Father Patrick is no stranger to overcoming difficult starting spots, and no stranger to providing fantastic finishes.
He did both in his most recent performance, starting from post eight at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and winning the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial in a world-record 1:50.2. Post eight produces only 6.7 percent winners at Pocono Downs, the worst figure at the five-eighths-mile oval.
On Saturday night, Father Patrick will leave from post nine in the $317,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Post nine produces 8.4 percent winners at the Big M, the second-worst percentage of the 10 starting spots on the gate.
Undefeated in five races this year, and the owner of a 14-race win streak dating back to last July, Father Patrick is the 4-5 favorite on the morning line in the 12-horse field. Regular driver Yannick Gingras will be at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter, who also sends out the only other horses at less than 15-1 on the morning line: Trixton, 3-1 from the second tier's post 12, and Nuncio, 4-1 from post seven.
"It will be an interesting race,” Takter said. "They didn't draw good, but they're good horses so we'll see what happens. Patrick got the toughest [draw] with the nine and two horses trailing, but he can do anything you want; he's so handy.”
Father Patrick was last year's Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter. He has won 15 of 16 career starts and earned $1.09 million for the Father Patrick Stable ownership group.
His victories last season included the Breeders Crown, William Wellwood Memorial, and Peter Haughton Memorial, which he won by 10 lengths at the Meadowlands. He captured his Breeders Crown elimination in 1:52.1, a world-record for a 2-year-old male trotter on a five-eighths-mile track, starting from outside post nine at Pocono Downs.
This season, Father Patrick won a division of the Historic-Dickerson Cup and two divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes before sweeping his elimination and the final of the Beal.
"His win (in the Beal final) was very impressive,” Takter said. "He went in (1):50.2 and Yannick didn't even ask him at all. I was a little worried going into the race that he wasn't stretched out enough. They need that. Now he's got it. It's good to have that.
"Patrick is, to me, the perfect horse.”
Nuncio, driven by John Campbell, finished second to Father Patrick in the Beal, beaten by 2 3/4 lengths. Nuncio, who is the only horse to beat Father Patrick, has won nine of 15 career races and finished second on six occasions – with five of those runner-up efforts coming to Father Patrick.
Interestingly, Nuncio's win over Father Patrick came last July 12, exactly one year to the day as the Dancer.
"Don't count Nuncio out,” said Takter, who trains the colt for owner Stefan Melander's Stall TZ. "He's very good. John has basically nursed him, not to get him fired up, and mentally he's 10 times better than I dreamed I was going to get him. I'm sure from the seven post John is going to test him a little bit out of the gate. He's a hell of a horse. I like his chances too.”
Trixton, who will be driven by Takter, has won five of six races this year and is making his first start in a race with Father Patrick and/or Nuncio. He won the Goodtimes Stakes in a Canadian-record 1:51.3 on June 14, his most recent outing, and won the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship in 1:52.1 on May 31 at the Meadowlands.
He brings a five-race win streak to the Dancer, with none of those victories coming by fewer than 4 1/2 lengths. Trixton is a son of 2009 Horse of the Year Muscle Hill out of the mare Emilie Cas El, who was Canada's Horse of the Year in 1994. His family also includes past stars Andover Hall, Conway Hall and Angus Hall.
"Trixton, when he has his ‘A' game, we know what he can do,” said Takter, who trains the colt for Brixton Medical AB and Christina Takter.
"At this point, I'm sitting on three really, really good horses. I would be extremely disappointed if I don't end up winning the Hambletonian this year. My goal is to win the Hambletonian.” (HRC)