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Napoleon carries breeder\'s legacy with him in Hambo

July 25, 2008
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It will be a bittersweet moment for Sid Korn when Napoleon lines up behind the starting gate in the eliminations for the $1.5 million Hambletonian on Saturday night at the Meadowlands. That\'s because the colt represents a lifetime of racing hopes and dreams for Korn, ones he had hoped to share with his longtime partner, Alvin Jacobson.
 
It was Jacobson who had insisted they breed Napoleon’s mother to Credit Winner four years ago. But Jacobson passed away May 8, 2007, just two months before Napoleon made his racing debut.
 
“Alvin bred a lot of horses, and with this one he brought me along kicking and screaming,” Korn said. “Unfortunately, he passed away last May and never got to see the fruit of his labor, so to speak. This horse is absolutely his legacy.”

Napoleon enters the Hambletonian elims with an impressive record of nine wins and two seconds in 14 career starts. He will start from post two in the eighth race, the last of the three $70,000 elims on the card. The top three in each elim, plus the richest fourth-place finisher overall, advance to the $1.5 million final August 2 at the Meadowlands. The July 26 card also features the elims for the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks for fillies and a quartet of $250,000 Classic Series Finals for older horses. Post time is 7 p.m.

Korn and Jacobson purchased Napoleon’s dam, Growth Spurt, for $22,000 as a yearling. Though she looked promising training down as a 2-year-old for Bernard Grignola, she was plagued by soreness and a tendon injury. The two owners were conflicted about her future.

“Alvin decided he wanted to breed her and I definitely didn’t,” Korn said. “I wanted to bring her back to the races. Fortunately, he won that argument and he bred her to Credit Winner.”
 
Korn and Jacobson co-owned 30 horses together, including two-time Breeders Crown winner Mystical Sunshine.
 
“Alvin missed out on Mystical Sunshine’s dream season [in 2007] and this, so it hurts a little bit,” he said.
 
Jacobson’s family decided to dissolve their racing interests after his death, so Korn brought in partners Kenneth Tucci, Larry Thomases and John Guarniere, who purchased Jacobsen’s share of Napoleon and two other horses.
 
“We’ve all been in the business for a long time,” Korn said. “For all of us, this is a dream come true. None of us has been in the Hambletonian, and hopefully we can make it.”

New York-based trainer Syl King Jr. developed Napoleon at two and guided him through his first few starts; Noel Daley took over the training duties after the Meadowlands meet ended last August.

“The first race [Daley] had the horse was the New York Sires Stakes at Monticello [on Aug. 28, 2007],” Korn recalled. “He went off as the favorite and broke stride in the first turn. He fell back to last and then dragged Stephane Bouchard to the top. Coming to the half we figured, maybe he’ll hold on for a piece after that exertion. Then, he was challenged and just pulled away in the stretch. That’s when we knew we had something special. He’s got a lot of heart.”

That Monticello race also cemented a partnership with driver Stephane Bouchard.
 
“We reached out to Stephane Bouchard because we thought he was the best driver in New York and the horse was going to be at Yonkers for at least three starts,” Korn noted. “After he drove the horse at Monticello, he fell in love with him. We liked the way he didn’t panic when the horse made a break that day. I told him right after the race that we’re going to the Hambletonian with this horse. He also came up with some ideas. He suggested bridle changes and using toe weights. He’s been a total gentleman, a joy to deal with and loyal to us.”

Napoleon went on to win the $150,000 New York Sires Stakes [NYSS] Championship on Sept. 15, 2007, at Yonkers, closing out his freshman season with five wins and two seconds in eight starts. Unfortunately, that momentum slipped away as the colt began his sophomore campaign. He broke stride in two pre-season qualifiers and his 2008 debut, the eliminations for the Dexter Cup on May 3 at Freehold.

“He trained down in Florida over the winter and he came back suddenly not liking dirt kicked in his face,” Korn said. “It got progressively worse and he started making breaks. Noel Daley fooled around with a lot of different masks and training techniques. He has the problem under control now. He wears a mask and we call him the Masked Marvel.”

With that problem behind him, Napoleon won a Currier and Ives division at the Meadows and set a 1:57.1 Monticello track record in a NYSS leg on June 11. He scored his biggest win to date in the $605,854 Yonkers Trot on June 27. The leader, Holiday Credit, appeared to be on his way to victory in the stretch, but a late miscue allowed Napoleon to swoop in for a nose victory over Make It Happen.

“We felt the Yonkers Trot was his best shot at a big money race and we knew he was handy on a half-mile track,” Korn said. “We drew terribly in the elimination [post eight], but then we got the two-hole in the final.”
 
Napoleon tuned up for the Hambletonian eliminations in a NYSS leg at Vernon Downs. He brushed to the lead at the half and romped away to a16-length win in 1:55.2.
 
“He could have gone a lot quicker and we wanted to get a solid race into him,” Korn said. “We also wanted him to sit in, but the pace was too slow and he had no choice. He did it mostly on his own and we think there’s a lot left in the tank. Whether he can beat these other horses on a mile track, we’ll find out. He won a qualifier at the Meadowlands. He’s got a lot of gameness to him. He seems to have that winning attitude. Stephane thinks he’ll be even better coming off cover.

“I think Clerk Magistrate is a serious horse,” Korn said of his colt’s Hambletonian competition. “Crazed hasn’t beaten anybody yet and I’m a big believer in class. In general, the New York bunch is strong. Ace High Hall has had some bad post position luck. Big Apple Deli and Make It Happen are also very nice horses. I haven’t seen any weakness in Deweycheatumnhowe yet, but I didn’t see any in Somebeachsomewhere and look what happened.”

ROAD TO THE HAMBLETONIAN – JULY 25, 2008

Each week, Meadowlands analyst and track announcer Ken Warkentin ranks the contenders for harness racing’s greatest prize, the $1.5 million Hambletonian on Aug. 2.

Rank, Horse, Driver, Trainer, Owner, and Ken Warkentin\'s Comments:
 
1. DEWEYCHEATUMNHOWE, Ray Schnittker, Gewertz,
Iannazzo, Baldassare Deweycheatumnhowe Stable, His win in the Stanley Dancer Memorial might have been his easiest ever. He goes into the eliminations unbeaten in 13 starts and awaits his first serious challenge.

2. CLERK MAGISTRATE , Trevor Ritchie, Per Henriksen, Asa Farm, Acclimated and tightened with a game first over trip finishing third in the Dancer from post eight. It’s been 22 years (1986) since Per Henriksen won with Nuclear Kosmos.
3. CELEBRITY SECRET, Tim Tetrick, Staffan Lind, Celebrity Farms, Celebrity Secret Stable , The Dancer runner-up with a perfect two-hole trip after winning four in a row. Could give Tim Tetrick and Staffan Lind their first Hambletonian starter.
4. MUSCLE MASS, Brian Sears, Erv Miller, Perretti Racing, Plum Creek Farms, Had no chance trying to close off a slow :57 half over a deep track in the Dancer. Simply can’t discount this world champion and his connections. Drew post eight in a contentious elimination.
5. CRAZED, Tim Tetrick, Frank Antonacci, Lindy Racing St., Hoffman, Rudolph, Made it two in a row at the Big M with an eye-catching :27.1 sprint and a 1:52.4 mile on July 17. The Antonacci family has been a part of six Hambletonian champions.
6. NAPOLEON, Stephane Bouchard, Noel Daley, Tucci, Korn, Thomases, Guarniere, The Yonkers Trot winner and track record setter at Monticello goes into the eliminations fresh off a NYSS win on July 15 in 1:55.2 at Vernon Downs.
7. MAKE IT HAPPEN, Ray Schnittker, Eat My Dust St., Daisy Acres, Taylor, Adkins, Yonkers Trot runner-up and stablemate to “Dewey” easily won a NYSS division in 1:56.3 on July 15 at Vernon Downs. The bigger the track the better for him.
8. BIG APPLE DELI, John Campbell, John Simpson, Jr., Lon Frocione , Romped in his division of NYSS in 1:55.2 on July 15 at Vernon Downs. John Simpson, Jr. won with his first drive in the Hambletonian with Timothy T in 1970.
9. DENNIS, Cat Manzi, Roland Mallar, Slowey, Minute, Osterholt, Lindy Lane gelding is five for nine this year despite chasing Pennsylvania standout Lear Jetta. All the way in a career best of 1:53.4 in his Big M debut and drew the rail against “Dewey”.
10. ACE HIGH HALL, Daniel Dube, Mark Ford, Martin Scharf, Yonkers Trot elimination winner didn’t get involved in the Dancer Final. This big colt prefers the mile rack and is still progressing. (Meadowlands)
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