Lord Of Winterfell sets sail for double-gaited glory
January 28, 2021
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Lord Of Winterfell is now eight with more than $241,000 in his bank account and a mark of 1:51.2. You might figure that this accomplished pacer would relish retirement and a respected spot as elder statesman in the Norm Parker stable.
Not this guy. In fact, he’s begun 2021 with a new vocation. He’s a trotter now, and he’ll make his second start on his new gait Friday at The Meadows. The Western Ideal-Caila Fra gelding leaves from post 6, Race 2, with Jim Pantaleano driving.
Dual-gaited performers are rare in harness racing. Indeed, Parker, who trains Lord Of Winterfell for Jeff Weaver’s Jacobs Creek Racing, had no intention of starting him on the trot until the horse told him that’s what he wanted.
“He trots all the time while jogging, but a lot of horses do that, so you don’t think much about it,” Parker said. “Then one day he wouldn’t turn on the pace without hopples, so I trained him on the trot.”
Parker was amazed and impressed when Lord Of Winterfell lowered his time in his morning works on the trot from 2:27 to 2:03, back half in a minute. That’s when the idea to campaign him on the trot took hold.
“As a pacer, at this point in his career, it would be tough for him to make the same kind of money he did a few years ago,” Parker said. “I thought, if he can rise through the ranks and trot in 1:55, he has a chance to make a lot more money than if he paces in 1:52 or 1:53.
“It’s something different. Jeff is excited about it. Most people I talk to are excited about it. He trots happily, and he still wants to beat horses.”
Lord Of Winterfell’s brief career on the trot has had mixed results so far. He won his lone qualifier handily in 1:59.1, but in his Jan. 9 pari-mutuel debut at MGM Northfield Park, he caught what Parker calls a soft spot on the track and broke stride, finishing ninth. Northfield’s players, who sent him off at 1-9 for that race, learned the hard way the reason we toss out all a horse’s records when he switches gaits: success on one gait doesn’t guarantee it on the other.
It certainly did for the Argentine-bred Chucaro Ahijuna who, according to USTA, is the fastest dual-gaited Standardbred ever. He paced in 1:51.4 and wrapped up his title in 2005 with a 1:53.3 win on the trot. That gave him a combined mark of 3:45.2. To reach that, Lord Of Winterfell would have to trot in 1:54.
At this point, though, Parker is reluctant to talk of world records.
“I hope this is a nice, easy race for him and he shows some ability. Let’s just say the experiment continues.” (MSOA)