Hightstown, NJ — Anoka Hanover might not have been the hardest working horse in harness racing last season, but as far as Dan Patch Award winning 2-year-old trotters over a span of almost 25 years, she was nearly at the top.
The Noel Daley-trained Anoka Hanover won 10 of 14 starts in 2020 and captured the Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old female trotter. Going back to 1997 only one 2-year-old Dan Patch Award winning trotter — female or male — exceeded 13 races, the filly Check Me Out, who won 14 of 16 in 2011. The most recent 2-year-old male trotter to surpass 13 starts was Malabar Man, who won 13 of 15 races in 1996.
“Fourteen starts are a lot to give a 2-year-old, but she was as good or better at the end than she was early,” Daley said. “She was never the prettiest gaited horse. But she had a good attitude, a good head on her. I was very happy with the way her year progressed.”
Anoka Hanover won the final seven races of her campaign, capping it with a triumph in the Goldsmith Maid on Nov. 21 at The Meadowlands. Other victories during that span included the Kindergarten Classic Series championship and divisions of the Bluegrass, International Stallion, and Simpson stakes.
She was the richest 2-year-old filly trotter, with $587,758 in purses, and the fastest, with a mark of 1:52.3 set in November’s Kindergarten final at The Meadowlands.
“I think she rose to the top at the end of it, but there was plenty of depth in that division,” Daley said. “I think she stepped it up and, which they often do, a few of the others had sort of had enough. She just seemed to have the physical attributes and mental attributes to. She always showed plenty of talent. She’s a strong filly. She’s not overly big, she’s medium sized but well built.
“They all change from (age) 2 to 3. Sometimes, they only have one good season in them. But she ended her year good and, to me, that’s always a healthy sign. I expect her to come back and have a good year.”
Todd McCarthy, a 27-year-old Australia native who was in his first season of racing in North America, picked up the drive behind Anoka Hanover for her last seven starts. McCarthy’s brother, Andy, had been driving the filly but had other commitments.
“I was a little worried about putting Todd on,” Daley said. “Obviously, I knew he’s a very good driver, but he really didn’t have any experience with young trotters. He aced it with her. He was really patient with her. In his first start, she put in a step and he didn’t panic and steadied her up. He did a great job with her.”
Daley purchased Anoka Hanover, a daughter of Donato Hanover out of Aunt Mel, for $35,000 at the 2019 Standardbred Horse Sale. During the racing season, he owned the filly with L.A. Express Stable and Caviart Farms. At the completion of the campaign, Crawford Farms Racing joined the ownership group.
As part of her offseason, Anoka Hanover had chips removed from both hind ankles.
“They might have been there all year, I don’t know,” Daley said. “Hopefully, she comes back even better.”
Anoka Hanover was not eligible to the Breeders Crown at age 2 but is eligible this year.
“People ask me if I was upset not being in the Breeders Crown, but I couldn’t be in everything,” Daley said. “I would have had to miss something else somewhere. Basically, she made more than $300,000 in her last two starts. It worked out OK.”