Trainer in love with Splendid Kisser

from Harness Racing Communications, a division of the USTA

Freehold, NJ — Jeff Stafford always believed Splendid Kisser had talent, just never luck. The pacer raced only once prior to his 4-year-old season because of stress fractures to a knee and cannon bone. Now, he seems intent on making up for lost time.

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Splendid Kisser was a 1:50.1 winner in the $46,300 SportsNet New York final.

Earlier this month, Splendid Kisser won the $46,300 SportsNet New York final in 1:50.1 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. It was his sixth victory in eight starts this year and pushed his earnings to $72,180 for trainer Jeff Stafford and breeder-owner White Birch Farm. Driven by Yannick Gingras, the horse has finished no worse than third in any race.

“He’s always been a nice horse,” Stafford said. “I really liked him as a 2-year-old; I thought he was a 1:52 pacer as a 2-year-old. The owner gave him plenty of time and let me do what I had to do and it’s worked out, so far. He didn’t need surgery, just time. Between both things he probably had a good six to eight months in the stall. We just hand-walked him and stuff like that. It’s been a long, hard road with him, but it’s paying off now.

“Knock on wood, he’s staying sound and healthy right now. He’ll keep improving, too, I think.”

Splendid Kisser is a son of Bettor’s Delight out of the mare Collecting Kisses, whose eight career wins included the 1998 Blossom Series final in a lifetime best 1:54. Collecting Kisses’ mother, Lovepat Hanover, was a full sister to 1982 Little Brown Jug winner Merger.

Easygoing by nature, Splendid Kisser’s demeanor might have aided him on the road to recovery.

“Sure, he’s a lot calmer; he’s not in the stall raising hell,” Stafford said. “Probably five or six hours out of every day he’s lying down sleeping and you can’t get him up. He takes good care of himself, so that’s a plus. He’s real easy on himself. He’s the nicest horse you’d ever want to be around. You can do anything you want with him; a 5-year-old kid could jog him. He jogs about three miles an hour, but when he gets out there in a race, he knows what he’s doing.”

Splendid Kisser has only one stakes race remaining on his schedule, the Canadian Pacing Derby in August at Mohawk Racetrack.

“He’ll just work his way up and we’ll see what happens,” Stafford said. “I think before it’s all said and done you’ll see this colt win in 1:49. I’m not saying he’s going to beat all the good, good horses. But, who knows, by then he might be good and they might not be. It’s a shot you’ve got to take.”

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