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Team Takter Engineered The Big Upset in World Trotting Derby

As the 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.


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.


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.


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, indeed.


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.


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
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