Owner Frank Bellino believes Pet Rock is fast enough to do what has never been done before. Whether he is lucky enough will be determined Sunday.
Pet Rock will try to become the first harness racing horse in history to establish world records on three different sized tracks in as many starts when he faces nine rivals in the $175,000 Allerage Farms Open Pace at Lexington's Red Mile on Sunday.
In his most recent start on Sept. 19, Pet Rock won the Winbak Pace in 1:48.1 at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio. The time was the fastest ever on a half-mile track, shaving four-fifths of a second off the previous record. In his prior start on Sept. 7, he won the Jim Ewart Memorial Invitational in 1:47.2 at Scioto Downs. The time was the fastest ever on a five-eighths-mile oval, breaking the record by two-fifths of a second.
Now Pet Rock takes aim at 1:46.4, which is the time of the fastest race in history on a mile track. That mark is shared by Holborn Hanover, Somebeachsomewhere and Warrawee Needy. The time for the fastest mile ever, 1:46.1, was established by Cambest in a time trial in 1993.
Trained by Virgil Morgan Jr. and driven by David Miller, the 4-year-old Pet Rock will start Sunday's Allerage from post six.
"I don't think there is any question he can do it, Bellino said. "It's just a matter of whether everything falls into place. The most important thing is to race well, but I hope we can do something special this weekend.
The trotter Mack Lobell, who was Horse of the Year in 1987 and 1988, is the only horse to hold the records for the fastest miles on all three sized tracks simultaneously. Another trotter, CR Kay Suzie, set world records for her division (2-year-old filly) on all three sized tracks in a span of four races in 1994.
Pet Rock, though, will try for the unprecedented. He has won four of 13 races this year, finished in the money a total of eight times, and earned $644,070. He won the $471,800 William R. Haughton Memorial in a lifetime-best 1:47 on July 13 at the Meadowlands.
"It seems as the year goes on he's getting better and better, Bellino said. "It's a tribute to Virgil and the way he trains. He's been racing unbelievable. What he did at Scioto was eye-opening and what he did at Delaware I never thought I'd be alive to see that kind of time on a half-mile track.
Pet Rock, who received a bye into the Allerage final, will face a tough field Sunday. A Rocknroll Dance, who won the Allerage elimination in 1:48.4, will start from post three with regular driver Tim Tetrick at the lines for trainer Jim Mulinix. A Rocknroll Dance finished second to Pet Rock in both his world-record performances.
Bolt The Duer, who previously shared the record for pacing on five-eighths and half-mile tracks, starts from post one with Mark MacDonald driving for trainer Pete Foley. The remainder of the field is Sweet Lou, Up The Credit, Golden Receiver, Our Lucky Chip, Escape The News, Clear Vision and Aracache Hanover.
Bellino owned 2010 Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven, but he is enjoying the ride with Pet Rock even more.
"It was more nerve-wracking with Rock N Roll Heaven, Bellino said. "That was the first time we ever went through anything like that and everything was magnified. This is a lot easier. I'm really enjoying this one.
Morgan, who has won more races 5,019 than any trainer in history, guided Mister Big to honors as the sport's best older male pacer in 2007 and 2008. He wanted to bring Pet Rock along slowly this year as he transitioned to facing older rivals, in the process bypassing the lucrative Levy Memorial Pacing Series during the spring at Bellino's home track of Yonkers Raceway.
"I was taken aback at first because he's so good on a half-mile track, Bellino said. "But Virgil was right. That's why you listen to the people that do it. He knows better and his plan has come together.
Bellino said it was unlikely that Pet Rock will continue racing next year.
"Virgil is a big believer in keeping them racing, but even he said how much more can this horse do? Bellino said. "How much faster can he go?
Sunday might provide the answer. (HRC)