EL Titan is heading to Lexington for Friday's International Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters and trainer Riina Rekila has high hopes for the lightly-raced son of Muscle Hill. Bred and owned by Erkki Laakkonen, the colt has won once in three starts and earned $27,414.
He won his first start in 1:58 on Aug. 22 at Mohawk Racetrack and finished second to Father Patrick, who is the No. 4-ranked horse in harness racing's Top 10 poll, in a division of the Champlain Stakes a week later. He enters the International Stallion off a troubled-trip third in a conditioned race on Sept. 16 at Mohawk.
"We started a little later with him, which was the plan,” said Rekila, who also drives EL Titan. "We wanted to save him a bit. He was a little sick in the spring, but that didn't really change anything for us. His first stakes wasn't until the Champlain, so we took our time. He felt so good sitting behind him that I didn't want to ruin him.
"I have never pushed him. Everything he is doing, he is doing on his own and doing very easy. I don't usually train too fast. The main thing is to build a nice 3 year old.”
EL Titan is out of the mare Courtney Hall, a stakes-winning full sister to millionaire Cameron Hall. EL Titan is Courtney Hall's fourth foal and the previous three–EL Rock, Appomattox and EL Rocket – each earned at least $200,000. Appomattox, who leads the trio with $368,518, is racing in Sunday's Allerage Open Trot and EL Rocket is eligible to the Kentucky Futurity on the same day.
Rekila trained EL Rocket before the 3-year-old colt was sold to Ron Burke in June. EL Rocket, who made only two starts as a 2 year old, has won five of 16 races this year and finished second in a division of the Simcoe Stakes. He also raced in the Hambletonian, finishing fourth in his elimination and failing to advance to the final.
"They have some things that are similar, but I think (EL Titan) is a much better horse,” Rekila said. "EL Rocket was one of the fastest horses I've ever sat behind, but he was so big gaited that it was difficult for him to keep it together.
"It seems like (Courtney Hall's foals) get better as they get older. That's why we're looking ahead for Titan.”
EL Titan is eligible to the Breeders Crown, but Rekila was undecided whether she would send the colt. The Breeders Crown eliminations for 2-year-old male trotters are Oct. 11 and the final is Oct. 19.
"We'll see how he does here and make a decision,” Rekila said. "We were going to race last week (in the Bluegrass Stakes) but his white count was high so we skipped that. We'll go by how the horse feels.
"If he races like he did in the Champlain, I think he is very competitive,” she added. "He is very strong when you sit behind him and he has speed. I don't think he is mature yet; I think he is just doing it because he is talented.”
EL Titan races in the third of three International Stallion Stakes divisions. Bluegrass Stakes division winners Odds On Amethyst and Outburst also are among the 2-year-old male trotters racing Friday. Outburst, who won in a world-record 1:53.1 last week, is in the second International Stallion Stakes split; Odds On Amethyst is in the first. (HRC)