After reaching pinnacle, Matz aims for success
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Bill Matz enjoyed the highest of highs last year when Beckhams Z Tam delivered the longtime owner his first Breeders Crown trophy. As Matz awaits the pacer's return this spring, he is keeping an eye on Heavenly Sound; a 3 year old that he hopes can follow in Beckhams Z Tam's hoof prints and develop into a stakes player as the season progresses.
Beckhams Z Tam, who was winless in six races at age 2 in 2016, last year posted five early-season conditioned-level wins followed by multiple successes on the Indiana Sire Stakes circuit before upsetting Downbytheseaside in the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male pacers at his home track, Hoosier Park.
"That story turned out great," Matz said. "Those are the moments you wait your whole life for. What an experience. It was just awesome. There was electricity in the air that night. It was a great party for everybody.
"I'm not that much of a trotting guy, I've never had much luck with them in my career, so whenever we talked about what race we'd most like to win, the Hambletonian or the Breeders Crown, I always said that for me the Breeders Crown would be the thrill of a lifetime. I reached the pinnacle."
Matz hopes Beckhams Z Tam can keep him feeling like he's on top of the world. Beckhams Z Tam, owned by Matz's Z Tam Stables and trained by Jamie Macomber, will start his stakes campaign in the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers and also test himself against older horses in unrestricted stakes events.
Last year, Beckhams Z Tam won 11 of 20 races, hit the board a total of 18 times, and earned $512,545.
"It should be interesting," Matz said. "Turning (age) 3 to 4, you never know what you're going to get. You keep your fingers crossed. They say he's trained back great, that he's rock solid. We're hoping to have the luck continue straight through to the end of the year."
Heavenly Sound, owned by Matz and Cary Potkin as M & M Harness Racing, won two of 13 races last year. He started this season in conditioned-level races and finished second his first two starts, by a total of less than a length, before posting back-to-back victories.
The colt's first win was in 1:50.4, with a :26.1 final quarter-mile, at the Meadowlands. The time is tied for the season's fastest by a 3-year-old pacer. His second win was a 1:52.2 triumph in the first round of the Bobby Weiss Series for 3- and 4-year-old male pacers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Heavenly Sound returns to action Saturday in the second round of the Weiss. He will start from post five in the first of three divisions, with Tom Jackson driving for trainer Bruce Saunders. The colt is the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
"I've got to give Bruce all the credit," Matz said. "Bruce picked him out and thought we had a good one. He told us to shut him down last year and give him some time and he's come back great. He went a big mile at the Meadowlands and it looks like he's one of the top ones in the Weiss, which is always a great feeling."
Heavenly Sound is a son of 2010 Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven, who was trained by Saunders, out of Frankie's Dream, who is a full sister to stakes-winner Happy Dreamer. Heavenly Sound was purchased for $27,000 at the 2016 Standardbred Horse Sale.
The colt is eligible to a number of events including the Breeders Crown, Max C. Hempt Memorial, Cane Pace, Matron Stakes, New York Sire Stakes and Empire Breeders Classic.
"I love that he's showing some speed, especially when I know he's got a lot of races on half-mile tracks down the road," said Matz, a New Yorker who owns two dozen horses. "If you don't have speed and get away toward the back, it's game over before you even start."
Following Saturday's races, the Weiss Series for male pacers will continue with preliminary rounds April 21 and April 28. The $30,000 championship is May 5. (Ken Weingartner/USTA)