By Ken Weingartner — Howard Taylor’s horses are keeping him up at night, but only for the best of reasons. Taylor, a longtime owner who has experienced his share of success over the years, is enjoying a month to remember and hoping the good times continue as the calendar advances.
Among Taylor’s July highlights: Trotting mare Atlanta winning the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial over rival Manchego, 3-year-old pacing colt Tall Dark Stranger capturing the Meadowlands Pace after a dramatic stretch duel with rival Papi Rob Hanover, 3-year-old trotting colt Back Of The Neck winning consecutive stakes to stamp himself a prime contender for the Hambletonian, and a sparkling debut from 2-year-old female pacer Somethingbeautiful, who is a half-sister to Taylor’s stakes-winner Shnitzledosomethin.
“I can’t even believe it, it’s like everywhere I look,” said Taylor, who this year is third in purses among North American owners. “It’s almost an embarrassment of riches; I’m on Cloud Nine.
“I don’t want to go to sleep at night because I’m afraid that when I get up it will be a dream.”
This weekend, Taylor will watch Captain Groovy compete in the first of three seven-horse eliminations for the Delvin Miller Adios for 3-year-old pacers at The Meadows. The top-three finishers in each elim advance to the Aug. 1 final.
Captain Groovy, trained by Ray Schnittker and driven by Mark MacDonald, will start from post six in his elimination. The race includes The Greek Freak, who brings a three-race win streak to the event, and Meadowlands Pace finalist Roll With JR.
Last year, Captain Groovy started his campaign with four consecutive wins — three in divisions of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series and the other in a division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars. He was winless in his remaining five races, with three coming on the Grand Circuit, but was third in a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Lexington’s Red Mile.
Captain Groovy opened this season with consecutive victories in conditioned races, including a 1:48 score over older horses on June 20 at The Meadowlands. That time is tied for second fastest among all 3-year-old pacers this year. He then finished second in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Harrah’s Philadelphia and fourth in a PASS split last week at The Meadows.
“Last year, he started out like some sort of a monster,” Taylor said. “Ray did the right thing, he put him in the Stallion Series to get him some education and not stretch him out expecting he would be real good at the end of the year. Then he sort of flattened out, but when he went to Lexington he raced real well.
“We turned him out sort of fresh, and when we brought him back this year, I couldn’t believe how good he was. The second start, he came first up against some good older horses and blew them away. I was in shock. I’m just hoping it’s not a repeat of last year. I don’t know what to think about that horse. He’s made me a liar every day, both ways.”
Captain Groovy is a son of Captaintreacherous and first foal out of Lets Groove Tonite. He sold for $90,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale and in addition to Taylor is owned by Schnittker, Ted Gewertz, and Mary Kinsey Arnold.
Taylor has never owned an Adios winner, with his best finish of second coming in 2010 with Versado. Captain Groovy’s driver, MacDonald, won the Adios in 2012 with Bolt The Duer.
“(Captain Groovy) has got the speed to go with anyone,” Taylor said. “I’m hoping for the best. When he’s on, he’s as good as any. I’m hoping this is a good week.”
The second elimination of the Adios features Meadowlands Pace runner-up Papi Rob Hanover as well as Pace finalist Captain Barbossa and recent PASS division winners Sea Of Life and No Lou Zing, who has won three consecutive starts since a second-place finish in his seasonal debut.
In the third elim, 2019 Ohio Sire Stakes champion and world-record-holder Elver Hanover will look to rebound from his first loss in 11 career races against a field that includes 2020 New Jersey Sire Stakes champ Rockin The Aces and Meadowlands Pace finalists Capt Midnight and Catch The Fire.
Racing begins at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadows. The $25,000 Adios eliminations are races five, eight and nine. For complete entries, click here.
Ken Weingartner, for U.S. Trotting Association, is an HRI Harness contributor