Hightstown, NJ — Stephen Larkin owns only one racehorse, but when the horse is Atta Boy Dan, one is not such a lonely number. In fact, the number is quite common when looking at Atta Boy Dan’s past performances, as in first-place finishes.
Atta Boy Dan led all harness racing horses in the U.S. in wins last year with 19. He was named both the Claimer of the Year and Pacer of the Year at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, becoming the first horse in recent memory to receive double honors in the same season.
For his career, the now 11-year-old gelding, who was slowed by a coffin joint injury in 2017, has won 71 of 200 starts and is approaching $1 million in purses.
“What he did last year was amazing,” Larkin said. “The thing I love about him the most, he just gives his best every week. He’s never had a bad week. He gets a lot of tough trips, but he’s always trying down the stretch. He has great heart. He is a great horse.”
Larkin claimed Atta Boy Dan this past September for $40,000. It was the 14th consecutive start the horse was claimed. During that span, Atta Boy Dan won 11 times, was second twice and third once.
“I’ve never seen a horse change barns that many times, at that age and that caliber, and win every week anyway,” said Pete Pellegrino, who trains Atta Boy Dan for Larkin. “He’s just an honest horse that loves to do it. He’s just as tough as they come. He’s an iron horse.”
Since acquiring Atta Boy Dan, his new connections have put him in conditioned races (some with an optional claiming tag) with the hopes of keeping him for as long as possible. He has raced 14 times for Pellegrino and Larkin, winning three times and earning a check 12 times on his way to $40,455.
Atta Boy Dan, who has earned $959,452 lifetime, is entered Saturday in a conditioned race at The Meadowlands. He is 9-2 on the morning line with Corey Callahan in the sulky.
“He’s been hard luck the last bunch of weeks; first over, first over, first over,” Pellegrino said. “Last week, he was first over at the half and they went (1):48.3 and he finished third. But he works right to the wire. You think he’s done and in mid-stretch, here he comes again.”
Larkin, a Massachusetts resident who works as a corrections counselor for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, got his first horse in the mid-1990s.
“My father owned horses a long time ago,” Larkin said. “In 1995, I moved to New York (for work). I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have any hobbies, and I ended up going to Monticello Raceway to pass some time. I ended up claiming some horses; that’s how I met Pete.”
Larkin was attracted to Atta Boy Dan because of his back class. The gelding’s top win came in 2015 in the Robert J. Kane Memorial at Batavia Downs and he finished second in that year’s Gold Cup and Saucer on Prince Edward Island. Overall in 2015, he won 18 races and was named both the Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year at The Meadows while racing in the stable of trainer Ron Burke.
“He speaks for himself,” Pellegrino said. “What you see is what you get. He’s just an unbelievable horse.”
Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at The Meadowlands. For complete entries, click here.