Hightstown, NJ — At the end of this season, Noel Daley will return to his native Australia to begin a new chapter in his career as the trainer for prominent owners Maria and Emilio Rosati at the couple’s new facility near Sydney.
On Saturday night, Daley-trained Caviart Ally will try to deliver an appropriate going-away gift — a Breeders Crown trophy. Daley, who started his own stable in the U.S. in 1998, has already won eight Breeders Crown finals in his career, including three with pacer My Little Dragon and two with trotter Mr Muscleman.
Caviart Ally will start from post nine in the $270,000 Breeders Crown Mare Pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The Caviart Farms-owned 4-year-old is 8-1 on the morning line with Andy McCarthy in the sulky. She finished third in her Breeders Crown elimination last weekend, won by Shartin N, but has hit the board in seven consecutive starts, including a win in the Milton Stakes, and earned $1.06 million lifetime.
“We didn’t get the best post in the world, but she’s still capable of winning it,” Daley said. “It just depends whether she’s having a good day. She wasn’t very good (in her elimination), I don’t know if it was the track or whatever, but she came out of it all right.
“Andy always says he knows when he’s scoring down whether he’s going to be all right or not. She’s in it up to her ears if she has a good night; she just needs to have a good night.”
Caviart Ally is Daley’s only Breeders Crown finalist, but not the only finalist to which he has a connection.
In the 2-year-old filly trot, favorites Woodside Charm and When Dovescry both are out of mares that were trained by Daley. When Dovescry is the first foal out of Cedar Dove, who won a Breeders Crown for Daley in 2011, and Woodside Charm is out of Fireworks Hanover and a half-sister to Daley’s millionaire Explosive Matter.
Plunge Blue Chip, one of the contenders in the 3-year-old filly trot, is from the family of Mr Muscleman.
“It’s fun to see,” Daley said.
In his career, Daley’s horses have earned $61.1 million in purses, which ranks sixth among all trainers in harness racing history, and his 2,564 wins rank 20th. Daley worked eight years for trainer Brett Pelling before launching his own stable and credits the relationship he forged with owner Adam Victor and his son Adam Jr. in the late 1990s as a springboard to success.
“He wanted to get into the game and never had a horse at that stage,” Daley said. “We had a bit of luck with (pacer) Perfect Son and then we bought Mr Muscleman (in 2002) and that just set things on a roll. I went from having five or six horses and he went to having none to within a couple of years I had 125 horses and 100 were his.”
Four of Daley’s five Breeders Crown-winning horses — My Little Dragon, Mr Muscleman, Cedar Dove, and All Speed Hanover — were owned in whole or part by the Victors.
In addition to his success in the Breeders Crown, Daley enjoyed winning the Hambletonian with Broad Bahn in 2011. Still, nothing equaled the feeling of racing Mr Muscleman, who was a three-time Dan Patch Award winner, including Trotter of the Year in 2005, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. Since 2009, the gelding has resided in the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions.
“Muscleman is still the best horse I ever had,” Daley said. “He was my highlight. Obviously winning the Hambo with Broad Bahn was special, but Broad Bahn was a long way from being the best horse. He was the right horse at the right time. Everything went right for him that year. That’s what you need to win one of those races.
“(Mr Muscleman) was such a tough horse. He had a lot of issues, but was just a good horse. You don’t realize what a good horse he was until you look back on it. It’s fun to go see him at the Horse Park. They love him there too. Even there he is sort of a favorite. He’s such a nice little horse.”
How good was he? It goes beyond his two Breeders Crown titles, two Maple Leaf Trot triumphs, and wins in the Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic, Titan Cup, and Cutler Memorial, to mention a few.
“He was the second trotter I ever had; I had a cheap claimer before him,” Daley said, laughing. “We did everything wrong with him. He was a great horse in spite of us, not because of us. He overcame our inexperience, put it that way.”
Now a much more experienced Daley is ready for a new adventure and challenge. He has talked for years about returning to Australia, but now the time seems right.
“All my family is there and I’ve been looking to do it for a while,” Daley said. “America has been good to me. I have no regrets. I never imagined I would be here this long and I always wanted to go home, it was just a matter of finding a way of going home where I could still make a living.
“I met with Emilio and we came to the decision that it was going to work for both of us. It’s a different racing game over there and I’ll have to get used to the way things are done there. But I’m going to have a great setup to work with and well-bred horses to do it. I’m really looking forward to it.”
He then added, again with a laugh, “I’ve been telling my staff for years that I was going home. I had to make sure they knew this year that this one is for real.”
And regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s Breeders Crown, he will leave satisfied.
“We’ve had a lot of fun,” Daley said. “It was a great run. It’s time for the next chapter.”