By Ken Weingartner, USTA — It was Moment Is Here’s resemblance to his father, All Bets Off, that first attracted co-owner Frank Baldachino to the now 3-year-old pacer. After watching Moment Is Here compete for two years, Baldachino has seen that the parallels go beyond looks.
“He’s very similar to his dad,” Baldachino said. “He’s a good, honest, hard-hitting racehorse. He tries hard, he’s got good gate speed, and he’s tactical so you can race him either way, on the pace or off. He gives you a hundred percent every time he steps on the racetrack. He’s a consummate professional.”
Moment Is Here has earned a paycheck in 28 of 31 career races, banking $540,584 in the process. He’s posted 23 top-three finishes, including eight wins and 10 seconds. His victories include the Ontario Sire Stakes championship in October and an elimination of the Little Brown Jug in September.
The gelding, a son of All Bets Off-Breathtacular, was bred by Bob McIntosh, who also co-owned and trained the horse for his first 30 starts. Following the Ontario Sire Stakes final, Moment Is Here sold for $285,500 to Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Baldachino, and Lombardo/Green Racing in an onGait.com auction. Baldachino is the only member of Moment Is Here’s previous ownership group to retain a share of the horse.
“When the horse was going up for sale, I told Ronnie (Burke) and Mark (Weaver) about the horse,” Baldachino said. “I told them we should try to acquire him if the price is right. Thanks to Mark and Ronnie, they kind of agreed with me and liked him enough. They bought in with some other partners.
“The horse was in good hands (with McIntosh), and he will continue in good hands.”
Of course, the Burke Brigade shares a strong connection to Moment Is Here’s father. All Bets Off was trained by Burke after his first seven starts at age 2 and went on to earn nearly $3.1 million during his six-year career. He won 12 times on the Grand Circuit, with his most lucrative score coming in the 2014 Messenger Pace, and also was a New York Sire Stakes champion.
For his career, All Bets Off hit the board in 70 of 123 races, winning 30. He earned a paycheck 100 times.
“Every week All Bets Off was grinding,” said Baldachino, who was among the owners of the stallion during his racing days. “He wouldn’t win all the time, but he would be right there at the wire. He wasn’t flashy but he got the job done. The real flashy part about him was his bank account. I’ll take that any day of the week.”
All Bets Off earned just shy of $2 million after the age of 3, which might bode well for Moment Is Here.
“Hopefully, he’ll be a top-flight 4-year-old for us, and more going forward,” Baldachino said about Moment Is Here. “Bets got better as he got older, and so far, everything else has translated over.”
Moment Is Here will make his stakes debut for his new connections Thursday in the second of two $35,000 eliminations of the Progress Pace at Bally’s Dover. Moment Is Here, who was supplemented to the event for $25,000, will start from post seven in a seven-horse field with Tim Tetrick in the sulky. He is 6-1 on the morning line.
Tetrick has driven Moment Is Here four times, winning three. He won the horse’s most recent start, a conditioned race Nov. 3 at Harrah’s Philadelphia, as well as the Ontario championship and Little Brown Jug elim. He finished fourth in the Jug final after getting the lead in a :25.4 opening quarter and remaining on top through three-quarters in 1:22.
“I thought he stamped himself as a top colt in the Jug elimination,” Baldachino said. “Timmy got him right out to the lead and he kind of drew off from there (to win by 3-1/2 lengths in 1:50.1). And he raced real strong in the final. He got run at pretty good and he still held on for fourth. That day stood out to me.”
Cannibal, who has won 11 of 17 races this season, including the Adios, is the 5-2 favorite in the second elim. Milstein Memorial winner Seven Colors is the 7-2 second choice followed by Indiana Sire Stakes champ Why Not Now, another supplemental entry, at 9-2.
“I expect (Moment Is Here) to race well on Thursday night in his elimination and hopefully, if we get lucky enough, in the final,” Baldachino said. “His first start at (Philly) was real strong, and he’s trained well this week leading up to the race. Timmy gets along with him well, so we’re all pretty confident he’ll race well.”
Millionaire Stockade Seelster is the 2-1 favorite in the first Progress Pace elimination.
The top-four finishers from each elimination will return for the final on Nov. 22 at Dover.
Racing begins at 4:30 p.m. (EST) at Dover.