meet. It's always been in the back of my mind to go back home because right now the money is still good up there. I race at Yonkers but I'm not a big fan of a half-mile track. Hopefully, within the next five years or so things will settle down.” (Meadowlands)