By Ken Weingartner — Per Engblom had high hopes for Synergy last year at age 2, and while the colt won the Champlain Stakes and eliminations of the Peter Haughton Memorial and Breeders Crown, the campaign failed to live up to his trainer’s early expectations.
“We really thought we had a great horse,” Engblom said of last year, noting a bout of sickness hampered Synergy during the summer and impeded his development.
But as the 2020 season kicks into gear, Engblom remains hopeful Synergy can emerge as a primetime player among 3-year-old male trotters.
Synergy makes his second start Saturday (July 11) in the second of two divisions of the Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings at The Meadowlands, where he leaves from post seven with Yannick Gingras and is the 3-1 morning-line favorite.
The two Reynolds splits for the boys feature a total of 14 Hambletonian-eligible horses; Synergy is No. 6 in track announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin’s Road to the Hambletonian rankings. The Hambletonian, the sport’s premier race for 3-year-old trotters, is Aug. 8 at The Meadowlands.
Synergy enters the Reynolds off a third-place finish in a 3-year-old open June 27 at the Big M, where he was timed in 1:52.1. It was the colt’s debut, following a 1:54 qualifying effort that featured a :26.2 last quarter-mile.
“I was really happy with those two efforts,” Engblom said. “He needs to get racing, to get going; he’s a big, heavy colt. But he’s shown that he’s a little stronger this year than last year, so I’m happy with that and I’m looking forward to these races coming up.”
A son of Father Patrick out of Southwind Sauna, Synergy is owned by Brittany Farms, John Fielding, Herb Liverman, and David Anderson. He was purchased as a yearling under the name Southwind Saranac for $275,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale and his family includes O’Brien Award winner Federal Flex.
Synergy has won four of 11 career races and $164,888.
“He had a little bit of trouble carrying his speed last year,” Engblom said. “The last sixteenth of a mile he kind of flattened out, but this year so far, going (1):52, he seemed pretty good. Let’s hope he can go (1):51 and (1):50 and a piece, too.”
Engblom also has a starter in the first Reynolds division. Beads, a newcomer to his stable this year, is the 4-1 third choice behind EL Ideal (2-1) and Capricornus (3-1).
Beads went off stride in both of his starts this season, but heads to the Reynolds off a 1:52.2 win in a qualifier July 3. Jimmy Takter, who drove Beads in the qualifier, returns for Saturday’s race.
Last year, Beads won two of eight starts and $22,330. All but one of the horse’s races were in Canada. The son of Archangel-Nepentha is owned by Renee Spahr.
“He’s a little bit of a funny horse, but he’s got plenty of ability,” Engblom said. “It’s more mental issues with him, he gets a little nervous and stuff like that. He’s not really stupid or hot or anything, it’s just that he gets a little tense.
“Going to the lead, so far, has been the model for him. If we can get him to mature, maybe he can race from behind a little bit. But he’s showed plenty of ability so far.”
In addition to the two Reynolds divisions for the boys, there is a single Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters. Shishito is 6-1 on the morning line in a field that includes returning Dan Patch Award winner Ramona Hill (3-1 favorite) in her seasonal debut and 2-for-2 Sorella (7-2).
Eight of the 10 fillies in the Reynolds are eligible to the Hambletonian Oaks, including Shishito, Ramona Hill, and Sorella.
Shishito won her only start of the season, beating male rivals including Hambletonian hopeful Capricornus, in 1:53.3 at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Last year, she won four of 11 races and $240,512 for owners Black Horse Racing and John Fielding.
“She was a money-maker last year,” Engblom said. “She was a very tough girl. She was there the first baby race of the year and she raced in the Breeders Crown final.
This year, I’ve been super happy with her so far. She trotted (1):53 last year and she’s been in (1):51.2 (in a qualifier) already this year, so she’s developed the right way.”
Ken Weingartner, for U S Trotting Association, is an HRI Harness contributor