By Ken Weingartner, USTA — When Tim Tetrick left the winner’s circle following Confederate’s victory in last month’s Breeders Crown, he thought he had driven the 3-year-old pacer for the final time.
He was delighted when he was informed that wasn’t the case.
Confederate, harness racing’s No. 1-ranked horse, will compete in Thursday’s $170,850 Matron Stakes for sophomore male pacers at Bally’s Dover. His connections paid $25,000 to supplement the colt to the event, with the plan for it to be Confederate’s penultimate career start ahead of a finale against older rivals in the FanDuel (formerly TVG) Championship Open Pace on Nov. 25 at The Meadowlands.
Owned by Diamond Creek Racing and bred by Diamond Creek Farm, Confederate will begin his stallion career in 2024, standing in Pennsylvania for Diamond Creek.
“I thought he was done after the Breeders Crown because after that race they were all kind of saying they thought that was it,” Tetrick said. “The horse didn’t have anything left to prove. But Adam (Bowden of Diamond Creek) and the connections decided let’s try to go beat the older boys, and let’s try to get him to $2 million (in career earnings).
“When I got the phone call that the plan was to go to the Matron and FanDuel, I was pretty excited, that’s for sure.”
This year, Confederate has won 12 of 13 races and earned $1.54 million (tops in the sport) for his owner, trainer Brett Pelling, and Tetrick. The colt has a 10-race win streak since his lone setback in June in the North America Cup, where he missed by a head to It’s My Show.
His victories, in addition to the Breeders Crown, include the Meadowlands Pace, Cane Pace, Max C. Hempt Memorial, and divisions of the Tattersalls and Bluegrass. He also won the Kentucky Sire Stakes Championship Series final.
“He’s kind of spoken for himself,” Tetrick replied when asked what more could be said about Confederate and his season. “He’s done everything he’s supposed to do and been super impressive. He’s just a great horse. He’s fast, he’s got a great attitude, and he’s easy to drive. He knows how to win, and he loves his work.
“He’s been pretty special to me.”
Confederate has never finished off the board in his career, winning 17 of 20 races and earning $1.98 million. Tetrick has been in the sulky for the past 18 starts, resulting in 16 victories and two second-place finishes.
“Early on when I started driving him, I really liked him,” Tetrick said. “He was a green colt, but you could tell there was a lot of speed there.”
Throughout his career, Confederate has raced from off the pace. This year, he has been no closer to the lead than third at the half-mile point of 10 races, and no closer than fifth in half of those. He has won eight of his past nine starts by a minimum of two lengths; the remaining triumph came by one length.
“He’s so much fun to drive,” Tetrick said. “In this era, you don’t see horses consistently come from off the pace and beat their competition week in and week out, and he’s done it his whole career. In this day and age, especially in the 3-year-old group, you’ve got to be aggressive, be up close. He’s been able to not leave the gate too much and still win races. I think that’s cool.”
Confederate’s 1:46.1 win in a leg of the Kentucky Sire Stakes Championship Series on Sept. 4 at Lexington’s Red Mile set the record for the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old pacer — by three-fifths of a second. Only four older pacers have gone faster, topped by Bulldog Hanover’s 1:45.4 mile.
“I could have gone faster if I pulled his (ear) plugs that day,” Tetrick said. “Honestly, I didn’t think I was going that fast because he was doing it so easily and he made up so much ground. He just coasted with no urging. I know he could have gone (1):45.4. I think anybody that watches racing could know that too.”
Confederate will start Thursday’s Matron from post seven in a field of eight. He is the 2-5 morning-line favorite.
“I’m going to miss him,” Tetrick said about the colt’s pending retirement. “But I’m looking forward to seeing his babies. Hopefully, some of them turn out to be as good as him.”
Dover also hosts Matron Stakes for 3-year-old trotters and 3-year-old female pacers.
Air Power is the 5-2 favorite among sophomore male trotters while Heaven Hanover gets the 5-2 nod among the fillies. Twin B Joe Fresh is the 5-2 favorite among filly pacers.
Racing begins at 4:30 p.m. (EST) at Dover. For free race programs, visit the Bally’s Dover website here.