Peter Tritton wasn’t looking for another horse, but the trainer is happy New Zealand-bred Mossdale Conner found his way to his stable. After watching the 8-year-old gelding win Sunday’s $150,000 Ben Stafford Jr. Invitational to extend his U.S. win streak to four, Tritton said "He’s the best horse I’ve ever had."
Mossdale Conner and driver Jordan Stratton won the Stafford by two lengths over long shot Jins Shark in 1:49. Christen Me, another New Zealand-bred import, finished third followed by All Bets Off.
The Stafford was part of a stakes tripleheader at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Lady Shadow won the $150,000 Betsy Ross Mares Invitational and Crazy Wow won the Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational for older trotters.
Tritton and Harry Von Knoblauch, who owns Mossdale Conner with Ellen Kinser, have enjoyed success with New Zealand-bred horses. Just as recently as Friday their New Zealand-bred 8-year-old stallion Bit Of A Legend N won the Molson Pace in Canada. So when Tritton’s Down Under agent called him recently and implored him to buy Mossdale Conner, Tritton decided it would be best to listen.
"He told me not to miss this horse," said Tritton, an Australia native based in upstate New York. "The stars aligned and we got him."
Mossdale Conner, who won the 2015 Taylor Mile, a Group 1 event in New Zealand, started his U.S. career with three consecutive wins at Yonkers Raceway. He won his debut in 1:51.3 and his most recent at The Hilltop in 1:51.4.
In the Stafford, Mossdale Conner, the even-money favorite, battled Jins Shark for the lead in a :26.1 opening quarter-mile. After securing the top spot, Mossdale Conner and Stratton parked Somewhere In LA around the second turn and posted fractions of :54.1 and 1:21.1.
"It almost looked like I knew what I was doing," a smiling Stratton said in the winner’s circle. "The horse was going to overcome anything today. He was really good today and the front end was holding up all day. Since they resurfaced the track it’s been unbelievable. Everything worked out.
"Only time will tell (how good he might be), but right now it seems like he doesn’t know where the wire is. Every time a horse comes at him, he waits on me to call him and he wants to race them again. I think down by the wire if a horse would have headed him, he would have gone (1):48."
"He’s been racing two miles over there and I think he appreciates the shorter distance," Tritton said. "He’s the best horse I’ve ever had. I knew that a month ago. He’s got no bottom. I don’t know if it will stay that way, but right now he’s got no bottom. He’s got speed, but he’s strong. He just keeps going."
Mossdale Conner, a son of Bettor’s Delight out of the mare Mossdale Kara, has won 17 times in his career and earned a total of $478,500. His four victories in the U.S. have been worth $126,000.
The invitational was named in honor of Stafford, a popular local horseman who raced predominantly in Delaware and at Harrah’s Philadelphia. He passed away in July 2016 at the age of 45.
In the Betsy Ross, returning Dan Patch Award winner Lady Shadow raced to an early lead and never looked back. She defeated New Zealand-bred Nike Franco by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:49. Blue Moon Stride finished third.
Yannick Gingras drove Lady Shadow for trainer Ron Adams and owners David Kryway, Carl Atley, Ed Gold, and BFJ Stable. The 6-year-old mare was the even-money favorite and paid $4.00 to win.
"Right now maybe she’s a little sharper than the others are and she’s older," Gingras said. "A couple of these mares are only four so it’s tougher for them. We’ve got the age advantage and we’re definitely going to take advantage of it for a while.
"She couldn’t be any better. She’s really relaxed and sound. All systems go. If she was on her game I didn’t think they could catch her."
Lady Shadow, a daughter of Shadow Play out of the mare Lady Camella, is two-for-two this year and has won 30 of 57 career races. Her lifetime earnings are $1.71 million. (HRC)