Trenton, NJ — Owner Richard Gutnick and trainer Linda Toscano enjoyed special Breeders Crown successes from 2011-2013 and hope to relive those feelings this weekend with Lady Chaos.
Whether or not that happens, their special relationship will remain intact.
Lady Chaos is in the $600,000 Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old filly trotters at Harrah’s Hoosier Park on Friday. She has five wins in nine starts, including the Kentucky Sire Stakes championship, and was second in the Peaceful Way Stakes.
It is the most talented horse owned by Gutnick — who shares ownership with partners Tom Pontone, Joseph Lozito Jr. and Enviro Stables — to enter the race since his previous Breeders Crown champs.
“She’s got such talent,” said Gutnick, whose horse is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. “I’m just enjoying the ride. She’s the best horse I’ve had since Chapter Seven and Market Share.”
Chapter Seven won the Breeders Crown 3-year-old colt-and-gelding trot in 2011 and Open Trot in 2012, while Market Share won the Open Trot in 2013. In 2012, Chapter Seven was Horse of the Year and Market Share won the Hambletonian.
Toscano trained both after she and Gutnick first started working together in 2008.
From there, a partnership became so much more.
“She and I consider each other friends first, and then I consider her my trainer,” Gutnick said. “It probably took me a year after I first started with her to earn her respect and convince her I knew what I was talking about.
“At times Linda will call and ask me what I want to do. I have often said, Linda you know exactly the way I think. You didn’t even have to ask me.”
The two often plan strategy together and, on the rare occasions they disagree, a solution is usually inevitable.
“As far as I’m concerned, the person who works with the horse should have the final say 95 percent of the time,” Gutnick said. “I have enough confidence in Linda. I always have.”
It was Toscano, a six-time Breeders Crown winner and Hall of Famer, who brought Lady Chaos to Gutnick’s attention when he was looking around at some different fillies.
“She didn’t tell me that she loved it or anything else at that time, she just said, maybe you should go look,” Gutnick said. “I went and looked, and I loved her. When I watched the video and everything else, I told Linda, OK, we’re going to go up to X amount of dollars. I was standing right next to her. I always give her some leeway. I’m not always good at bidding at auctions. I’m the type that bids against myself.”
The purchase was made for $125,000 at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, when the daughter of Cantab Hall-Strong Legacy was named Tiger Mom Lindy. Before Toscano went to work, that moniker changed.
“When we bought her, I told Tommy the first thing that goes is her name and he agreed,” Gutnick said.
Thus, Richard decided to name the horse after — his wife?
What, pray tell, did Suzanne Gutnick ever do to be associated with chaos?
Her husband chuckled, saying, “I told her one of these days someone is going to ask how we got that name. Let’s just say my wife lacks some organizational skills. I’ve always seemed to have luck if I named something for my wife and I always thought that name fit her like a glove.
“She’s a sweetheart, don’t get me wrong,” he added. “The funny part is, she’s always liked the name and she’s laughed about it also. I always tell her when her namesake is racing and that I felt she is one of the top two 2-year-old fillies in the country.
“This one is learning. She has the innate ability to be a top filly and hopefully go forward. We’ll take very good care of her, needless to say.”
With David Miller driving, the horse flashed her potential in a qualifier at The Meadowlands.
“Linda told a few people how nice the horse was, but she also had told David she didn’t want to leave with the horse, she wanted to come off the pace,” Gutnick said. “In Linda’s words, ‘After she got shuffled back to last, I said where are we going? I can’t believe I told people how nice she is.’
“Then, all of a sudden, she exploded on her own and went :26.4 in the last quarter and just lost by a head in that baby race to Ineffable, who was a $600,000 buy. That’s when I knew, with the proper tutelage by Linda and David, that we had a top filly.
“She does everything really easily. The only negative she has is, I guess she’s still immature mentally in the sense that when she gets in front, she believes the race is over. That’s why, to me, she’s much better off the pace.”
After a tough early race in Kentucky, the horse rebounded and began to show her ability.
“As with all horses we had some ups and downs,” Gutnick said. “She had allergies. So that cost her in one race and then the last race at the Red Mile she went off at 3-5 (odds). When she came out of it, she was very sick. Linda and I had to decide if we wanted to race her the following week or not.
“She was hoping to get her ready, and then she called and said she thought the horse needed that week off. I was all for it. My philosophy is always to do what’s best for the horse. That always ends up best for me in the long run.”
It turned out to be the right move. After a three-week break, Lady Chaos won her Breeders Crown elimination by overtaking Presto down the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:54.2 on a sloppy surface. Gutnick feels the horse should be even tighter entering the final.
“I was happy that she got the five post,” Gutnick said. “I didn’t want the rail. I preferred the three, four or five. Even statistically the six is better than the one. That gives Dave Miller the opportunity to race her whatever way he feels is best and to avoid any type of trouble.”
However it turns out, Gutnick knows his filly is in good hands with his good friend.
“Linda is top-notch at getting a horse ready,” he said. “When you have someone like that in your corner, you can’t go wrong.”
Harrah’s Hoosier Park hosts the four $600,000 Breeders Crown finals for 2-year-olds on Friday. The remaining eight finals, for 3-year-olds and older horses, are Saturday. Racing begins at 6 p.m. (EDT) both nights.
The 2020 Breeders Crown, presented by the Libfeld-Katz Breeding Partnership, is the 37th edition of the $6 million event. Harrah’s Hoosier Park will provide a free live high-definition streaming of the races on YouTube.
Following is the field for Friday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown 2-year-old filly trot final.
1-Ima Diamond Babe-James Yoder-James Yoder-30/1
2-Iteration-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-6/1
3-Splash Blue Chip-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-15/1
4-Mazzarati-Tim Tetrick-Lucas Wallin-5/1
5-Lady Chaos-David Miller-Linda Toscano-5/2
6-Hello I Love You-Joe Bongiorno-Tony Alagna-15/1
7-Big City Pearl-Verlin Yoder-James Yoder-30/1
8-Swift Swanda-Trace Tetrick-Erv Miller-9/2
9-Gotta Believe-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15/1
10-Presto-Yannick Gingras-Ake Svanstedt-4/1
Presto starts from the second tier.