“He just got so aggressive and so wound up at the end of last year that you just couldn’t rate him at all. That was to his detriment in a couple races and it cost him winning."
Nuncio spent a lot of this past winter learning to use his natural talent in a more productive way, and it shows.
The three-year-old trotter, who is 3-1 from post two in Saturday’s $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is undefeated in four starts in 2014 after a barn change following his two-year-old season.
New trainer Jimmy Takter concentrated on teaching the son of Andover Hall to conserve and use his speed judiciously and driver John Campbell said he’s passing the course so far.
Last year, Nuncio led at the half-mile point in eight of his 10 races. This year, he’s been no better than third at the halfway point of any race and not seen the lead until the stretch.
“I’m very happy with the way he’s been coming along,” Campbell said. "Jimmy trained him from behind all winter and we’ve qualified him that way and raced him that way and he’s started to figure it out, so I can be a little more aggressive with him at the gate.
“He left a little bit last week and didn’t get wound up. I’m very happy with his manners so far. He’s been very relaxed and that’s important because if they’re worked up and you’re fighting with them, you just take away energy. He’s always been able to go; speed hasn’t been an issue ever with him. It’s more been just manageability.”
Nuncio won his Beal elimination last weekend by a half-length over Datsyuk in 1:52.2. His previous three wins this season all came in divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes.
Last year, he won five of 10 races and never finished worse than second on his way to $461,074. His earnings were third most among two-year-old trotters, behind Takter-trained colt Father Patrick and Takter-trained filly Shake It Cerry.
Four of Nuncio’s second-place efforts were against Father Patrick, in the eliminations and final of the Peter Haughton Memorial and elims and final of the Breeders Crown. Nuncio won the Matron Stakes and a division of the Reynolds; he also was runner-up to Muscle Network in the Valley Victory.
Father Patrick, who received the 2013 Dan Patch Award for best two-year-old male trotter, also won his Beal elimination last week. He drew post No. 8 for the final and is the 5-2 morning line favourite with driver Yannick Gingras.
“I’d certainly rather have the two hole than outside, that is for sure, but once we get in to the race, everybody will know at the quarter whether it’s good or bad,” Campbell said. “But going in to the race, I’d rather be down inside.”
Father Patrick won his Beal elim by 2-1/4 lengths over Harper Blue Chip in 1:52.4. He is 4-for-4 this year and brings a 13-race win streak into the Beal final.
Last year, Father Patrick won 10 of 11 races, including the Breeders Crown at Pocono Downs, the Wellwood Memorial and the Peter Haughton Memorial. His only setback came against Nuncio in July.
“This is the first time all year that he’ll be asked to go,” Gingras said. “He’s more than ready after four easy starts.”
Saturday’s stakes-laden card at Pocono Downs also includes the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old pacers, the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace for older pacers, the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for three-year-old female pacers, and $100,000 Sun Invitational for older trotters.
Post time is 6:30 p.m. for the first race. The Sun Invitational is race No. 8 and will be followed by the four stakes.
Following are Saturday’s Sun Invitational and stakes fields in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line:
Race 8, $100,000 Sun Invitational
1. Arch Madness, Brian Sears, Trond Smedshammer, 10-1
2. Sevruga, Ron Pierce, Julie Miller, 5-1
3. Market Share, Tim Tetrick, Linda Toscano, 7-2
4. Amigo Ranger, Simon Allard, Rene Allard, 12-1
5. Archangel, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 6-1
6. Modern Family, Dave Palone, Daryl Bier, 3-1
7. Sebastian K, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 2-1
Race 9, $300,000 Lynch Memorial
1. Uffizi Hanover, David Miller, Jimmy Takter, 5-2
2. Sayitall BB, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 5-1
3. Also Encouraging, Brett Miller, Casie Coleman, 15-1
4. Fancy Desire, George Napolitano Jr., Kevin Carr, 3-1
5. Southwind Silence, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke, 10-1
6. Cinamony, Corey Callahan, Alex Rice Jr., 6-1
7. Gallie Bythe Beach, John Campbell, Jim Campbell, 12-1
8. Weeper, Dave Palone, Kelly O’Donnell, 4-1
9. My Lady Day, Tim Tetrick, Joe Holloway, 20-1
Race 10, $500,000 Hempt Memorial
1. Cammikey, Brian Zendt, Bill Zendt, 6-1
2. Allstar Partner, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen, 12-1
3. McWicked, David Miller, Casie Coleman, 5-2
4. Sometimes Said, John Campbell, Jim Campbell, 4-1
5. At Press Time, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 5-1
6. Stevensville, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker, 20-1
7. Bushwacker, Ron Pierce, Chris Ryder, 15-1
8. All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke, 3-1
9. Limelight Beach, Brian Sears, Brian Brown, 10-1
Race 11, $500,000 Franklin Pace
1. Bettors Edge, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke, 12-1
2. Allstar Legend, Scott Zeron, Ron Burke, 15-1
3. Foiled Again, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 4-1
4. Sweet Lou, Ron Pierce, Ron Burke, 5-2
5. Domethatagain, Simon Allard, Rene Allard, 10-1
6. Bolt The Duer, Mark MacDonald, Peter Foley, 5-1
7. Captive Audience, David Miller, Corey Johnson, 20-1
8. Captaintreacherous, Tim Tetrick, Tony Alagna, 3-1
9. Sunshine Beach, Brian Sears, Mark Steacy, 6-1
Race 12, $500,000 Beal Jr. Memorial
1. Amped Up Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke, 10-1
2. Nuncio, John Campbell, Jimmy Takter, 3-1
3. Harper Blue Chip, Brian Sears, Mark Steacy, 5-1
4. Don Dorado, Tim Tetrick, Robert Baggitt Jr., 4-1
5. Outburst, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley, 15-1
6. Well Built, Jim Meittinis, Chris Ryder, 20-1
7. Datsyuk, Charlie Norris, Charlie Norris, 6-1
8. Father Patrick, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 5-2
9. Sumatra, Brett Miller, Tom Fanning, 12-1
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.