French trotters winning across East Coast
July 26, 2018
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When a plane full of French trotters flew across the Atlantic in early June with the destination New York, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to how these foreign horses would look, adapt and fare in their new surroundings. Early returns for the French American Trotting Club Trotteur Français horses have been extremely encouraging.
"We really didn't know what to expect going over to France to look at these trotters," said Standardbred Owners Association of New York executive director Alex Dadoyan. "I was very confident in the horsemen we were bringing with us--Ron Burke, Mike Lachance and Ray Schnittker--you had extremely talented guys with tons of experience working with some of the best trotters ever here in the U.S. and also many, many years of racing at Yonkers at all levels. But still, we didn't know if the horses in France would be fast enough, could they trot around a small track like Yonkers, would they handle the travel and the new environment?"
Those questions have been answered with a resounding yes thus far. Twenty-one of the 22 French horses have already qualified since their June 16 exit from the Ark Federal quarantine facility at JFK airport and eight different French trotters have already been victorious, five in pari-mutuel races and three more in qualifiers.
The trotters are all gearing up for the first leg of the French American Trotting Club series at Yonkers Raceway on Sunday, Aug. 5. The series will have three rounds of $35,000 legs on Sundays in August and then a $120,000 final on Sunday, Sept. 2. All races will be simulcast to France as part of the SOA of NY and Yonkers Raceway simulcasting partnership with Le Trot and PMU.
The French American Trotting Club is a program developed by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York where an American contingent traveled to France to select two dozen French trotters to bring back to the United States for their new American owners who each paid $28,000 for the purchase and shipping of their new horses. The horses were randomly assigned to their new owners to prevent anybody from having an unfair advantage in the series.
"This whole project was a huge gamble," Dadoyan said. "It was a gamble for all the willing owners to each put up $28,000 and basically get a random horse, sight unseen. It was a gamble for the SOA of NY too. Would we get enough support from the industry and when we did, would we find enough horses to bring back and make the whole series go?
"I can't say enough about all the owners that took a shot and put up their money for this project," continued Dadoyan. "It was a great showing of confidence and support for something new in the game. But equally important was the backing from SOA of NY president Joe Faraldo and the entire SOA of NY board of directors. When I first tossed the idea out to Joe about a year and a half ago his exact response was ‘are you crazy?' But we kept kicking it around, going over ways it could work and slowly but surely put all the pieces in place to bring the project to fruition."
"The selection process needed many parts," added Faraldo. "We needed knowledgeable horsemen willing to volunteer and go to France, the cooperation of Le Trot, full participation to purchase up to 24 head as equal in ability as possible, a totally transparent random draw and a lucrative series of races here at Yonkers solely for the horses purchased in the program."
Five of the French trotters are already well on their way to earning back their purchase price. Deo won at Yonkers on July 20 in 1:57.3. Bioness won at Pocono on July 23 in 1:54.3. Ubanji won at Harrah's Philadelphia on July 25 in 1:55.1. Akhenaton won at Saratoga on July 25 in 1:57.2. Alpha d'Urzy has two wins already, scoring at Saratoga and Pocono.
Deo is trained by Scott Di Domenico and owned by John McGill, Brian Carsey, Adam Friedland and Triple D Stables. Bioness is trained by Chris Oakes and owned by Northfork Racing Stable. Ubanji is trained by Ed Gannon Jr. and owned by Frank Canzone. Akhenaton is trained by Paul Kelley and owned by La Victoire Stable, Joe Sbrocco and Horseplay Racing Stable. Alpha d'Urzy is trained by Rene Allard and owned by Allard Racing, Kapildeo Singh, Earl Hill and VIP Internet Stable.
As impressive as those five pari-mutuel winners have been, perhaps the most eye-catching trotter has been in qualifiers. Ursis des Caillons won his debut in a Yonkers qualifier winning by three lengths on July 13, trotting the mile and a quarter in 2:30.4 with a :27.3 final quarter. He followed that up with a qualifier at the Meadowlands on July 21 where he was second to Hambletonian hopeful and last year's 2 year old divisional champion Fourth Dimension trotting in 1:53, beaten only three-quarters of a length. Ursis des Caillons is trained by Jennifer Bongiorno and owned by Howard Taylor and Thomas Lazzaro.
Barry Black and Very Very Fast are the two other French trotters that have been victorious in qualifiers.
To help celebrate the start of the French American Trotting Club series Sunday, Aug. 5, Yonkers Raceway will open the Empire Terrace Dining Room for a special Sunday brunch with French and American cuisine. More dining details will be released by Yonkers Raceway shortly but all French American Trotting Club participants are invited to brunch that afternoon as guests of the SOA of NY. (SOANY)