After watching Bee A Magician put together an 18-race win streak that began at age 2 and covered her entire 3-year-old season, harness racing fans wanted to know what was wrong with the 2013 Horse of the Year as she went winless in her first four starts this season.
Not much, says trainer Nifty Norman, other than the fact that winning is difficult.
“Lots of people have said to me that she’s been no good, but only once really,” Norman said. “Her first start was a great run, [second in 1:51.3] right off the bat and she had trot finishing. We kind of raced her easy in her second start and she was second; she was a little bit flat. Then she was sick, but she’s been good again ever since.
“People just expect her to win,” he added with a chuckle. “It’s not that easy; I wish it was. But I think she’s been pretty solid.”
Bee A Magician, owned by Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman, and David McDuffee, returned to her winning ways with a world-record 1:51.1 triumph July 12 in the third round of the Miss Versatility Series at Meadowlands Racetrack. She now holds the records for fastest 3-year-old (1:51) and 4-year-old female trotters in history.
She will try to make it two victories in a row when she meets six rivals in Friday’s second leg of the Ima Lula Series for 4-year-old female trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Bee A Magician and regular driver Brian Sears will start from post one. The rest of the field in post order is Handover Belle, Rockin With Dewey, NF Happenstance, Ma Chere Hall, Mistery Woman, and Classic Martine.
Handover Belle won the Ima Lula’s first round on July 18 by a half-length over Ma Chere Hall in 1:51.4. The $55,000 estimated final is Aug. 2, Hambletonian Day.
Bee A Magician -- who has won 28 of 35 career races, finished second on four occasions, and earned $2.45 million -- was eligible to the John Cashman Jr. Memorial, but the mare’s connections decided against facing the boys. She raced against her male counterparts in the Hambletonian Maturity on July 5, finishing second to Your So Vain.
“I want to race her as easy as I can,” Norman said. “I’ll consider racing those horses again later in the year maybe, but not right now. You can’t be too tough on them. You see some of the other 4-year-olds that have come back and are not what they were. It’s a tough thing to do because most of them have laid it all on the line last year.”
As it is, racing against the mares is difficult enough.
“It’s a tough division; very solid,” Norman said, adding about her 1:51.1 win in the most recent Miss Versatility round, “It was a good race. She didn’t jog, it was a good race.”
GIFTED WAY IS THE RIGHT PRESENT FOR ALAGNA HEADING INTO HAUGHTON MEMORIAL
Trainer Tony Alagna hopes Rare Gift delivered a special present in the form of 2-year-old colt trotter Gifted Way.
Gifted Way, a son of stallion Cantab Hall out of the mare Rare Gift, was purchased for $170,000 at the 2013 Lexington Selected Sale. Gifted Way makes his third start Friday in the single elimination for the Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters at Meadowlands Racetrack.
The colt is owned by Brittany Farms, Joe Sbrocco, Little E LLC, and Deo Volente Farms. Gifted Way is part of a four-horse entry in the Haughton elim, along with Jimmy Takter-trained Special Action, The Bank, and Uncle Lasse. The group is 3-5 on the morning line.
Rounding out the horses in the elim, from which the top seven finishers advance to the $280,000 estimated final on Aug. 2, Hambletonian Day, are Ake Svanstedt’s Centurion ATM and Amicus, Ray Schnittker’s Broken Record, Erv Miller’s SS Poseidon, Nancy Johansson’s Cruzado Dela Noche, and Mark Harder’s True Blue Stride.
Three horses received byes to the final: Takter’s Canepa Hanover, Nik Drennan’s Guess Whos Back, and Jim Campbell’s Honor And Serve.
Gifted Way won his debut, a division of the Pennsylvania All Stars, on July 4 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. He went off stride at the start in his second race, which was won by Canepa Hanover, on July 18 at the Meadowlands.
“He’s a nice colt,” Alagna said. “When the gate left the other night, he just got off on the wrong foot and made a break, which he hadn’t done before. He trotted good after making the break, came out of the race fine, and trained back good [Tuesday]. I think we’re set for the elimination on Friday night.”
Gifted Way is Rare Gift’s fourth foal, and first by Cantab Hall, who was the sport’s leading trotting sire in 2012 and 2013. Rare Gift is a full sister to stakes-winner Stand Strong and a three-quarter-sister to 1996 Horse of the Year Continentalvictory and stakes-winner Victory Abroad.
“The family has been a little stagnant, but this was by far the best colt the mare had thrown,” Alagna said. “He’s very correct. He was very athletic in the paddock. He just had everything going for him.
“Cantab Hall has just been red hot the last couple years, so we thought we would take a shot. We’re glad we did. I think he was the right horse.”
Gifted Way is not the only horse in the Haughton elim with well-known relatives.
Uncle Lasse is a full brother to Shake It Cerry, the 2013 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old filly trotter and a top contender in the upcoming Hambletonian Oaks, and Broken Record is a half-brother to 2005 Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo. Special Action’s family includes 2006 Hambletonian winner Glidemaster and The Bank’s dam is millionaire Lantern Kronos.
Friday’s card also features two eliminations for the Merrie Annabelle Stakes for 2-year-old female trotters and the second round of the Ima Lula Series for 4-year-old female trotters.