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Morgan trainee aims for 10th straight in American National

October 31, 2008

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Mister Big brings a nine-race winning streak into Saturday’s $200,000 American National at Balmoral Park, and trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. has told harnessracing.com that the 5-year-old pacer will then wrap up his season Nov. 15 in the Gold Cup Invitational at Woodbine. Mister Big’s current 2008 earnings of $1,528,932 are the most ever amassed by an older horse, surpassing the $1,494,972 earned by the mare trotter Moni Maker in 1999.

Overall, the Joe Muscara-owned Mister Big brings a resume of 11 wins and two seconds in 13 starts this year to Chicago, with his victories including the $600,000 William Haughton Memorial, the $332,000 U.S. Pacing Championship, the $317,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial, the $157,000 Allerage Farms, and the $500,000 Breeders Crown.
“I couldn’t really be happier with his year,” said Morgan. “Last year he had to overcome a lot with bad posts but this year he drew OK so that was nice. He had some rough trips and was a little first-over more than I would have liked, but that’s how the racing worked out.”
Morgan said Mister Big will return to the races in 2009 and he plans on following the same schedule as 2008, including having several qualifiers before embarking on the stakes trail. This year, Morgan qualified Mister Big five times from early April through mid May before the son of Grinfromeartoear made his pari-mutuel debut May 25 at Harrah’s Chester.
“We’ll probably go that route again, as opposed to racing him in overnights against horses that were seasoned a little bit and horses that have been racing and have an edge on him. I think that’s the way to manage and it worked out,” Morgan said of his spring qualifying strategy with Mister Big. “In my mind I knew I didn’t want to race him against a lot of aged horses right off the bat that had 10 or 15 starts under their belt. He really didn’t have anything to prove in that manner, so we knew the stakes schedule and what we were prepping him for. I know it’s hard for an owner to see a horse qualify that much because they could be racing for money but as a trainer I think it paid off in the long run.”
Mister Big is currently fifth on pacing’s all-time earnings list, and a victory in the American National will vault him past Nihilator and Boulder Creek into third. Sitting second on the list is Eternal Camnation ($3,748,574) with the leader being Gallo Blue Chip with $4,260,959 in earnings.
“As of now, Mr. Muscara wants to race him more year, and, knock on wood, he’s sound and we’re quitting with him hopefully on a good note. Spot him (next year) for the same major races,” said Morgan.
“I can’t wrapped up in (breaking Gallo’s earnings record) too much, if it happens it happens,” he added. “It would be a great accomplishment but we’ll just take it one race at a time.”
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