When owner Bob Key was informed that Sarcastic Man drew post 8 for Saturday's $115,370 Dexter Cup for 3-year-old trotters at Freehold Raceway, a starting spot from which horses have won just 3.4 percent of 378 races at the half-mile oval, his reaction was as expected. "That's what you can call bad luck,” Key said, laughing.
Yet Key can look back through his own history in racing to find a reason for hope. In 1993, Key's American Winner started the Dexter Cup from post 8 at Freehold and pulled out a neck win over Armbro Lexicon at odds of 51-1. American Winner went on to capture the Hambletonian less than three months later.
American Winner was driven by Ron Pierce. Sarcastic Man, who last weekend won the Dexter Cup elimination, will have Pierce in the sulky on Saturday.
"Let's see if we can repeat it,” Key said. "I like the way Ron is driving this horse, but he's going to have a tough time from (post eight). He's going to have to be Superman to win from there.
"I just want to see him get a chance,” he added. "I don't mind being first-over and coming in last.”
Sarcastic Man, trained by Gail Wrubel, was bred by Key. The colt is a son of stallion Tom Ridge out of Key's mare Sass Away K. He has won three of 12 races this year and $46,926. He won the Dexter elim, from post seven, by 1-1/4 lengths over King City in 1:59.2.
The Dexter Cup is the first major stakes test on the road to August's $1.2 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands. If Sarcastic Man competes in the Hambletonian, he would be something of an oddity because of the number of starts he has made already. Last year, no horse entered the Hambletonian with more than 11 starts during his 3-year-old season; winner Royalty For Life entered with five.
"Everyone now wants to point to the big race, but my attitude is that if a horse is ready, race him,” Key said. "You never know what is going to happen (in the future).”
Sarcastic Man is not Key's only Hambletonian hopeful. Key likes Skates N Plates, who last year won a division of the Simpson Stakes and finished second to Nuncio in the Matron Stakes, as well as Mister B's Way, who was unraced last year because of a fracture but qualified in 1:55.3 on April 15 at Spring Garden Ranch.
Mister B's Way is a full brother to Key's female trotting star Win Missy B and half-brother to millionaire Winning Mister.
"It would be unusual for a horse that never raced at (age) 2 to have a chance in the Hambo, but with his breeding I think we have a shot at it,” Key said.
As for now, though, Key is focused on Sarcastic Man. "I think we could have some fun with him this year,” Key said. "He's a nice colt; I like him. It's going to be an interesting year.”
Following is the field in post order for the Dexter Cup, with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Sumatra, Brian Sears, Tom Fanning; 2. Derby, Jordan Stratton, Ray Schnittker; 3. Donato's Wish, Ray Schnittker, Ray Schnittker; 4. King City, George Brennan, Jonas Czernyson; 5. Sheer Action, Jeff Gregory, Ray Schnittker; 6. Dave Briggs, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter; 7. Consumer Rate, Daniel Dube, Rob Harmon; 8. Sarcastic Man, Ron Pierce, Gail Wrubel.--By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications