Talent Soup was limited to a handful of races last year at age two because of sickness, but trainer Bruce Saunders saw enough of the colt to believe there was ability beyond the horse’s name. Good looking, well gaited, quick, and professional, Talent Soup checked all the boxes.
“He’s a beautiful horse,” Saunders said about Talent Soup, who will compete in the third of Saturday’s three eliminations of the Max C. Hempt Memorial for three-year-old male pacers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. “He’s very athletic looking and he’s got a brilliant head. That’s a good start. That’s part of the reason we have him in the barn.
“He’s very efficient with his gait. He usually does not get tired. Even though he didn’t pass every horse in his last two starts he has a great capacity to take air and continue to go forward. He’s got a will to win. He’s a high-energy colt and very, very athletic. He likes his job a lot and that makes our job easier. He’s happy to be on the racetrack.”
Talent Soup, owned by Charles ‘Cotton’ Nash and Julie Nash, is 12-1 on the morning line in a seven-horse division that features world champion Downbytheseaside, who enters the race off a third-place finish in the North America Cup. The field also includes Heavens Gait, Donttellmeagain, Eddard Hanover, Highalator, and Photobombr Hanover.
Heaven’s Gait, the 3-1 second choice behind 5-2 Downbytheseaside, heads into the Hempt elim off a 1:49 victory in New York Sire Stakes action at Vernon Downs. Every Way Out is the 2-1 early favourite in the first Hempt elimination and North America Cup champion Fear The Dragon is the 8-5 morning line pick in the second.
The top three finishers from each elimination advance to the $500,000 final July 1 at Pocono. The July 1 card will also include the $500,000 Ben Franklin for older male pacers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for three-year-old trotters, and the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for three-year-old female pacers. Eliminations for those stakes also are Saturday.
Talent Soup won one of five races last year, when he lost time in late spring because of sickness, and has one victory in seven starts this season. His lone triumph this year came in a leg of the Weiss Series at Pocono, when he stopped the clock in 1:51.1 with a final quarter-mile of :26.3.
The colt heads to the Hempt elim off back-to-back second-place finishes where he was charging late, coming home in :26.4 in a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Vernon on June 18 and :26.2 in a conditioned race June 10 at the Meadowlands. For his career, Talent Soup has hit the board eight times and earned $38,507.
“His last two efforts have been very good,” Saunders said. “The owners decided he earned the right to be in here and I agree with them. I don’t know how fast they’re going to go, but I know this colt is capable of pacing a very fast mile with the right kind of trip.
“We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope they mix it up a little bit. There are a lot of horses in that race that like to be in a controlling position. Maybe they’ll mix it up and we can save some ground and finish with vigor. Stranger things have happened than for him to win a race like that.”
Talent Soup, bred by the Nashes and Steve Stewart, is a son of American Ideal out of the mare Tessa Hanover. His family includes stakes winners Took Hanover and Triple V Hanover plus mare Trim Hanover, who is the dam of millionaires American Jewel and Luck Be Withyou (racing Saturday in a Franklin elimination). His fourth dam is multiple Dan Patch Award winner Three Diamonds, who is the dam of millionaire Life Sign. Talent Soup was purchased for $65,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale.
The Nashes and Stewart were the breeders of 2010 U.S. Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven, who was trained by Saunders for owner Frank Bellino.
“With (Rock N Roll Heaven) it didn’t matter where we drew or who we were in with; he could muscle his way into position,” Saunders said. “That’s what these races are all about, being in position at the top of the stretch and still having a lot of energy.
“(Post position) really compromises your chances a lot, unless you’re a dominant horse. So far we have not been a dominant horse. We’ll have to be a little lucky and (Talent Soup) will have to be a little better than he’s been, but those things can happen.”
Talent Soup, who was hampered by a bruised foot earlier this season, is eligible to a number of stakes including the Breeders Crown, Little Brown Jug, and Matron.
“I think he got enough experience last year,” Saunders said. “He didn’t go as fast as the good two-year-olds, but he got enough starts for us to evaluate his talent level. He went some nice miles. That impressed us enough to make some stakes payments for this year.
“Now he’ll have an opportunity to mix it up with what is pretty much the cream of the crop. We’ve got some obstacles to overcome on Saturday but if he puts in a good performance we’ll continue to give him a chance.”
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.