"I should have just left well enough alone with him instead of asking him to do too much. Now that he’s well again we are excited about this year and we are going to take another shot at the Levy again. We really like his chances."
When people hear his name they may not immediately recall the Australian import that defeated 2012 Little Brown Jug victor Michaels Power and the richest harness horse of all time in Foiled Again, but after Polak A’s 2015 campaign was derailed by illness, the eight-year-old gelding has returned to top form and served notice he will be a top contender for the title in next month’s Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway.
“I blame myself for what happened to him last year,” said Joe Bellino, who owns the horse with F Bellino & Sons LLC and Frank Bellino. “We made him eligible to the Levy before we even got him over here and it was only a couple weeks after he arrived, but he won the first two legs of the series and was third in another leg. He rebounded from a seventh in the final to take a winner’s over race and then we decided to take him to try him at Mohawk.
“When we shipped him up there he got sick and it took us quite a while to get him back. We had to stop on him and turn him out, but he’s healthy now and has yet to finish off the board this year."
Conditioned by New Zealand native Tony O’Sullivan, Polak A will attempt to collect his fourth win from six starts this year when he and Brian Sears leave from post five in a very tough $32,000 Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday (Feb. 27), in the evening’s sixth race. The gelding is the 5-2 morning line selection, but it will not be an easy mile as he takes on Dream Out Loud N (9-2), Roland N Rock (4-1), All Bets Off (8-1) and Sunfire Blue Chip (9-1).
“He is just a classy old gelding,” O’Sullivan said. “He gives you more than 100 percent every time and he is superb on a half(-mile track). He raced primarily at Gloucester Park in Australia. That’s a half-mile and it has very tight turns. Joe found him and picked him out, but one of the reasons he bought him was because of his ability over that type of track.”
The son of Pacific Fella and the Million To One mare Capture A Million paced on 75 occasions in the Southern Hemisphere, captured 17 of those contests and collected $219,652. Since arriving in his new nation the full sibling to Australian Group One winner Schinzig Buller has amassed $133,900 from 19 miles and added eight more triumphs to his resume for a grand total of 25. He has already earned $44,400 over the last two months.
“We really did not do anything to transition him to North America except place two blankets on him because he was coming from the middle of summer to the middle of winter,” O’Sullivan said. “We were looking forward to trying him at Mohawk because the fields were short and we thought he would like the track.
"Unfortunately, it did not work out because of his illness. Even with treating it, he still was sick and it showed. They race and are treated a lot differently over in Australia and New Zealand so it’s quite possible horses from there don’t bounce back as quickly from antibiotics as North American horses do. We do have him right now though and it is great to see him back on his game.”
Although Bellino selected Polak A, he gives O’Sullivan all the credit for not only how the horse has already performed, but for what he accomplishes in the future.
“I trust Tony 100 percent and he is more than just a trainer to me, he is a close friend and like one of my family,” he said. “When he told me we needed to kick the horse out, I told him, ‘Go ahead. You are the one that is with him every day.’ I didn’t even tell Tony I made the payment for the Levy until after the horse came here and he had him ready. How often does a horse pay for himself just months after you buy him? That’s what Tony prepared this horse to do and he has him ready again. I can’t say enough about the job he does and about the person he is.”
O’Sullivan can’t say enough about the horse.
“He is just such a nice animal,” he said. “He has a tremendous attitude and we don’t have to do much with him except send him out there. I think as long as he is healthy he will have a nice season and give a good account of himself. He also really fits superbly at Yonkers and gets around the track so well.”
Despite his affinity for that surface and circumference, Polak A’s connections have plans that do not include him remaining exclusively in the Empire State for the next 10 months.
“I don’t know if he is a Meadowlands horse,” O’Sullivan said. “But we might give him the opportunity to prove he belongs. We will try him again at Mohawk and probably at Pocono. The surface there is very quick and he should like it.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter where we take him or what comes up for him, when you have a horse like this you have confidence in them whenever you send them out. I have faith in him every time he is out there and feel he has the ability to be a top Open horse.”