Poillucci looks to double pleasure with pacing mares
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Richard Poillucci is looking forward to watching his New Zealand-bred standout Shartin return to action this season and the 6-year-old Dan Patch Award-winning mare has a new stablemate that Poillucci hopes can keep her company on the stakes trail.
Shartin hit the racetrack for the first time this year on Wednesday (Feb. 13) at Dover Downs, winning a qualifier in 1:56 as she prepares to defend her title in the upcoming Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway. Expected to join Shartin in the series is New Zealand-bred Bettor Joy, who was purchased in December from the Down Under stable of Cran Dalgety and is owned by Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King.
Bettor Joy, who is a daughter of Bettor’s Delight out of Joyfulbelle, won 10 of 28 races and $215,454 prior to coming to North America. Because of the difference in breeding seasons, Bettor Joy, who was born in October 2014, is considered a 5-year-old in North America as opposed to a 4-year-old in New Zealand.
Shartin, also owned by Poillucci and Looney-King, and Bettor Joy could provide their owners and trainer Jim King Jr. a strong one-two punch in the pacing mare division.
“That’s what we hope for, but you never know,” Poillucci said. “Bettor Joy is a real good mare. She is just getting started. She raced once at Dover and came up sick on us and finished fourth. We’ll probably race her again next week. We’re looking for big things from her.”
Of course, Poillucci also is looking for big things from Shartin. Last year, she became the first pacing mare to earn $1 million in a season, finishing with $1.05 million thanks to 19 wins in 24 races. Her victories included the Breeders Crown, Roses Are Red, Lady Liberty, Blue Chip Matchmaker Series championship, TVG Series Mare championship, Artiscape, Betsy Ross Invitational, Chip Noble Memorial, and Allerage Farms Mare Pace.
In December, she was named the sport’s best older female pacer of 2018 and joined Hall of Famer Cardigan Bay as a “Down Under” import to receive a Dan Patch Award. Cardigan Bay, also from New Zealand, was a two-time honoree (1965 and 1968).
Shartin’s connections will accept her Dan Patch Award at the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando on Feb. 24. The mare remains a top contender for Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year, which both will be announced at the banquet.
“It was amazing, absolutely amazing,” Poillucci said about Shartin’s season. “Looking back at what she did, it’s surreal trying to take it all in. You know how many people start out in January with horses and to end up the year with a mare that could stay as good as she stayed all year long is mindboggling. She’s just a very special mare. If all goes well, I can’t see why she can’t come back this year and be a top contender again. There is no reason.”
Shartin can be a tricky horse to drive, so Poillucci gives credit to Tim Tetrick for playing an integral part in the mare’s success. Tetrick has been Shartin’s only driver in North America.
“Jim King does a tremendous job as a trainer, but the key is Tim Tetrick,” Poillucci said. “Timmy took the time to understand her and learned how to drive her. When she goes to the gate, he really has to work with her. She’s aggressive. She’s not a mean horse by any means, but when you put her behind the gate she just wants to roll. She just wants to go. Those few bobbles she made last year, those were her trying to outpace herself.”
The 2018 season was Shartin’s first in North America. Poillucci hopes the mare can build upon last year’s performances now that she has become more mature and acclimated to racing here.
“I’m not saying that is going to happen, but that’s what you would think,” Poillucci said. “We’re definitely in the hunt for a good year. I think it can happen. They said she was absolutely just running over horses (in her qualifier). That’s a good sign. She doesn’t like time off. She wants to race, that’s her thing.
“I know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (to have a horse like her). They don’t come along very often like this. I may have a couple of very good ones behind her and I’m hoping for good things, but to say they can do what she does, that’s a tough act to follow. It’s very rare to find a mare that can do what she does.” (Ken Weingartner/USTA)