Tight Lines ready for SOA of NY series
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When 4-year-old trotter Tight Lines steps onto the track for the Yonkers Raceway/SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series Tuesday night, he will be the favorite in his division, the first of six such $25,000 splits on the program. However, the gelded son of Yankee Glide is lucky to be stepping onto the track at all.
Tight Lines was a $45,000 yearling prospect picked out of the 2014 Harrisburg sale by trainer and co-owner Jeff Gregory. He showed immediate promise and rose to the top of Gregory’s yearling class before a freak accident sent him to the sidelines in February 2015.
"First of all, he had a couple OCDs in a hind ankle and a hock and we had to have surgery on him. Then, about halfway through the winter, he ran through a fence and he chipped his stifle and we had to have a second surgery on his stifle," Gregory explained.
The accident set Tight Lines back about two months in his training and he only raced twice as a 2-year-old. He finished seventh on debut at Pocono Downs August 15 and showed improvement as the runner up next time out at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Sept. 10.
"We only got him ready real, real late. I only raced him twice and just shut him down just to get him some experience, but he was one of my best-training yearlings," Gregory recalled.
Gregory’s patience with Tight Lines as a freshman paid off in the gelding’s 3-year-old campaign. Tight Lines broke his maiden in his sophomore debut at Pocono Downs May 1 and three starts later, finished second at odds of 43-1 in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Harrah’s Philadelphia June 2. By August, Tight Lines brought Gregory to one of harness racing’s biggest stages when he raced in a $70,000 elimination of the Hambletonian in just his twelfth career start.
"Hambletonian Day, a couple horses made breaks in front of me and tried to get off the track, but the dust was flying all over the place and he kind of got interfered with there," Gregory said. "He definitely would have made the final of the Hambo. It was very disappointing, but I really didn’t think it was his fault."
Seven weeks later, Gregory sent Tight Lines straight to the lead in the $122,500 Old Oaken Bucket Stakes on Little Brown Jug Day. He led through three-quarters, but came under pressure from Blenheim on the final turn. Into the stretch, Blenheim struck the front and raced away while Cufflink Hanover chased. Tight Lines finished third in 1:54.3 and impressed his connections.
"He raced really good on Jug Day. Cut the mile and got beat by a couple pretty good horses, but trotted in :54-and-a-piece on a half-mile track," Gregory said. "He really showed us that he’s gritty and he loves what he’s doing. He loves his job."
Tight Lines claimed his biggest career victory in his next start when he changed tactics and made up a 9 1/2-length deficit in a $43,800 division of the Keystone Classic and The Meadows October 3. He enjoyed a second-over trip behind Cufflink Hanover that day and trotted to a lifetime mark of 1:54.1.
Tight Lines scratched sick from his next two races, forcing an early end to a campaign that earned him $108,306 in 15 races. Gregory hopes this will prove to be a blessing in disguise as Tight Lines sets his sights on the Yonkers Raceway/SOA of NY Bonus Series for horses who had not won six races or $100,000 through Feb. 1, 2017.
"He spiked a temperature the day of the race twice in a row right at the end of the year, so we just shut him down, gave him a break," he said. "By doing that, he stayed eligible for this SOA series because he only had five pari-mutuel wins. Maybe it’s going to work out for him if he can do a little good in this thing."
The time off suited Tight Lines well. He matured during his break from training and came back stronger than ever.
"He’s never been a real heavy horse, but over the winter when he was turned out, he really filled out," Gregory explained. "He’s a little bit stronger this year, so I’m thinking that will help him as a 4-year-old for sure."
Tight Lines prepared for the series opener win a start in a $27,000 overnight at Yonkers March 19. Gregory hoped to race the gelding from off the pace in his first start of the season, but when the toteboard showed Tight Lines was an odds-on favorite, his plans changed.
"I was hoping to give him a trip and just race him on the tail end of it," he explained. "I wasn’t going to take him back when he was getting bet that short, so I left the gate with him. It just so happens I landed on the front end, but I just felt like I had to be a little more aggressive than I planned on to give everybody a fair shot."
Tight Lines proved versatile as he wired the field, winning by a measured three-quarters of-a-length in 1:57.0. That effort solidified his position as the 9/5 morning line favorite in his division of the Bonus Series Tuesday night.
"I’m sure he’s going to make a good account for himself. He never disappoints us, so I’m expecting good things from him."
First post time at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. Click here to view entries for Tuesday’s card.--By Brandon Valvo/SOA New York