by Paul Ramlow, assistant publicity director, The U.S. Trotting Association
In the opening heat of the $175,950 Futurity, Strong Yankee (6) took advantage of torrid fractions to cross the finish line first in a stunning time of 1:50.3.
In the opening heat of the $175,950 Futurity, Strong Yankee took advantage of torrid fractions to cross the finish line first in a stunning time of 1:50.3. That clocking was just a fifth of a second off the world mark of 1:50.2 set by Tom Ridge in 2004. Brian Sears was the driver for trainer Trond Smedshammer and the Strong Yankee Stable, the owners of the Muscles Yankee colt.
Classic Photo (Ron Pierce) was the early leader in the race, taking the field to the opening panel in :26.3. He yielded to Ken Warkentin, who reached the half-mile marker in :53.4. Classic Photo was back out and charging hard to the lead at the three-quarter pole, which was reached in 1:22.3. Turning for home, Classic Photo was still on top, but he could not withstand the charge of Strong Yankee, who completed the mile in the 1:50.3 clocking. Longshot Sir Perseverance (George Brennan) also rallied late and finished second, one length behind the winner, while Classic Photo had to settle for third. Self Professed (Tyler Stillings) was fourth and Hambletonian champion Vivid Photo (who was second over at the three-quarter pole), could only muster a fifth place finish.
“The way the race set up was perfect for us,” said trainer Trond Smedshammer. “The horse has just got better and more fit throughout the year.”
Vivid Photo (1) held off Sir Perseverance (8) and Classic Photo (5) to win the 2nd heat of the Futurity.
In the second heat, Roger Hammer and Todd Schadel’s Vivid Photo held off a strong challenge from Sir Perseverance to reach the wire first in a time of 1:52.1. Owner/trainer Hammer was in the bike as the S J’s Photo lad won for the 14th time in 18 season’s starts.
Vivid Photo fired out of the gate from post five and was the leader in a relatively slow first quarter of :29.2. He yielded to Classic Photo, who took the field to the half in :56.4. At this point, Strong Yankee came up on the back of Vivid Photo and forced Hammer to pull his horse to the outside. It turned out to be the winning move. Meanwhile, Classic Photo was still in front at the 1:25.3 three-quarter pole, but he was no match for the winner in the stretch. Vivid Photo still had to hold off a strong challenge from Sir Perseverance to win by a head and pick up the winner’s share of the purse. Classic Photo wound up third, Self Professed was fourth and Strong Yankee ended up fifth.
The outcome of the first two heats set up a race-off between Strong Yankee and Vivid Photo. Brian Sears left quickly from post two with Strong Yankee and cut incredibly fast fractions of :27.2, :54.2 and 1:23. Roger Hammer pulled Vivid Photo off the rail at the three-quarter pole, but it was to no avail. Strong Yankee trotted a final quarter in :28.2 and hit the wire in 1:51.2 to win the race-off by a length and a quarter.
Winning driver Brian Sears and trainer Trond Smedshammer.
“This horse (Strong Yankee) just has a mind of his own,” said driver Sears when asked about the quick fractions.
For trainer Trond Smedshammer, it was his second straight victory in the Kentucky Futurity as his Triple Crown champion Windsong’s Legacy turned the trick in 2004.