Trainer John McDermott has his fingers crossed that Hurrikane Kingcole is well on the recovery trail from recent health issues heading into the eliminations for the $600,000 Meadowlands Pace.
The Cam's Card Shark colt drew post eight (program number seven) in the first of two $50,000 eliminations on Saturday's 13-race program at the Meadowlands Racetrack, carded as races five and six. The top five finishers from each split advance to the final on July 14, and elimination winners pick their post positions.
Hurrikane Kingcole was a $10,000 yearling at the Harrisburg Sale, and has now banked $322,157 for Jeffrey Kuhen of Yardley, Pa.; John Levy Racing Stable of Hamilton, Ont.; Klee Cohen Brewer and Gordon of East Rockaway, N.Y.; and Hurrikane Racing of Lyndhurst, N.J.
George Brennan will be in the sulky behind Hurrikane Kingcole for the first time.
Following a break and a ninth-place finish in his North America elimination, Hurrikane Kingcole rebounded to win an elimination for the Max C. Hempt Memorial in a world record of 1:48.1 on June 28 at Pocono Downs.
"His world record in the $300,000 Hempt elimination was some redemption,” noted McDermott. "I had told Tim Tetrick I only trained him once since bringing him back from Canada, and I wondered if he'd be tight enough. When I got back to the winner's circle I jokingly asked Tim if I needed to train him more, and he told me I think he's tight enough!”
As the heavy favorite in the $300,000 final on June 30, Hurrikane Kingcole got parked through a torrid pace and finished sixth. It was discovered after the race the colt was under the weather.
"He came out of the Hempt on Saturday and scoped four-out-of-ten sick,” McDermott continued. "He went on antibiotics on Sunday, and that's the first time this year he has had to do that. On Monday morning he was quite drained, and it was the first time I've seen him dull in his life. I was really quite concerned, but he's definitely made a turn for the better. Tuesday was a better day. He was starting to come back around. I'm hoping he can improve each day, and I'm just glad the (Pace) final is not this week.
"He had never been sick in his life and was so good the week before,” McDermott said. "I scoped him twice during the week. I saw a little trace out of his nose one day after he jogged. I blew him out last Thursday before the (Hempt final) and he was clean. You roll the dice in how he actually catches something, but stress has a lot to do with it. Running back and forth to Canada (for the North America Cup in June), it's very easy for a horse to get stressed. It also doesn't help going from 70-degree days to 100-degree days.”
McDermott is cautiously optimistic Hurrikane Kingcole can bounce back in time.
"I don't think he'll be 100 percent on Saturday,” noted McDermott. "One of this week's goals is to get him in the big dance. I'm not going to tell George (driver George Brennan) what to do, yet it would be nice to kick home with one of his :25 and change final quarters, and pass some horses. He could win it, but only if everything falls together for him.
McDermott is confident Hurrikane Kingcole has the talent to be a top colt, and only needs a fair chance to prove it.
"I keep telling everybody his story has to have a happy ending. It seems we're having some regular bumps in the road. People have been saying he's all speed and can't race from off the pace. Plus, he hasn't won for big money yet, but I feel he will eventually will.
"It would be awesome if he were to win the Pace. The Meadowlands is where he grew up. He lived there everyday of his life before they closed the backstretch. We've got a nice group of horses for the Pace this time, and I'm just hoping to be dancing with a fair shot.” (Meadowlands)