Matz has two "Z Tam" horses in Crown
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When the Breeders Crown kicks off Friday night, Oct. 27, at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, Indiana's breeding program will be represented by 10 entries in the 12 championship races. Two of those Indiana-sired starters hail from a partnership that was formed just last winter when trainer Jamie Macomber was connected with Z Tam Stables through Hoosier horseman Wilbur Eash. Now, the connections of sophomore pacers Beckham Z Tam and Carol's Z Tam are hoping dreams can come true this weekend.
"It's an honor. You dream your whole life," said Bill Matz, the man behind the New York-based Z Tam Stables LLC. "I won the Canadian Pacing Derby in 2004 and my partner and I always talked about, if there was any race you wanted to win, what would it be? And it was a Breeders Crown race. That was always our dream."
Previously, Matz had one shot at the Breeders Crown, finishing third with Forensic Z Tam in the 2007 final for sophomore pacing colts. He was ecstatic to hit the board at The Meadowlands, but 10 years later he is just as excited to have two entrants in the 34th edition of the Breeders Crown. Eash had managed many of his Indiana-based horses, but with the veteran training looking to slow down, he recommended entrusting the stable to Macomber.
"I've been with Wilbur probably 15 years now," Matz explained. "He called me and asked if I would mind if we shift the stable over to Jamie. She had been working for the Burke Stable, and if she was going out on her own, I wanted to be a part of that."
The partnership paid dividends two weeks ago during Indiana Sires Stakes Super Finals at Hoosier Park. Carol's Z Tam, driven by Macomber's husband, Ricky, captured the $220,000 final for three-year-old filly pacers, stopping the clock in 1:52 after starting from the nine hole. Beckhams Z Tam would come up just short in the $220,000 final for sophomore pacing colts, finishing second. Those performances launched both horses into the Breeders Crown, and last weekend they both turned in surprising performances, each in their own unique way.
Friday night Carol's Z Tam punched her ticket to the $500,000 final by way of a fourth place performance. While she didn't reach the winner's circle, the Always A Virgin-Electric Sparkle filly drew attention with a lightning-fast last quarter, blazing home in 26 seconds flat. The performance came after she started from the nine hole, the fifth straight week she had lined up in one of the two outside posts.
"How many times do you see anybody go a :26 flat last quarter, no less a three year old filly? I was impressed," Matz said. "Carol's been a big surprise. I always knew she was a nice filly, but a couple of those miles, when she went in 51 and a piece, it shocked the hell out of me. I never expected her to be this good."
With seven wins in 21 seasonal starts, a mark of 1:51.3 and $224,592 in earnings, it was hard not to give Carol's Z Tam a chance to compete against the best. To reach the final, all the filly had to do was finish ahead of one horse in the elimination. Macomber believed in her filly, but she was apprehensive beforehand.
"Realistically, she only had to beat one horse. Out of the nine hole, that was our only goal, to beat one horse and get into the final and then hopefully draw better for the final," Macomber said of her charge. "It's her home track and her last quarter is always her best quarter. With that said, her race was the most nervous I have ever been for a race in my life."
Carol's Z Tam has drawn post six in the final, slated as Race 9 Friday evening. Competing on her home track, the filly is 15-1 on the morning line.
While the filly dazzled with her strong kick to the wire, Beckhams Z Tam impressed last Saturday night, October 21, with the way he handled road trouble on the way to racing third in his Breeders Crown elimination. The son of Always A Virgin-Sara's Lucky Charm and Ricky Macomber managed to avoid the breaking Art Scene in the last turn before unleashing his own :26 final panel to secure his place in the final.
"The worst thing that could have happened to him was that horse breaking in front of him. Beckham doesn't handle anything very well that happens in front of him. I may have slammed my phone down in front of me and just thought the worst was coming," admitted the trainer. "When he recovered and just paced his heart out in the stretch I almost cried. It proved to me that he's matured a lot and it gives me a lot to look forward to with this colt."
Beckhams Z Tam has been one of the top pacing colts in Indiana all summer, evidenced by his 10 wins in 18 starts and $236,545 in seasonal earnings. With Fear The Dragon and Filibuster Hanover failing to advance out of the elimination and into Saturday's $527,500 final, it could be the perfect opportunity for the colt to shine. He has drawn post five and is 12-1 in the morning line.
"Now, to me, it's kind of an open race. These others have been pacing (1):48 all year in tough races and shipping all around. We've been at Hoosier Park all year," Matz offered. "We just have to go 100 yards to get to the racetrack; these guys have traveled 600 miles and have been beat up all year. I'm hoping that will be a big advantage."
Regardless of the outcome this weekend, the partnership is off to a magical start. Macomber's stable is atop the Hoosier Park standings, and she hopes for a good showing this weekend in the harness racing's crowning weekend.
"I just cannot thank Wilbur and Bill enough for having this much faith in me to give me such quality horses when the Breeders Crown was in our back yard," she said. "I can't express to them my appreciation for them, and it's been an unbelievable season working with them and these horses."
The Breeders Crown, harness racing's annual series of 12 championship events with purses valued at $6 million, is returning to the Midwest for the first time in more than three decades and for the very first time on Indiana soil at Hoosier Park. The 2017 Breeders Crown events at Hoosier Park will be raced over two nights on Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28. First post for both nights will be 6:00 p.m. EDT. All Breeders Crown updates can be found at http://www.hoosierpark.com/2017breederscrown .(Hoosier Park)