Haughton starter named for “Real Cool” Sam McKee
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When owner Jules Siegel gets ready to watch his horses race at The Meadowlands, he often can be found pacing the track’s apron, isolated from friends and fans, walking off his nerves. One day as Siegel went through this routine, a man approached him and asked what he was doing.
“I said I’m pacing, hoping that the horse is going to win today,” Siegel recalled. “He stayed with me and every time after that, if I had a horse racing and he saw me down on the apron pacing, he came down and gave me some confidence.”
The man was Sam McKee, the beloved Meadowlands announcer, broadcaster and Communicators Hall of Fame member, who passed away in 2017. That same year, Siegel’s world-record-setting mare Cooler Schooner gave birth to a trotting colt by Muscle Hill. Siegel thought highly of the horse and decided to name him in honor of McKee.
Real Cool Sam.
“I really appreciated what Sam did,” said Siegel, the owner of Fashion Farms. “I realize he did things for a lot of people, but to me it was a very personal thing. I know other people have done the same thing (naming horses in McKee’s honor) but for me it was something special.”
Siegel could remember his horses losing only once when McKee kept him company. Real Cool Sam is keeping the winning ways going. The trotter, trained by Jim Campbell, is 4-for-4 heading into Saturday’s $324,550 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old colts and geldings at the Meadowlands.
Real Cool Sam won his Haughton elimination last week in 1:54.1, the fastest time of the season for a freshman male trotter. He starts Saturday from post four with David Miller in the sulky and is the 2-1 morning line favorite.
“Obviously, he’s off to a real good start,” Campbell said. “He’s got a lot of talent. He’s very versatile, he can race any way you want him to race. So far, he’s been a true professional and hasn’t done anything wrong. Pretty much right from the word go, he showed he was very athletic, very light on his feet.”
Synergy, trained by Per Engblom, is the 5-2 second choice in the Haughton. He has won both his starts this season, including a 1:54.4 score in his Haughton elimination. Stay Close, trained by Joe Holloway, is 5-1 after finishing second to Synergy a week ago.
Real Cool Sam has won his four starts by a total of nearly 14 lengths. His start from post four in the Haughton final will be his first from a post inside of six.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him, and more,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be a tough race when you put those good colts all in together. I’m not a forecaster. We just take one race at a time with him.”
Siegel, who was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2018, will have ample reason to stroll the apron at The Meadowlands on Saturday. In addition to Real Cool Sam in the Haughton, he will send Cantab Fashion to the Hambletonian, Millies Possesion (also undefeated, with eight wins) to the Hambletonian Oaks, and Crystal Fashion to the John Cashman Memorial.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Siegel said. (Ken Weingartner/USTA)