$5 million pacer aims to win tonight’s Battle of Lake Erie
The sport’s richest pacer added to him impressive resume by eclipsing the $5 million mark in earnings.
Foiled Again, the 9-year-old Standardbred gelding, increased his bulging bankroll with a win in the $500,000 Ben Franklin Free-For-All final at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes Barre, Pa. The son of Dragon Again was bred by Aiken resident Barbara Matthews.
The durable campaigner returns tonight in the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield’s Park in Northfield, Ohio, a race Foiled Again has won on two previous occasions.
However, it was Foiled Again’s win on June 29 that added to his legendary status. The gelding is trained by Ron Burke and is owned by the horseman’s racing stable, Weaver Bruscemi, and JJK Stable, and was driven to victory by Yannick Gingras as Foiled Again increased his lifetime earnings to a staggering $5,174,540. And in winning the Ben Franklin final, Foiled Again scored his 70th lifetime victory. It’s his durability, tenacity, heart and determination that are his most enduring qualitites, said Matthews.
“I think what’s most impressive is that he’s been able to stay sound in a sport where they’re usually blown out by ages 3 or 4,” said Matthews. “He’s just gone on to grow up to be a big, strong and competitive horse.”
Foiled Again was lightly raced as a 2 and 3-year-old, and performed admirably as a 4-year-old, catching the eye of Burke, who thought the son of Dragon Again would make a good $100,000 claimer, with the intention of racing him at the Meadowlands, said Matthews.
“Once he raced him a few times, he realized he had something a bit better,” said Matthews.
The decision to breed Foiled Again’s dam, Again in a Safe Place, a daughter of the 1992 Harness Horse of the Year Artsplace, to Dragon Again, was based largely on what the commercial market was dictating. There were also certain attributes that Dragon Again possessed that suggested he would be a good cross with the mare.
“He was one of the new stallions, and when you’re breeding them to sell at the sale, they’re looking for the crop of the new kid on the block,” said Matthews. “Dragon Again was built so much different from the mare conformation wise. I thought he would do a lot to help. She was very tall and gangly, not very good gaited, and he was pretty slick gaited.”
Again In A Safe Place probably could have performed at a higher level, but her breathing was compromised, and even with two corrective throat surgeries, she still had air passageway issues, said Matthews.
“She was probably a lot faster than anyone gave her credit for,” said Matthews. “She just couldn’t get any air.”
Matthews couldn’t have asked for a more memorable year in 2004 as not only she did breed Foiled Again, but the horseman who competitively shows Saddlebreds, enjoyed success with another breed and discipline.
“It just worked out to be one of the best things I did (breeding Foiled Again), with the exception of one of his little playmates when they were weanlings. I bred a Morgan mare to a Morgan stallion. He was in Pennsylvania too. His name was Floored, and I named him after a horse of Anthony Abbatiello’s. He’s gone on to be a 5-time world champion, and won the Grand National in Oklahoma. There must have been something in the water that year.”
However, Matthews wasn’t alone in encouraging Foiled Again in his quest to eclipse the $5 million mark in earnings during the Ben Franklin finals.
“They (the crowd) were screaming Foiled,” said Matthews, who was in attendance. “It’s wonderful. You have to stop and think about what he’s made out of, and that he can still perform at that level.”
Foiled Again has demonstrated an ability to handle any type of racing surface, whether it be a fast or an off track. It rained the evening of the Ben Franklin final.
“No matter what the track conditions are he’s just ready to go to the gate,” said Matthews. “He may not have a great night every night, but he always tries.”
The Pennsylvania-bred gelding beat an impressive field that included Pet Rock and Razzle Dazzle in the Ben Franklin Free-For-All. Foiled Again’s finish in the final was definitely one for the ages, turning in an incredible performance in defeating younger rivals, winning by a nose over Pet Rock in the slop.
“It was a hold your breath moment,” said Matthews, “But, it did look like from where we were standing that he did nail it. He got to the wire, but he didn’t win by a lot. That’s where he needed to be a little bit bigger or have a longer neck. You could see he wasn’t giving up because every now and then he would flip an ear. Not to take anything away from Pet Rock because he flew from way back to get up at the finish.”
The previous week, Foiled Again set a world record for older pacing geldings on a 5/8-mile track for 1-mile in covering the distance in 1:48, winning the Ben Franklin elimination, his 180th lifetime start.
“He is so tough,” said Matthews.