Vlos started his racing career later than most, but he has certainly made up for lost time.
The 7-year-old is one of the leading candidates in the field for the $127,000 Presidential Final, the first major stake race of the year for older pacers, on Saturday night at Meadowlands Racetrack. Carded as race six, the Presidential is the headliner on a 13-race card that also features the $65,000 Complex and $62,600 Clyde Hirt finals. Vlos will start from post three (program No. 6) in the Presidential with Brian Sears in the sulky.
The son of Dragon Again has won 15 starts, and missed the board only once, since entering the barn of trainer Eric Mollor last June. After getting caught by a nose in the first round of the Presidential, Vlos turned the tables on Western Shore last week for a 1-1/4 length tally in 1:50.1. Unraced until his 5-year-old season, Vlos has won of 22 of 60 career races and $358,758.
“Vlos certainly started out late in life,” Mollor said. “We broke him when he was 3-1/2 years old. The owner and breeder, Michael Cavallo, had some financial issues while he was breeding his mares, so this horse was turned out in Bloomsburg, PA. He was raised by the Amish and then it took me and three other men to break him. Then, I gave him up because the owner was going bankrupt in his business.
“In the winter of his 4-year-old season, it was the second time he came back to me,” he continued. “I took him down to the Meadowlands and trained him in 2:15. He was ready to start in April. I was moving to Tioga Downs, and I couldn’t take him with me because his bills still weren’t getting paid. So, I gave him to my friend, Michael Nykun. I told him, ‘This horse is going to put you on the map, but just make sure you get paid.’ Another year went by before the owner could actually register the horse.”
Vlos finally qualified for the first time in February of his 5-year-old season and finished sixth in his racing debut on March 11, 2009. Nykun campaigned the pacer through last June before sending him to Mollor.
“Eventually, Michael couldn’t take it anymore with him,” he said. “The horse wasn’t doing well, and last June, when I got him again, I had to race him in the C class at Vernon Downs. I can’t believe I gave him up three times and got him back three times. He’d only been back with me for three weeks, there was a monsoon rain, and he was second in 1:52.1. The following week at the Meadowlands John Campbell drove him to win in 1:49.4 in a non-winners of $4,000, last five. I mean, who knew? John told me last year this horse could be anything. He was committed to Bettor Sweet for the Presidential, and he told me this horse should be staked to everything this year. Fortunately, Brian Sears is great for him.”
Vlos showcased his speed last October as he tied a track record of 1:48.2 at Pocono Downs and followed that effort with a 1:48 mile, a fifth of a second off the track record, in the $40,000 Patriot at Colonial.
“If I had borium on him to grab that track he would’ve gone in 1:47 that day [October 17, 2010 at Colonial],” Mollor said. “I had just re-shod him when I got him. I took all the aluminum off because they were killing his knees.
“He’s got his own aches and pains, and I don’t want to say he’s maturing,” he continued. “He couldn’t leave the gate at one time because he was so sore. I started with a paintbrush on his legs, but you can only go so far doing that. Joe Malone does the vet work on him, and we stay on top of his joints. He’s got a knee that we watch. I’ve only trained him three times since I got him. He loves the steady diet of the farm. When I take him down to the Meadowlands, I’m upside down trying to hold him.”
Now owned by breeder Michael Cavallo’s daughter, Nancy Spaziani, Vlos is the fourth foal out of Sweet Tender, an unraced Jaguar Spur mare.
“I’ve trained four out his dam, Sweet Tender, and they all had a bum left knee,” Mollor said. “I don’t know, maybe it’s the way the foals sit in the womb or something. She was out of a real good Tyler B mare, Be Tender. I gave Sweet Tender to Dick Farrington, who had Laag, and he said she was the best filly he ever sat behind. Unfortunately, she bowed two tendons and was bred at three. I raced her second foal, Big Duchess. She was by Laag, and she made $250,000.”
Mollor also trains Vlos’ three-quarter brother, 7-year-old Benny Dada, who just started racing at the end of last season.
“He was stuck in the Amish country until he got broke at six,” he said. “The owner really doesn’t believe in racing them young.”
Mollor, 49, is originally from Ridgewood, NJ. A fixture at the Meadowlands since 1979, he is currently stabled at Mike Matheos’ Sandy Valley Farm in White Haven, NY. Mollor got his start in the business working for Dave Fleming at Johnson Park while still in high school. He was mentored by Frank Lombardi and worked with Charlie Fitzpatrick, Lucien Fontaine and Ed Hart before striking out on his own.
“I had a horse in the mid eighties named Hap Lobell, and he was a gorilla, but Vlos is too good to be true,” he said. “He’s just got so much heart, desire and intelligence.”
Miller in the sulky Friday
Andy Miller will be the featured In The Sulky guest on Meadowlands Racetrack’s Friday pre-card broadcast.
Miller will discuss his drives for the night and Summer Camp’s six-race streak heading into the $62,600 Clyde Hirt Final on Saturday. The 42-year-old Illinois native enters the racing week just three wins shy of the 7,000-career mark. He and his wife, trainer Julie Miller, will also send out the favored entry of Dolce Ducci and Ellen’s Isle in the $58,000 Super Bowl Final Thursday night.
Fans can e-mail questions for Miller to answer on-air to firstname.lastname@example.org. The broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Paddock Level television set and also airs live on MeadowlandsRacetrack.com. (Meadowlands)