Pilgrims Taj now in Smedshammer's barn
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Trainer Trond Smedshammer told harnessracing.com Wednesday morning that upon the request of the ownership group of the 3-year-old colt trotter Pilgrims Taj, he is now training last year’s Breeders Crown champion.
Although Pilgrims Taj is Hambletonian eligible, Smedshammer said as of Wednesday his only guaranteed entry to the trotting classic elims on July 31 at the Meadowlands is Break The Bank K. He said he will make a decision on Pilgrims Taj over the next few days (the entry box closes at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 27).
“He’s in my barn, but the Hambletonian is coming up awfully quick,” said Smedshammer. “Obviously, the horse has the potential to go in the Hambo, but he hasn’t been Hambletonian caliber his last two starts. So we’ll see what happens.”
A seven-time winner last year, including the Crown and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes (PASS) championship, Pilgrims Taj also finished second in the Peter Haughton Memorial final behind Holiday Road. The colt earned $737,484 for owners V D’Or Farms, Bix DeMeo, Robert Bongiorno and R. Peter Heffering, who is now a third of the Pilgrims Taj Stable with William Kent and Carol Beneke.
The change in barns from Monte Gelrod to Smedshammer comes after the son of Broadway Hall finished sixth in a Stanley Dancer Memorial division July 17 at the Meadowlands. In his first three starts of the year he sandwiched a third-place finish in a PASS event between a pair of PASS victories, but the colt then made a break while on the lead in a 3-year-old Open at the Meadowlands on July 9 and finished ninth. That was followed up by his first-over, sixth-place finish behind Holiday Road in the Dancer.
“It’s better to have two lottery tickets, than one,” Smedshammer added. “We’re hoping we can get him ready for the Hambletonian, but we don’t have much time to work with. If we can straighten him out, then he’ll go in. If we don’t, then he’s not going in.”