Billy Haughton did it. So did Joe O’Brien and Stanley Dancer. Brett Pelling did it twice
What those distinguished trainers achieved was back-to-back wins in the final of the Delvin Miller Adios (Haughton actually won the Adios in its first three editions, 1967-1969, a feat no trainer has matched). Now trainer Jimmy Takter, whose Vintage Master captured the 2009 Adios, can join those harness racing legends if Rockin Image overcomes Post 9 and takes Saturday’s $500,000 final of the 'Pace for the Orchids.'
How does Takter feel about keeping company with such an accomplished group?
“It would be something — for a Swede,” he joked.
Takter, of course, was referring to the tendency of Scandinavian horsemen in the United States to focus exclusively, or nearly so, on trotters — a natural preference, since the trot is the dominant gait in their homelands.
For most of his career, trotting was Takter’s game, and he played at a world-class level. He trained Dan Patch Award winners Gleam, Armbro Prowess, Kadabra, Solveig and Ken Warkentin. Malabar Man won hardware for him twice, and Moni Maker four times. Takter was named US Trainer of the Year in 1996 and shared that award with Mark Ford in 2000.
But he began dabbling with pacers about a decade ago and got serious with it when he acquired Cabrini Hanover and guided her to the 2005 Dan Patch Award as Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year.
“You have to expand your business, widen your reach,” Takter said. “I thought I would give pacers a shot, and I have no regrets about it. In fact, it really doesn’t matter to me whether I’m training a trotter or a pacer.”
Takter trains roughly 60 horses, about 20 of them pacers, at his East Windsor, New Jersey farm.
“I train my trotters and pacers identically,” he said. “It’s still a matter of conditioning them. Pacers will stay sounder for you; they’re better able to handle the pressure. Trotting is the more difficult gait.”
Rockin Image has been handling the pressure quite well. He won his Adios elimination for Yannick Gingras in 1:50.2 despite a demanding first quarter. He also took an elimination of the Meadowlands Pace and finished a respectable fourth in the $1 million final, beaten only one and a half lengths by One More Laugh.
Perhaps most encouraging to Takter, the son of Rocknroll Hanover--Kikikatie appears to be fully recovered from throat surgery that sidelined him for a month earlier this year.
“He’s been tremendous since the surgery, so I think he’s as good as we can get him,” Takter said. “Before the surgery, he made sounds after every race. He doesn’t do that any more.”
For the Adios final, Takter hopes for a much kinder trip for Rockin Image.
“If he’s in front, I don’t want him to have to work too hard to get there,” he said. “Ideally, he’ll be sitting second-over going into the last turn, and they’ll be racing pretty good up front. In the Adios, they always do.”
To view the results of the draw for the Adios, click here.