The $257,700 U.S. Pacing Championship will provide the stage for nine of the finest in the aged pacing division to do battle on Hambletonian Day Saturday at the Meadowlands. A testament to the quality of the group is the fact that the combined career earnings of these nine pacers is in excess of $20 million.
Among the chief contenders in Saturday's race is Captaintreacherous who dominated his division and was subsequently named "Pacer of the Year” as a freshman and sophomore, a distinction he shares with only the immortal Niatross. Faced this season at age four with graduation into the open ranks to battle the best of the older set was expected to be a daunting task and the competition has been fierce.
Captaintreacherous was born to be a star with the pedigree and presence to demand $250,000 at the 2011 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. He came from the greatly anticipated first crop of champion racehorse Somebeachsomewhere and boasts a very accomplished maternal line. White Birch Farm bred and raised the colt and when Myron Bell and Tony Alagna saw him during their annual farm canvass they agreed he was priority one.
The winning bid was made by Bell on behalf of a partnership that included George Segal's Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and Myron and Stephanie Bell's Riverview Farm. White Birch proprietor Michael Parisi was offered a stake and remained a partner on the horse as well. They would choose the nom de course Captaintreacherous Racing for this endeavor.
Bell has been the racing manager for Brittany Farms for more than 30 years. Throughout their relationship many of the sport's stars both on the track and in the breeding shed have campaigned under the Brittany banner.
Over the past decade, Bell has managed a number of partnerships that include several high-profile Standardbred owners and breeders with remarkable results. Captaintreacherous represents the culmination of a lifetime spent breeding, buying and racing the best.
"My groups, such as Captaintreacherous Racing, are looking for that top horse that we can race successfully at the highest level and then hopefully have a future in the breeding shed. I could not do any of this without their confidence and support,” said Bell. "We bought just one colt from Somebeachsomewhere's first crop and our aim was to buy the best one.
"Captaintreacherous was the number one colt from that crop, in our opinion. He showed beautifully and offered the best pedigree that I'd seen for years. He had all of the attributes that we seek; conformation, attitude, ability…and he had no weaknesses.”
Things began well for Captaintreacherous. He seared through his 2-year-old campaign with Tim Tetrick joining the team as his regular driver, listing the Wilson and Metro among eight wins in 10 starts for over $900,000 and his first "Pacer of the Year” title.
Brought back at three with great expectations, "The Captain” exceeded even those lofty ambitions and ran the table with the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and Breeders Crown among his thirteen triumphs and $2 million in seasonal earnings.
Along the way Captaintreacherous captured the hearts of racing fans with his grit and determination, often appearing on the brink of defeat only to battle back and get to the wire first. His talent and will; coupled with his breeding and imposing presence, drew the attention of several suitors for his services as a stallion. Ultimately it would be industry leader Hanover Shoe Farms whose participation in a syndication agreement led to a decision to stand Captaintreacherous at their Pennsylvania nursery when he goes to stud in 2015.
"It is absolutely imperative that you have a strong syndicate when the horse goes to stud,” Bell opined. "You need breeders with the right mares to want the horse to succeed and support him with those mares. If they are shareholders they are enhancing their own interests as well as that of the horse. After the first two seasons in the shed, when a new star retires to stud, if you don't have that support, interest wanes and you have a few down years even if the horse hits.
"We sold a few shares of the horse to serious breeders after his freshman season to establish value. There was understandably great interest in 'Captain' last year and by Lexington we had a few serious offers to stand him. Hanover bought a significant interest in him and they have the type of mares we seek to give him a chance to be his best. We will syndicate him further at the end of this racing season and he will go to stud at Hanover.”
For his career, Captaintreacherous has won 22 of 31 starts and over $3.1 million, averaging a remarkable $100,000 per start. He won the Meadowlands Maturity his first race this season, but is winless in his last four starts. In Saturday's Pacing Championship as "The Captain” looks to move forward off a wicked tune-up in last week's prep, he finds himself starting from post eight, just outside Sweet Lou who has won seven straight and been the star of this division thus far in 2014.
"We had no illusions that he was going to go through this season against these types of horses without getting beat. I think he has raced well in each of his starts this year and was fantastic last week, pacing his last half in :52 flat. Sweet Lou has been very good, but I don't fear him. My feeling is that 'Captain' is improving in each race and will continue to improve. He needs to get lucky at the draw and you always need racing luck, that's a given.
"Tony Alagna and Tim Tetrick have done a marvelous job racing Captaintreacherous. To campaign a horse at that level over three seasons, keep him fit, healthy and sound is a testament to Tony and his crew. Tim handles the pressure that comes with the job beautifully and deserves tremendous credit for his body of work driving 'Captain.” It truly "takes a village” to campaign a horse like this and I really feel that we have yet to see his best.
"One of the most gratifying elements of this ride has been the response to Captaintreacherous by the harness community and particularly the racing fans," Bell said in closing. "He has given the ownership group many thrills and the enthusiasm shown by his fans is right at the top of that list." (by Nick Salvi for Meadowlands)