As trainer Linda Toscano gets her horses ready for the final full weekend of stakes action this season, she also is getting ready to see the final chapter written in what has been a career year.
Toscano trains three horses in the sport's Top 10 poll: No. 1-ranked Chapter Seven, who saw his career come to an end with a win in last weekend's American-National Stakes for older trotters at Balmoral Park; No. 4 Market Share, who won the American-National for 3-year-old male trotters and is getting ready for Friday's Galt Stakes at Maywood Park; and No. 10 Heston Blue Chip, who will be in action in Sunday's Progress Pace at Dover Downs. She also sends stakes-winner Bettor's Edge to the Progress Pace.
Her stable has posted a career-best $6.38 million in purses this year, good for fourth place among all trainers in North America, despite Toscano making her fewest starts (429) since 2006. Her previous high for purses was $3.71 million, set last season.
"It's really just been an incredible year,” Toscano said. "I only hope to do half as much as we've done this year in the future.”
Market Share has earned $1.94 million this year and is on the verge of becoming only the fourth trotter in history to enjoy a $2-million season. The others to reach that level were Muscle Hill ($2.45 million in 2009), Donato Hanover ($2.33 million, 2007) and Deweycheatumnhowe ($2.21 million, 2008).
For the year, Market Share has won nine of 19 starts and finished worse than third only twice. His victories include the $1.5 million Hambletonian, the $1.03 million Canadian Trotting Classic and $350,000 Zweig Memorial. He was second in the Colonial and third in the Breeders Crown and Yonkers Trot. He is owned by Richard Gutnick, TLP Stable and William Augustine. He will return to the races next season as a 4 year old.
Market Share will face seven rivals in the Galt, starting from post five with regular driver Tim Tetrick in the sulky.
"He's going to race one more time,” Toscano said. "He was so good in the American-National and came out of it good, so we thought we'd give him one more shot. (Reaching $2 million) was the incentive, so we'll see. There haven't been a whole lot of horses to do that in one season, so that was definitely the incentive.”
Heston Blue Chip has won three consecutive races, including the $555,000 Breeders Crown and last weekend's Progress Pace preview in 1:49.3 at Dover. Overall this year, he has 12 victories in 15 starts and $799,316 in purses for owner Ken Jacobs. Heston Blue Chip is the 2-5 morning line favorite in the Progress Pace at Dover Downs, where he will start from post five in a field of seven. Tetrick also will handle the driving duties with Heston Blue Chip.
Bettor's Edge has won six of 22 races this year and earned $534,036 for breeders/owners Brittany Farms and Val D'Or Farms. He won the $250,000 Monument Circle on Nov. 3 at Indiana Downs following a third-place finish in the Breeders Crown. He also was third in the Little Brown Jug, Cane Pace and Tattersalls Pace. He will start from post two in the Progress Pace, with David Miller at the lines. He is 10-1 on the morning line after finishing fifth in the Progress Pace preview.
Both Heston Blue Chip and Bettor's Edge will return to race again in 2013.
"Heston was incredibly good last week,” Toscano said. "Bettor's Edge raced from the back and he was the victim of that last half (mile) so he couldn't make up any ground. But he's got a good post this week. He's a bit of an overachiever right now and I hope he races up to his game.”
Chapter Seven finished his career with 20 wins in 28 starts and $1.95 million in purses. This year, he won eight of 10 races, finished second in his two defeats, and banked $1.02 million. His victories included the Breeders Crown, Nat Ray Invitational (in a world-record-equaling 1:50.1 mile), the Titan Cup, Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational, American-National and Allerage Farms Open Trot. In winning the Breeders Crown, Chapter Seven joined Pine Chip, Mack Lobell and Sugarcane Hanover as the only trotters to win trophies at ages 3 and 4.
Toscano, who became the first female trainer to win the Hambletonian, could also become the first female trainer to earn the Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
"It's an incredible honor just to be considered, but I really care more about the horses than I do about the accolades,” Toscano said. "We try to do the right things and we just hope that the right things happen. It just happened to be one of those years where the stars aligned and everything fell into place.” (HRC)