by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications
Freehold, NJ — Horse owner Ed James figures it’s best to do a lot of listening and limit his talking.
So James listened when he was advised that McWicked was the best horse in the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale’s Mixed Sale. And his response was succinct.
“I said, OK I’ll buy him,” James recalled, laughing. “I make it simple.”
James, who races as S S G Stables, bought McWicked for $210,000. He put the 3-year-old pacer in the care of trainer Casie Coleman and the colt has won 11 of 22 races, hit the board a total of 20 times, and earned $1.32 million. His victories include the Breeders Crown, Max C. Hempt Memorial, Delvin Miller Adios, and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship.
On Sunday, McWicked will start from post four with driver David Miller in the $301,560 Progress Pace at Dover Downs in Delaware. McWicked is the 2-1 second choice on the morning line behind 7-5 favorite JK Endofanera, who drew post two with driver Yannick Gingras.
The six-horse Progress Pace field also includes Big Boy Dreams, National Debt, Somewhere In L A, and All Bets Off.
McWicked, who was supplemented to the race for $25,000, won this past Sunday’s $35,000 Progress Pace Preview by two lengths over JK Endofanera in 1:48.4. The stakes record for the Progress Pace is 1:49, set in 2012 by Heston Blue Chip.
“I’ve been in this business for 58 years and never had a horse this good,” the 83-year-old James said about McWicked. “I have no concern at all with him. I trust in the ability he has to be as good as the next best one. I think David gave him a great drive the other night. Hopefully he can do it again.”
James, who is the president of SSG Gloves, purchased McWicked following a 2-year-old campaign in which the colt won three of 10 starts and $179,617 while in the stable of trainer Julie Miller. He turned over the horse to trainer Jim McDonald, who prepped McWicked for his 3-year-old season, and then to Coleman.
“Casie said, ‘This is a real good horse. I can make him a great horse.’ So she did,” James said. “I’m not that smart as far as horses go. But I’m smart as far as people go. And I’m fortunate enough to know good people and I’m fortunate enough that they’ll take my horses. I’ve had very good luck.
“I don’t say much of anything to my trainers, which they appreciate,” he added. “My trainers never hear from me, unless they call me.”
McWicked leads all 3-year-old pacers in earnings, followed by North America Cup winner JK Endofanera, who has banked $1.02 million. Messenger Stakes winner All Bets Off is third on the list, with $911,425. McWicked’s only off-the-board finishes were a fourth in the North America Cup final, after winning his elimination, and a fifth in the Little Brown Jug final.
“He had a little bit of road trouble in the North America Cup, but that’s OK,” James said. “I never did drive, I have no intentions of learning to drive, so I don’t tell anybody how to drive.”
McWicked won seven of eight starts between June 21 and Sept. 7, then was winless in his next seven races before capturing the Breeders Crown on Nov. 22 at the Meadowlands. He has raced on Lasix his three most recent starts, picking up two wins and a second.
“The horse came back to where he was and he’s doing exactly the same thing he used to,” said James, whose other top horses include millionaire Hyperion Hanover. “I thought when we started out the year he’d end up one of the top horses of the year. Now with the slump he had, it may not come out that way. That’s up to the judges.
“I’ll appreciate (divisional honors) if it comes, but mainly for the benefit of the trainers.”
One more stakes event, the Cleveland Classic on Dec. 12 at Northfield Park, remains on the schedule for the 3-year-old male pacers following the Progress Pace. McWicked is not eligible to the race, but could be supplemented for $15,000.
“Casie hasn’t decided if he’s going to race,” James said. “If she wants to race him again after this one, I don’t particularly like half-mile tracks, but that doesn’t mean she can’t race him there if she thinks he’s the best.”