Team Takter Engineered The Big Upset in World Trotting Derby
field paraded to the post for last Saturday’s first heat of the World Trotting
Derby, I was struck by what a good-looking group of colts were competing in this
19th version of the Du Quoin classic. Particularly noticeable was the eventual
winner, Enjoy Lavec, the Pine Chip colt who later in the day stunned us with his
memorable victory over the previously invincible, Self Possessed.
I am big believer that most trotters mature at different rates. That is, they
come to their speed and ability at varying rates of development. Throughout the
years, I have seen any number of colts, and even fillies for that matter, that
may have been no match for the division leader early in the season, but somehow
find a way to close the gap as the season wears on. I believe this is the
situation with Enjoy Lavec this year.
AT TWO, ENJOY LAVEC HAD SOME SOUNDNESS PROBLEMS
Jimmy Takter has done a wonderful job with Enjoy Lavec. When he won the Peter
Haughton at two, Enjoy Lavec was an impressive winner, despite the fact that he
was not very sound. Takter did a marvelous job in coaxing his pupil to the wire
that night at the Meadowlands, easing past Wired Pine in the late going, and
holding off the late challenge of Starchip Entrprise. Takter, widely regarded as
one of the brightest young trainers of trotting in the world, did a good job
spotting his charge the rest of his two-year-old season, racing him carefully.
Enjoy Lavec wound up the season with only eight starts, but earned $313,458.
This year, Takter was careful again, and in truth, Enjoy Lavec again had
soundness problems as this season began.
Takter, however, exercised great patience with this colt, and did not try to
force him into racing at a time when he was not adequately prepared. Instead, he
sent him to Kentucky for what he knew would be an easy race in a Kentucky Sire
Stake at The Red Mile this spring. After that race, the colt missed another
three weeks before he reappeared in a Meadowlands overnight. Driven that night
by John Campbell, Enjoy Lavec raced well, but was third.
What is now happening is that Enjoy Lavec’s physical ability and his strength
may finally be coming together. I was struck by how much more mature and
physical Enjoy Lavec looked Saturday, as opposed to how he appeared just a month
ago at Hambletonian time. Enjoy Lavec has put on weight, and grown tremendously
since his two-year-old form, and even his early season appearances this year.
Takter should be congratulated on his patience with Enjoy Lavec. This is a
training masterpiece, and Takter can add yet another wonderful training chapter
to what is already a very successful career.
TAKTER MUST NOW BE CONSIDERED ONE OF OUR BEST
Jimmy Takter has had great success in the past few seasons, with a variety of
different horses. Although he did not originally develop Moni Maker, his
handling of the champion mare through the past three seasons has been masterful.
Great horses often overcome whatever happens to them, and there are those, of
course, that say that Takter took a “made horse” and just improved on her a
little. I do not subscribe to that theory. Takter’s considerable talents have
not been wasted on Moni Maker. Anyone who has watched his dedicated handling of
Moni Maker, and her careful preparation for all her engagements, must
acknowledge that Takter has done a masterful job.
Moni Maker, of course, followed quickly on the heels of Takter’s handling of
Horse of the Year, Malabar Man. Takter was the trainer of the professional
Supergill colt, who was raced by his owner-breeder, Malvern Burroughs. But it
was Takter who supervised the horse’s training and development, and it was
Takter who provided wise counsel to Burroughs as they prepared the colt for his
story book season in 1997.
In the same year that Takter trained Malabar Man, he also handled Take
Chances for Brittany Farms, and directed that colt’s career to a second-place
finish in the Hambletonian, and a later win in the Kentucky Futurity. Takter
also trained Kramer Boy to a successful campaign before shipping him to Europe,
and developed and raced the $1.9 million winner, Mr. Lavec to an unprecedented
American-European campaign. Takter has also had other champions, such as
two-year-old star, Armbro Prowess, and three-year-old star, Gleam, again with
Mal Burroughs. This splendid record has come in just the past few years, and
Takter has to be acknowledged as one of our most accomplished trainers.
Takter also employed the driving services of his brother, Johnny Takter, and
what a pleasure it was to see the two celebrate this momentous victory over Self
Possessed. Together with breeder-owner Johan Dieden, there was much to celebrate
in Du Quoin's Victory Lane, and Enjoy Lavec is a worthy champion.
ENJOY LAVEC’S DEVELOPMENT IS TYPICAL OF WHAT HAPPENS IN MOST YEARS
For as long as I can remember, there is almost always a trotting colt or
filly who improves tremendously throughout the season to challenge, and even
defeat, the early season division leader. As far back as 1972, I remember
watching Songcan develop as the season progressed to the point where he could
challenge Super Bowl for the 1972 Kentucky Futurity title. In 1978, I watched as
Doublemint closed the gap between himself and division leader Speedy Somolli to
the point where Doublemint was the better horse by the time of the Kentucky
Futurity. In the 1980’s, I saw the same phenomenon repeated. In 1982, Speed Bowl
won the Hambletonian, but then had to surrender to Jazz Cosmos in the Kentucky
Futurity. In 1983, Power Seat came from nowhere to win the World Trotting Derby
and the Kentucky Futurity. In 1987, Napoletano was no match for Mack Lobell at
Hambletonian time, but improved dramatically in the six to eight weeks that
followed, to the point where Napoletano defeated Mack Lobell in both the World
Trotting Derby and the Kentucky Futurity.
In 1993, Pine Chip was no match for American Winner in the Hambletonian and
Zweig Memorial, yet by the time of the Kentucky Futurity, Pine Chip was clearly
the better horse, with impressive victories in the Transylvania and Kentucky
Futurity at Lexington, and a Breeders Crown win that fall at Pompano. In 1994,
Victory Dream was the best in the early season and up through the Hambletonian,
but was second best to Bullville Victory in the World Trotting Derby and
Kentucky Futurity. In addition, just last season, Muscles Yankee’s invincibility
was tested successfully by Trade Balance in the Kentucky Futurity.
For as long as I can remember, there have always been colts and fillies whose
natural progression through the season has been nothing short of phenomenal.
There is no one who watched the Hambletonian just a month ago that would have
given Enjoy Lavec much of a chance of beating Self Possessed at Du Quoin.
However, he did it, and in rather impressive fashion. Self Possessed went three
splendid heats, and appeared the same magnificent trotter that had captured our
focus at the Hambletonian. In the first heat of the Trotting Derby, Self
Possessed was four wide for much of the first turn, but drew off late to win by
nearly three lengths over Angus Hall, in a virtual repeat of the Hambletonian
and American-National. Nevertheless, by the end of the day, he was the second
Hambletonian winner in three years to be defeated at Du Quoin. Last year’s
Hambletonian winner, Muscles Yankee, did not race in the World Trotting Derby.
In the second heat, though, driver Mike Lachance was not very aggressive with
Self Possessed. He sat third early, but did not make his customary quarter or
three-eighths move to take command. There are those that questioned that
strategy, but the front-running CR Commando probably would have exacted a toll
from any contender at that point. Lachance elected to stay in, with Enjoy Lavec
stalking the pace on the outside for Johnny Takter just back of Self Possessed’s
position. In the final turn, Lachance remained along the fence as Angus Hall was
flushed from the pocket to undertake the assault on CR Commando. Angus Hall
slipped past CR Commando easily, but Self Possessed was right on his back.
However, Enjoy Lavec also followed Self Possessed’s cover, as Johnny Takter’s
waiting game strategy was about to pay big dividends. In the stretch, Self
Possessed put away Angus Hall, but here came Enjoy Lavec thundering down the
middle of the track.
Watching these events unfold, I had to recall all the times I have seen this
happen throughout the years. Self Possessed is clearly the division leader,
despite his loss at Du Quoin. Enjoy Lavec has closed the gap on his adversary,
and the future meetings of these two superstars should be very interesting,
ENJOY LAVEC HAS A MOUTH-WATERING PEDIGREE
I believe that is not a stretch to say that Enjoy Lavec has one of the best
pedigrees that any trotter could possibly have at birth. His sire, Pine Chip,
was an impeccably gaited, athletic horse who had pacing horse speed. Enjoy
Lavec’s dam, Margit Lobell, is a Speedy Crown half-sister to world champion,
Mack Lobell, and also a three-quarter sister to the dam of the three, marvelous,
Super Bowl colts, American Winner, Super Pleasure and BJ’s Mac. All these
superstar trotters are descended from trotting’s biggest and most successful
family, the Brenda Hanover branch of the Miss Bertha Dillon maternal family.
Enjoy Lavec not only has a splendid maternal pedigree, but his pedigree, like
that of his adversary, Self Possessed, is full of the blood of Speedster. Pine
Chip is a direct descendant of the Speedster line through Speedster’s son,
Speedy Scot, then to Arnie Almahurst and finally to Arndon, Pine Chip’s sire. In
addition, Pine Chip’s dam is the Speedy Somolli mare, Pine Speed. Speedy Somolli
is descended from this same male line with Speedy Scot being the common siring
denominator. Speedy Crown is the sire of Speedy Somolli, and is a son of Speedy
Scot, like Arnie Almahurst. Since Enjoy Lavec’s dam is by Speedy Crown, we have
a situation where a stallion with a double dose of Speedster blood was mated
with a mare that also has a double dose of Speedster.
Pine Chip is linebred to Speedster 5 x 6. Enjoy Lavec’s dam, Margit Lobell is
also linebred to Speedster 4 x 4. This produces in Enjoy Lavec a double linebred
dose of Speedster blood. This relationship is expressed as 5x6x5x5 to Speedster.
He is also 4x5x3 to Speedy Scot, and has the now, very common and very
productive 4 x 2 to Speedy Crown.
THIS IS NOT THE ONLY EXAMPLE OF THIS PRODUCTIVE CROSS FOR PINE CHIP
One of Pine Chip’s top two-year-olds at this point is the Peter Haughton
winner, Smok’N Lantern. That masculine colt is from a Dream of Glory mare, with
a second dam by Speedy Crown. This is virtually the same pedigree as Enjoy
Lavec, in that both Dream Of Glory and Speedy Crown are Speedster line sires.
Dream Of Glory is by Speedy Count, a son of Speedster. Another of Pine Chip’s
promising two-year-olds is the undefeated Nunsuchthing, who also has a Speedy
Crown dam. The emerging three-year-old filly star, Bit O Candy, is by Pine Chip
from a Valley Victory mare. Valley Victory is also a direct descendant of the
Speedster male line.
It is very unusual to see this kind of linebreeding, at least in this
quantity, in the modern trotter. It has been the norm for the past few years to
see a simple 4 x 2 to Speedy Crown. However, to see that both Self Possessed and
Enjoy Lavec are double-linebred to different branches of the Speedster family
should provide ample evidence of the efficacy of this kind of breeding. These
are the two fastest three-year-old trotting colts in history, and their
pedigrees are remarkably similar. Their next meeting will no doubt come in the
historic Kentucky Futurity at Lexington the first week of October. Can Self
Possessed regain his divisional crown? Will Enjoy Lavec continue to improve?
These are the questions that will keep the pundits busy in the next month until
the horses themselves decide who will stand in the winner’s enclosure at
Lexington the evening of October 8.
- Curt Greene