by Ellen Harvey, Harness Racing Communications
Freehold, NJ — It was a hockey puck, not a horse, that almost kept Jennifer Connor off a horse this year.
Connor will be riding Admirable Hanover in the $5,000 under saddle race number seven at Goshen Historic Track this Sunday (July 7), but a few months ago that prospect looked doubtful.
“I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in November (2012) and had surgery in January. My blade got caught in the ice and my knee went one way and my pads (Connor is a goalie) went another.
Connor, who played hockey during high school with the Rome (NY) Blades and was captain of the equestrian team at the University of South Carolina’s division I team, took rehabilitation seriously and is now back in the saddle without a twinge.
“I got on a horse (for the first time since the surgery) in May,” said Connor. “Actually, I feel better than I did last year, it’s very strong.”
While Connor, breeding coordinator at Blue Chip Farm, has thousands of miles under saddle, it’s the first season competing under saddle for Admirable Hanover, who has a mark of 1:59.3h and $39,517 in harness.
“This is Peter Gerry’s horse and he asked my dad (trainer Chuck Connor) if we wanted to try him under saddle. He was ridden a little last year and said he seemed to like it, so my dad decided to take a chance and see if he could make him go. He does seem to like it.
“He made a break at Pocono (under saddle) last week. That was the first time I was up behind the car with a large field so he’s still getting used to it. We had to make some changes but he really likes it, he loves it. He wants to go. I have a hard time holding him back.”
Admirable Hanover switches back and forth, trading between a saddle and a harness.
“He does both,” says Connor. “He hasn’t raced in the harness for a while because he did Pocono last weekend and he’s doing Goshen this weekend. He’ll go back in the harness for a week or two and then we’re going to try for the Meadowlands RUS races (on July 19, July 26 and Hambletonian day, August 3).”
Connor will be up in the irons the night before the Goshen race.
“I have another horse, his name is Lets Get Serious N, a New Zealand-bred trotter. I’m actually racing him in Saratoga on Saturday as part of their Back to the Track events.
“I raced him at Pocono as well, but we’re still working out the kinks on him. We had to make a few changes after his race at Pocono, but he seems to like to trot. We missed the gate and he ended up trotting in 2:09. If we can get things worked out, I think he’s going to be good.”
Cartier Field is a diamond in the rough under saddle
Cartier Field (1:57.1, $38,094) will be making his first official start under saddle at Goshen this Sunday, but trainer Michael Miller, whose sister Michelle will ride, said he took to it like an old hand.
“My sister wanted to try it and I said he’d probably be the best horse for it because he’s a nice horse to be around. So she got on him and he went good. She qualified him last week for her license and she got it. I didn’t know if he’d ride, but I figured he would, because he’s that type of horse who doesn’t do anything wrong anyway.”
Miller says the switch to under saddle races seems to have sparked a new-found talent in Cartier Field.
“When she qualified the horse everybody said that horse left off the gate a hundred and never looked back. But when he’s in the bike, he’s not a leaver. The starting car guy said he had all he could do to get out of his way. He’s different under saddle and is usually an off the pace horse.”
Racing takes place at Goshen Historic Track (www.goshenhistorictrack.com) July 6 and 7, post time is 1 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and includes a program, children 12 and under are free. The under saddle race is expected to take place at about 2:30 p.m.