Yonkers, NY — Trainer Erv Miller entered three colts in the eliminations of the MGM Springfield Stakes — Carrythetorchman, Crystal Beach and Not Today. All three made the $104,250 final, set for Monday night (July 13) at Yonkers Raceway.
Carrythetorchman posted a victory, Not Today had a fourth in the same elimination and Crystal Beach posted a third-place finish behind American Courage in the first elimination. With Carrythetorchman unbeaten in two qualifiers and his first pari-mutuel start, he leads the pack against the race’s 8-5 morning line favorite American Courage.
By American Ideal out of the Astreos mare Kattimon, Carrythetorchman is a half-brother to Classic Pro, an earner of $426,460 to date, and a full brother to $604,549 Grand Circuit winner Devil Child. Carrythetorchman was a $70,000 buy from the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for Miller and owners Ronald Michelon and War Horse Stables.
“He’s a good conformation horse. You might want one a little bigger for the big stuff, but for New York, I thought he was about the right size for getting around the half,” Miller said. “So far, he’s proven that. He doesn’t wear any boots and just gets around the half-mile track real easy.”
Although Miller says Carrythetorchman showed class from the beginning of his training, the colt began to develop a bad habit while training in Florida over the winter and into the spring as he dealt with minor foot trouble.
“Early on, he was really good. Then he went through a phase and I think it was more his feet than anything; just had him where he wasn’t happy with what he was doing,” Miller said. “He wasn’t easy to keep under control when they jogged. He’d switch back and forth from the pace to the trot and we got that under control by leaving the hobbles on him all the time.
“He was really fussy on the track at one time, but now he doesn’t do anything wrong. Since we got him close, a couple weeks before qualifying, he’s gotten over everything and it seemed like he was way better.”
With that hiccup behind them, Miller shipped Carrythetorchman and the rest of his stable from Florida to Pennsylvania’s Wingate Farm uncertain when the horses would be able to qualify. With efforts to contain the coronavirus closing racetracks across North America, Wingate improvised, like many training centers throughout the country.
“With COVID-19, it was just one of those things that we had to come up with a new solution. We couldn’t go anywhere to get qualified, so we came up with the next best plan,” Miller said. “I saw it coming when we left Florida, PA is shut down, things aren’t moving, so we better see if we can get our farm OK’d to qualify. That worked out good. We had a couple weeks of qualifiers that got things going.”
Carrythetorchman was one of the horses who benefited, qualifying at home over the five-eighths-mile track at Wingate June 15. He led his field of four gate-to-wire, stopping the clock in 1:59.2 with a :28 final quarter.
Nine days later, Miller was able to ship to Pocono for a second qualifying race. Carrythetorchman left from post eight and utilized a :28.2 last quarter to power away from the field to win by 10-3/4 lengths in 1:57.
“He did really well. Because of training and knowing what kind of horse he was, we wanted to get a little faster mile in him there that day than what he did (at the farm) and expose him a little more. We did that and he just handled it really well,” Miller said.
Carrythetorchman debuted July 6 at Yonkers, 20 minutes after American Courage posted a blowout 7-1/4 length win in the first MGM Springfield Stakes elimination in 1:55.2. Carrythetorchman left in between horses and glided to the front reaching the backstretch the first time. Driver Scott Zeron was simply a passenger as Carrythetorchman cruised home a 1-1/2 length winner in 1:55.4.
Carrythetorchman drew post position three in the MGM Springfield Stakes final and at 9-5, is the second choice on the morning line. American Courage will start from post four with Matt Kakaley as the 8-5 morning line favorite.
“(American Courage) looked really sharp in his qualifier for this race, too. We just have to see how it plays out,” said Miller, who wasn’t sure what will happen when the two unbeaten colts face each other Monday night.
Crystal Beach, a son of Art Major-Gold Beach, drew post two in the final and is a 20-1 morning line after finishing nine lengths behind American Courage last week. Crystal Beach left hard from post five in his elimination, but was denied the lead by Major Makover and was forced to take back into third heading to the quarter. With Crystal Beach keen in the hole, driver Marcus Miller angled to the outside turning into the stretch the first time and brushed to the top before being forced to yield again as American Courage forged to the lead at 1-5.
“(Crystal Beach) really raced well the other day, but he was moved a lot, so it’s hard to tell how much he will go when he gets a nicer trip, maybe not used up quite as hard,” Miller said. “He’s also a very handy horse and gets around a half really good.”
Crystal Beach was a $36,000 purchase from the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and is owned by Miller and Tanah Merah Farm. Crystal Beach impressed training down and won his first qualifying race by 7-3/4 lengths at Wingate June 15 before finishing second behind Carrythetorchman June 24 at Pocono ahead of his debut in the Springfield elimination.
“He’s been a really nice horse. He’s always trained like just a top, top colt. When you’re getting ready to race them, sometimes you don’t get quite what you expect or quite as much as you thought they trained like,” Miller said. “His biggest attribute is he’s just so handy, he’s very handy on a half-mile racetrack.”
Not Today is also 20-1 on the morning line after drawing post six and will employ the driving services of Jason Bartlett. A $77,000 purchase at the Standardbred Horse Sale last fall, Not Today is owned by Michael Anderson, Louis Willinger, and George Golemes.
Not Today (Art Major-Wenditions) was second behind Crystal Beach June 15, but won his trial at Pocono June 24 by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:58.4. He finished seventh, 10 lengths behind American Courage in an overnight at Pocono June 30 before his fourth-place effort in the Springfield elimination last week.
“He’s a little bit more of an immature horse, not quite as mature as the other two, but he’s a little bigger, stronger horse. Hopefully at some point, he’ll catch up to the other guys a little bit,” Miller said.
Town Gossip, Victory Move, Coalition Hanover, and Major Makover complete the lineup for the MGM Springfield Stakes final, carded as the fourth of eight races Monday night.
“I think it’s a nice race to have. With everything going on, it’s nice for the 2-year-olds to be able to race for $100,000 right now,” Miller said. “With all the COVID-19, all the races being cut, and schedules being redone, it’s nice to still have this race.”
The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights until July 17. Beginning the week of July 20, the schedule will add Saturday nights as the track returns to its normal five night per week schedule through Dec. 19. First post time is 7:05 p.m.