Former claimer seeks Graduate glory

by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Ken Weingartner

Freehold, NJ — Winbak Speed, in the words of trainer and co-owner Wayne Givens, has been a pleasant surprise.

Givens claimed the horse for $30,000 in January 2008 and since then the gelding has accumulated 14 wins and $430,155. This season, the 6-year-old son of Village Jove-Purrfect Kitty has won eight of 14 races, including a sweep of the Presidential Series at the Meadowlands and a leg in the Classic Series.

On Saturday, Winbak Speed will try to win the $210,000 Graduate final at the Meadowlands. Winbak Speed, driven by Ron Pierce, won his elimination race by two lengths over Allamerican Idol in 1:49 last weekend.

“He came out of the race fine and is feeling good,” Givens said. “He’s been real good. I picked him out to be a good $30,000 claimer and we got a pleasant surprise. When I got him, I thought his feet bothered him. I changed his shoes on his front feet. That helped him and he’s just kept getting better.”

Lisa photo

Winbak Speed captured his Graduate elimination in a time of 1:49.

Winbak Speed’s task in the Graduate will not be easy. Bettor Sweet won the other Graduate elimination by pacing the fastest race mile in history for a 4-year-old, 1:47.2. The time eclipsed the mark of 1:47.3 shared by Jenna’s Beach Boy (1996) and Lis Mara (2006). The fastest mile of 1:47 for a 4-year-old pacer was established in a time trial by Jereme’s Jet in 2007.

“That was a big mile,” Givens said. “That kind of opens your eyes. Hopefully, he can beat them.”

Winbak Speed, originally named Winbak Paul, was purchased as a yearling for $15,000 at the SUNY-Morrisville Sale in 2004 by Mickey Peterson and Ed Ercolani. He finished third in the 2006 Max Hempt Memorial at Pocono Downs and was a winner on the New York Sire Stakes circuit.

After Givens claimed the horse in 2008, he raced primarily in Delaware and at Harrah’s Chester, south of Philadelphia. He never again saw the claiming ranks and won his first three races for Givens before tasting action in Junior Open, Open, Preferred, and Invitational events.

“If you put them back in the same (claiming) class, they usually get claimed right back,” Givens said. “I like to be able to keep a horse for a few weeks to see what they are.”

At the end of last December, Givens sent Winbak Speed to the Meadowlands, where he lost by a nose to Boulder Creek in a Preferred event. He won his next four in a row at the Big M, including the Presidential sweep.

Following the Graduate, Winbak Speed will return to action in the Classic Series. Givens hopes the horse gets an invite to the Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park and then will focus on the remainder of the stakes season at the Meadowlands.

“I’ve got him staked to everything,” Givens said. “He gets a lot of field time, and that helps when you’ve got a long schedule. I train him a slow mile and go a fast final quarter (mile) and he seems to do real well on that. He gets turned out every day and on his off days he gets turned out all day.

“He’s just a really nice horse to be around.”

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