Bandolito might not be the biggest of horses, but Daryl Bier expects him to stand tall when he takes on some of the best older pacers in the world in Saturday night’s $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
The 4-year-old sensation, who owns the fastest mile of any pacer so far this season, faces eight rivals in the third edition of the Van Rose Memorial. Bandolito’s foes include 2013 Van Rose winner Golden Receiver, who has earned $2.13 million during his career, as well as Sweet Lou, Dynamic Youth, and Warrawee Needy.
Unraced at age 2, Bandolito has won 13 of 17 career races and $241,315.Last year, he captured the $250,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes championship, but it was earlier this month that he really turned heads thanks to a 1:48 win at Dover Downs. His time equaled the fastest mile ever by a horse of any age at five-eighths-mile Dover Downs and is the fastest mile of this year.
He followed that victory with a 1:48.2 triumph on April 10 at Dover Downs in which he covered the final half-mile in :52.1, with a :25.4 last quarter. On Saturday at Pocono Downs, he raced first over to win the preferred handicap by a neck over Dynamic Youth in 1:50.2.
"I think he will be better than he was last week,” said Bier, who trains and drives Bandolito. "He was coming off a 16-day layoff and I thought he might be a little short. I was thrilled with his race. I think the field last week was a step up from what he had been facing. I expect him to race very well (in the Van Rose).”
Bier, who won the inaugural Van Rose in 2012 with Special T Rocks in a world-record-equaling performance, owns Bandolito with his brother Tommy and Charles Dombeck. Tommy Bier was listed as the sole owner when the horse was purchased privately from breeder/trainer Warren Harp last May after the colt won a qualifier in 1:56 at Spring Garden Ranch.
With Daryl Bier handling the training and most of the driving, Bandolito won nine of 11 races last season. He was given time off following his Kentucky Sire Stakes victory in September and returned to action in December, but Bier thought the horse was not himself in three starts that culminated with a third-place finish in an open for 5-year-olds and younger on Jan. 9 at Dover Downs.
Bier discovered Bandolito was suffering from a foot abscess, which kept the horse out of action until late March.
"He’s been awesome since he came back,” Bier said. "I’ve never had a horse like him. He can go a quarter in 26 (seconds) and still have another gear. He’s got gears I’ve never seen.”
Bandolito is a son of the stallion Ponder out of the mare Sody’s Home Brew. Bier has been impressed particularly with two Ponder offspring – millionaires Bolt The Duer and Thinking Out Loud – which contributed to his interest in Bandolito.
"I really like Ponder; I bought (Bandolito) because he was a Ponder,” Bier said. "He was kind of small, but I really like when a horse doesn’t race at (age) 2. I think they make better racehorses; I think there’s a lot more left in there.”
Bandolito will start the Van Rose from post six in a race that should offer no shortage of speed, or talent. Warrawee Needy won in 1:46.4 last year, which equaled the fastest race mile in harness racing history. Golden Receiver, Sweet Lou, Dynamic Youth, and Dovuto Hanover all are open stakes winners.
"Everything is going to be a test,” Bier said. "These are the best horses in the world. But I don’t think we’re in a bad spot. I’m excited about it. I’m thrilled with him, no matter what. I just hope I can get a clear shot. I don’t know how fast he can go.”
The field in post order for the Van Rose Memorial with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Golden Receiver, George Napolitano Jr., Mark Harder; 2. Dancin Yankee, Ron Pierce, Josh Green; 3. Dovuto Hanover, Ron Pierce, Darran Cassar; 4. Dynamic Youth, Andrew McCarthy, Carl Cito Jr.; 5. Abelard Hanover, Jonathan Roberts, Donald Billings; 6. Bandolito, Daryl Bier, Daryl Bier; 7. Emeritus Maximus, Ron Pierce, Tom Cancelliere; 8. Sweet Lou, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 9. Warrawee Needy, Mark MacDonald, Mark Ford.--By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications