By Ken Weingartner, USTA — T C I has the opportunity to become the sport’s richest-ever 2-year-old on Friday when he competes against nine rivals in the $700,000 Breeders Crown final for rookie male trotters at Harrah’s Hoosier Park, but in the eyes of trainer Ron Burke, a victory would give the colt another distinction.
“If he can win, one, he’s beaten a great horse in Karl and a real nice field; and two, I think it makes him the best 2-year-old of all time,” Burke said. “That’s saying a lot, but he’s gone and done everything that’s been asked of him.”
Hoosier Park hosts all four Breeders Crown finals for 2-year-olds on Friday. The eight remaining events will be held Saturday. Racing begins at 6 p.m. (EDT) both nights.
T C I finished second in his career debut on July 7 in a division of the Kindergarten Classic Series at The Meadowlands and has not tasted defeat since. He brings a 10-race win streak to the Breeders Crown final, where he will start from post five with driver David Miller and is the 6-5 morning-line favorite.
A son of Cantab Hall-Nicole’s Promise purchased for $150,000 at last fall’s Standardbred Horse Sale, T C I has visited the winner’s circle at seven different tracks. His victories include the William Wellwood Memorial, Peter Haughton Memorial, Mohawk Million, and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship.
His win in the Haughton on Sept. 15 at Hoosier Park gave T C I an automatic berth in Friday’s Breeders Crown final. Eliminations for the 2-year-old male trotters were held this past Thursday (Oct. 19).
“Everything is great with him,” said Burke, whose 18 Breeders Crown trophies are second to only Jimmy Takter’s record 34. “I trained him on the same day that they were going to race (the eliminations) so he wouldn’t have a disadvantage. He was great. I’ll train him one more time (Tuesday) and we’ll be ready to roll.
“We got a great spot, the five-hole. He can control his own destiny.”
T C I is already the richest 2-year-old male trotter in history, with his $1.08 million topping the previous mark of $936,191 held by Deweycheatumnhowe. Snow White holds the record for a freshman trotter; the filly banked $1.25 million in 2007. Pacing colt Redskin earned $1.40 million in 1986, the top figure for any 2-year-old.
“He’s a lot better than even I thought,” Burke said about T C I, who was named for vacation destination Turks and Caicos Islands. “Every time I train him or race him, I think this is really a special horse. (To go over $1 million) is incredible for a 2-year-old.”
As Burke alluded to earlier, T C I will need to earn the Crown against a strong field that includes Nancy Takter-trainee Karl. The only meeting between the two horses resulted in a nose victory for T C I after a stirring stretch duel in a division of the International Stallion Stakes on Oct. 6 at Lexington’s Red Mile.
For the season, Karl has won six of seven races and earned $359,760. His best win time of 1:51.2 in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes missed the world record for a 2-year-old male trotter by one-fifth of a second. His other victories include the Kentucky Sire Stakes Championship Series final.
The son of Tactical Landing-Avalicious goes to the Breeders Crown final off a 4-1/2 length win in his elimination last week.
Karl and driver Yannick Gingras will start Friday from post one. Karl is 7-5 on the morning line.
“He was really super,” Takter, an eight-time Crown winner, said after Karl’s elim win. “He’s a very nice colt. He’s very professional. Yannick said he drove perfectly for him, so we are looking forward to (Friday).”
Private Access won the other Breeders Crown elimination for trainer Luc Blais and driver Louis Roy. The son of Muscle Hill-Open Access has won two of seven races this year and earned $24,584. The colt had gone off stride in his three previous starts. He starts Friday from post two and is the 8-1 third choice.
“I don’t know what to say about that one,” said Blais, who has won four Crowns, after the elimination victory. “I knew he had some talent; he was just a little bit immature. He would look around in the sky, not focus. He just needed more time. He needed more practice than usual. Now, he was ready to go. He wanted to play now. This race was perfect to get ready for the final. He’s a late-bloomer, but as long as they go forward, that’s the main thing.”
Indiana will be represented in the final by its sire stakes stars, champion Musclefantastic and runner-up Dashing Danny.
Musclefantastic will start from post 10 with trainer-driver Robert Taylor. Dashing Danny leaves from post seven with Kyle Wilfong driving for trainer Jeff Cullipher. Both horses finished fourth in their respective eliminations.
Taylor and Wilfong are both appearing in their first Breeders Crown.
“The closest I had been to getting into a race of this magnitude was the Canadian Trotting Classic back in 2009,” Taylor said. “We were third in there to Muscle Hill with Southern Rocketop. To be able to race at your home track when the Crown comes here, it’s just an awesome feeling.
“I give a lot of credit to my owners, Kyle and Jill Hupfer. They’re very supportive. It’s going to be an exciting week for us.”
Said Wilfong, who is one victory from third place in wins at Hoosier Park this season, “It’s a good feeling. It’s kind of like a job well done for the year to make it to this point, and then to advance to the final is the icing on the cake.
“Good for Indiana to have your one-two (Super Final) horses make the Breeders Crown final.”
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