“When he didn’t tie up he was pretty good, and when he tied up he wasn’t. This year he’s been very good so far, so we have high hopes that he’s over that."
Doctor Butch and Heston Blue Chip combined to earn $452,644 last year for owner Ken Jacobs, but their seasons were undermined by health issues that prevented further success.
Jacobs hopes those issues are remedied this year.
Doctor Butch will be the first of the two pacers to return to action. He races Saturday in the fourth of five $50,000 divisions in the opening round of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. Doctor Butch, who is making his four-year-old debut, starts from post three with Tim Tetrick in the bike for trainer Linda Toscano. He is 5-1 on the morning line.
Heston Blue Chip, who was the 2012 Dan Patch Award winner for best three-year-old male pacer, won five of 17 races and $160,123 last season at age four as he struggled with his white blood count. His best stakes finishes were a second to Foiled Again in the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Invitational and a third in the $223,500 Bobby Quillen Memorial.
Last week, Heston Blue Chip won a qualifier in 1:55 at the Meadowlands, but the performance and subsequent blood work resulted in the horse being kept on the sidelines for the start of the Levy.
“He was OK in his qualifier, but he wasn’t Heston,” Jacobs said. “We’re still having a problem with his blood and we’re struggling to find out why. His blood count drops after we (push) him a little. We’re doing everything we can do to figure it out.”
The six-week Levy Series, for older pacers, is headlined by Foiled Again. The 10-year-old gelding, who won the Levy in 2009 and 2010, is the richest harness racing horse in North American history, with $6 million in career purses. In 2013, the Ron Burke trainee was named the sport’s Dan Patch and O'Brien Award winner for best older male pacer.
Foiled Again races in the fifth division Friday and is part of an entry with Hillbilly Hanover that is the 6-5 morning line favourite. Burke has three entries favoured, with Bettors Edge and Sweet Lou getting the nod in the second division and Easy Again and Special Forces in the fourth division.
Doctor Butch was the New York Sire Stakes champion at age two, when he won eight of 12 races and was never worse than second. Last year, he won three of 19 starts while battling issues with tying up.
His victories included the $275,000 Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers. He also won a division of the sire stakes to go with two second-place finishes and four third-place efforts on the circuit.
Although Doctor Butch earned $292,521 for the season, he left a good chunk of money on the table as he finished fifth in the Empire Breeders Classic and sixth in both the New York Sire Stakes final and Matron Stakes.
“He just had one of those years,” Jacobs said. "We hope he bounces back this year.”
Doctor Butch is a son of stallion Art Major out of the mare Classical Yankee, who is a half-sister to millionaire Yankee Cruiser. Doctor Butch prepped for the Levy by finishing second to Foiled Again in a qualifier on March 14 at Meadowlands Racetrack. He was timed in 1:52.1 with a :26.3 final quarter-mile.
“He qualified very good,” Jacobs said. “I know he’s got to go against the big guys, but we’ll see what he can do.”
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.