by Jennifer Daniels, the U.S. Trotting Association
Columbus, OH — Seven trotters will switch their sulkies for a saddle as they line up for a $10,000 race under saddle on Sunday evening (July 15) at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs. The non-betting race is sanctioned by the USTA and the purse is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association.
Leading the field is Keepin The Chips, a 5-year-old gelding who is a regular competitor in overnight events at Pocono Downs, where he competes for trainer/owner Brooke Vermett. Keepin The Chips competed in an under saddle event at Goshen Historic Track on July 1, where he won and set a world record for trotting on a half-mile track of 2:00.3. The existing world record for trotting under saddle on a five-eighths-mile track is 2:03.3.
The switch from sulky to saddle was more of an accident than a strategic training move, says trainer Brooke Vermett.
“He’s a bit of a handful on the track,” she said. “I found out that Jenny (rider Jenny Melander, a staff member of the John Butenschoen Stable) was riding and we moved to the same farm as her (Wingate Training Center in Wind Gap, Pa.). I asked her if she could just work with him a little bit, maybe calm him down and get some exercise in him. She loved him and asked if she could ride him (in the under saddle race) and I said, ‘No problem.’ Now they are inseparable.
“He’s a lot happier under saddle. Jenny rides when she has the time or when he has to train, she does come over and train him under saddle. We’re shooting towards the under saddle race on Hambletonian Day (August 4 at The Meadowlands).”
The full field, with riders, which will go to post at about 7:50 p.m.
1. Lemon Pepper-Jennifer Lowrey
2. Keepin The Chips–Jenny Melander
3. My Irish Molly–Jocelyn Lavigne
4. Armbro Doyle–Helene Gregory
5. Dreamnwillie–Whitney Richards
6. Saver–Andrea Pratt
7. Swatissimo–Jennifer Connor
Future under saddle events are: August 4–Meadowlands Racetrack, purse $15,000; September 3, Tioga Downs, purse $5,000; September 7, Vernon Downs, purse $5,000; September 22, Yonkers Raceway, purse TBA; September 29, Freehold Raceway, est. purse $5,000; and September 30, The Red Mile, est. purse $5,000.
The USTA licenses riders and promulgates regulations for races under saddle. For more information, contact Jennifer Daniels at 877.800.8782, ext. 3281, or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.