By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Richard Poillucci reached the pinnacle of harness racing in 2019 when his imported New Zealand-bred pacing mare Shartin was named Horse of the Year.
On Saturday at The Meadowlands, the longtime owner will send out another New Zealand-bred import, Duke Of Cornwall, for his North American debut.
Poillucci knows it is unrealistic to expect a repeat of the Shartin story, but he has high hopes for Duke Of Cornwall, a 4-year-old son of Sweet Lou out of Galleons Honour. He purchased the stallion for six figures this past January, not long after Duke Of Cornwall dazzled with a 1:52.3 mile at Young Quinn Raceway in Wyndham. Despite being parked first over for the mile, he shattered the track and Southland region’s record for a 2-year-old.
“He’s got some pretty big credentials, broke a couple of track records,” Poillucci said about Duke Of Cornwall, who was born in November 2018. “I bought him off those performances. He’s a very talented colt. He’s actually only 3 years old New Zealand time, so he’s only had a handful of starts, but he was very impressive in New Zealand, and he was very impressive in Australia in his last start. We were very pleased with him.”
Duke Of Cornwall arrived in the U.S. about two months ago, heading to the stable of trainer Tahnee Camilleri. He qualified last week at The Meadowlands, winning by 7-1/2 lengths in 1:51.4, last quarter in :25.4, over a sloppy track with driver Andy McCarthy.
“We were quite thrilled with the way he went,” Poillucci said. “Andrew never asked him to pace, and the ear plugs were still in. I was very impressed, and I don’t get impressed too often by qualifiers.”
Duke Of Cornwall, who sometimes raced against older foes Down Under, has won six of 13 career races, hit the board an additional three times, and earned $29,248 in U.S. dollars. His 3-year-old campaign was slowed by sickness and foot issues, but he raced well in two starts with Kerryn Manning in Australia — finishing a close second in the first and winning the second — before heading to the States.
“He’s a big colt,” Poillucci said. “I don’t think when I purchased him that he had fully grown and matured, and that’s where the issues were coming from.”
Duke Of Cornwall will start Saturday at The Meadowlands in a $20,000 conditioned pace. He will leave from post eight in an eight-horse field with McCarthy in the sulky and is the 9-5 morning-line favorite.
“He was a rather large investment and I need to get him over here to evaluate whether he has stakes ability before February,” Poillucci said, noting that COVID-19 related travel issues prevented the horse from arriving earlier.
“That’s all we’re doing. We’re test driving for a few starts. He will get turned out again. He won’t continue racing. We’ll get together and see how we feel about him. If we feel he’s real, or if he’s just a real nice horse.”
If he is more than just a real nice horse, can he be Poillucci’s male version of Shartin?
“I don’t know if that will ever happen,” Poillucci said, adding with a laugh, “I think I fell off the surfboard and that’s the end of that ride.”
However, Poillucci is hopeful Duke Of Cornwall can be another star.
“He’s an exciting horse,” Poillucci said. “If he does what he’s supposed to do, I think he could be special. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him.”