Backtrack, a USTA newsroom feature that will look back at memorable races and performances, will appear Tuesdays and Fridays in April.
Hightstown, NJ — On Oct. 19, 2013, Foiled Again held off all challengers in a furious stretch drive to win the Breeders Crown Open Pace by a nose over Pet Rock in the slop at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. With the victory, the then 9-year-old gelding became the oldest horse ever to capture a Breeders Crown.
Winning driver Yannick Gingras recently looked back at that memorable performance and the memorable Foiled Again.
Foiled Again’s eight rivals in the 2013 Breeders Crown Open Pace were (in alphabetical order) Bolt The Duer, Clear Vision, Golden Receiver, Michael’s Power, Modern Legend, Pet Rock, Sweet Lou, and Warrawee Needy.
In January, Sweet Lou was named among this year’s horses elected to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Michael’s Power was Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2012 and Warrawee Needy and Modern Legend both also received an O’Brien Award during their careers. Every horse with the exceptions of Modern Legend and Golden Receiver set or equaled world records in their careers. Golden Receiver earned $2.21 million lifetime.
“The group he beat in the Breeders Crown, you had great horses in there,” Gingras said. “I think it was as good a group as ever. He was beating very quality fields every time out. There were so many good ones.
“That win in the Breeders Crown, he took on all comers. He had Pet Rock on his back and Warrawee Needy second over; those are tremendous horses that had the right trips. It’s not like he beat them because they had bad trips. He beat them because he was better. He didn’t luck into that win or anything like that.”
Foiled Again, trained by Ron Burke, was already the richest pacer in history in the fall of 2013. He began that year in the Levy Memorial Series, winning three preliminary rounds and finishing second in the final. Other early-season Grand Circuit action saw him third in the Molson Pace and second in the Roll With Joe before — in what proved to be a bit of foreshadowing — winning the Ben Franklin Pace by a nose over Pet Rock in the slop at Pocono on June 29.
Following the Franklin, Foiled Again, who often went through difficult stretches in the summer, endured an eight-race losing streak. He snapped the skid with a victory in an elimination for the Quillen Memorial on Sept. 9 at Harrington Raceway and finished second in the final. He then won the Kane Memorial Invitational at Batavia and his elimination for the Breeders Crown.
“Every year in the summer he would fall off a little bit,” Gingras said. “That year, the part where he wasn’t quite as sharp wasn’t as long as other years. He definitely was on top of his game (for the Breeders Crown).
“I had confidence in the horse, I thought he had a great chance to win it. With Foiled, he could do it the rough way, but you had to have a good post to be able to be first over, to be able to get to the front. He liked to take on challengers and fight them off. I just had to make sure I could get in a spot where he could fight. He didn’t care if he was chasing or being chased, he just liked being in contention and being able to show his grit.”
Foiled Again started from post two. Bolt The Duer, Golden Receiver, and Pet Rock rocketed off the gate and battled for the lead in an opening quarter of :25.3. Foiled Again got away fourth and before the dust had time to settle was on the move. He took the lead from Pet Rock on the second turn but was unable to clear his rival and drop to the inside until just prior to the halfway point.
Once in front, Foiled Again faced pressure up the backstretch from Modern Legend.
“After getting away fourth, I was committed,” Gingras said. “You have to make your move to the front and hope you make it there because they were really pacing, they were going so fast. If you don’t make it, you’re going to be first up and now you’re carrying the back group into the race. I was happy when I was able to make the front, it was a little bit of a relief.
“But then there was somebody coming right at me right away. (Modern Legend) took it to me too. It wasn’t like he was just riding first over, he was taking a shot. We were pacing, that’s for sure.”
Coming around the final turn, Foiled Again still had Modern Legend to his outside and Warrawee Needy was three wide. As the group turned for home, Pet Rock edged toward the inside passing lane and it looked as though Foiled Again would be swallowed by a sea of horses.
“That’s the way it felt on the track, too,” Gingras said. “Here comes the cavalry, they were coming from everywhere. (Foiled Again) was going all out from start to finish. At the top of the stretch, you start wondering if it was going to be too much, at some point he’s going to stop. But he was just so game.”
Foiled Again prevailed in the tightest of photo finishes in a time of 1:49.2.
“I knew Pet Rock was coming on the inside and he was fairly fresh,” Gingras said. “He got used during the first quarter, but he sat on my back the rest of the way. I really thought he would be the one beating me but Foiled just refused to lose.
“Neither one of us knew who won, it was just that close,” Gingras added, referring to Pet Rock’s driver David Miller. “Of course, you’re hoping, but I’d be lying if I told you I knew I had it.”
Foiled Again raced four times following the Breeders Crown, finishing second to Pet Rock in both the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby and American-National before closing his campaign with wins in the last preliminary round of the TVG Series and the TVG Series Open Pace championship, which included 3-year-old Captaintreacherous in the field.
Over his final nine starts of 2013, he posted six wins and three seconds.
“If I had to pinpoint one part of his career when he was the best, I think it would have been around that time,” Gingras said. “It might have been the time he was sharpest and most dominant. Not dominant in terms of beating them by a lot, but he was getting the job done. It was a great ride.”
For the year, Foiled Again won 11 of 29 races and $1.40 million. He received the Dan Patch Award for best older male pacer, marking the third consecutive year he earned the honor, equaling the record set by Rambling Willie in the mid-1970s. He finished second to Captaintreacherous in balloting for Pacer of the Year.
By the end of his career, Foiled Again had won 109 races and $7.63 million in purses. His earnings are the most in the history of harness racing and his win total ranks eighth among all pacers. He was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2019.
And of all his wins, Gingras puts the Breeders Crown at the top.
“That race is my favorite because of the horse, of course, and the way he did it,” Gingras said. “I’ve won maybe bigger races and there were other races with him that were special to me, like the (2012) Canadian Pacing Derby, but if I had to pick one that was my favorite, it’s definitely that race. It’s just a special race for me.”