Trainer-driver tandems are keys to success

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Ted Black

March 25th, 2015

In the early days of harness racing, trainers typically drove their own horses. But in the modern era of the sport, a time frame that spans 40 years or so, trainers often yield the driving chores to catch drivers and many of these "teams" have performed exceptionally well in lucrative stakes at major tracks and even in the overnight races at some of the smaller scale ovals.

Those standardbred fans who follow racing closely at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland have certainly noticed an obvious trend on the Tuesday cards. Two of the more prolific trainer-driver tandems are Brian Callahan and Brandon Henley and John McIntrye and Roger Plante, Jr. Just this past Tuesday evening, McIntrye and Plante combined to win three races while Callahan and Henley teamed up to win twice, including two of the first three races on the card and their "hat trick" bid was spoiled by a McIntyre-Plante winner.

In the opening race on the card, a non-winners of $6000 last five starts class for older pacers, I Wanna Go Fast (Henley) descended from the tough Open 2 and lived up to his role as the 8-5 favorite to lead throughout and score by a length over Bellator (Corey Braden) in 1:51.1. An eight-year-old Three Olives gelding trained by Callahan and co-owned by Gloria Kinnamon, I Wanna Go Fast did just that as he notched his first win in three starts this year and now owns 27 wins and career earnings of nearly $275,000 from 97 lifetime outings.

Two races later on the card Callahan and Henley teamed up to score with Private Interview in a $5000 claiming event. An eight-year-old Real Artist gelding that Callahan owns and trains, Private Interview notched his third win in as many starts this year when he brushed to command before the half and then held safe 3-5 choice Killean Cut Kid (Jonathan Roberts) to score in 1:53. Private Interview won only twice in 23 starts last year, but eclipsed that win total on Tuesday with his early season hat trick.

Then just before the midway point of the card Celia Hall (Plante) overcame two moves to capture a non-winners of $6000 last five starts class for trotters. A six-year-old Cash Hall mare trained by McIntrye for owner William Sartin, Celia Hall left to secure good early position, got shuffled to third before the half, angled out first over and grinded her way toward the leader on the far turn and then overhauled McKenzie's Star (Fern Paquet, Jr.) in the lane to score in 1:55.4 for her first win in three seasonal outings.

Then two races later Plante steered Happy Feet Too to a determined victory in a non-winners of $6500 last five starts class for pacing fillies and mares for McIntrye and Sartin. This five-year daughter of Art Major left alertly, yielded to Madges Lil Fortune (Paquet) before before the half, sat a loose pocket through the far turn, angled out at the head of the lane and went by late to prevail in 1:53. The teletimer malfunctioned before the start, so this race would eventually be hand-timed and the final clocking appears a few ticks fast.

Then one race later on the card the Callahan-Henley team and McIntyre-Plante tandem settled the score for the top squad on the card. Lyons Meandragon (Plante) gained the early advantage then yielded to Quik Magic (Henley) before the half. Quik Magic led the field to the top of the lane where Lyons Meandragon angled to the passing lane and overhauled the leader late to score in 1:52.1. Again the teletimer malfunction and this race was also hand-timed, although this clocking appears a few ticks slow.

Lyons Meandragon has now won twice in three starts at the meet and should once again be on the short list of finalists for the spring horse of the meet title. Last fall the McIntyre trainee won the Open 2 four times en route to being selected as the fall meet champion by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. Quik Magic has been second in each of his two local starts for Callahan and owner Michael Puff.

But the most historic aspect of the card occurred one race later when Beammeupscottie (Frank Milby) benefited from patient handling and then closed willingly in the passing lane to capture a non-winners of $4000 last five starts class in 1:54. Trained by Callahan for Kinnamon, Beammeupscottie notched his second win in three starts at the meet. But more significantly, it was the 2000th driving victory for Milby, who was presented with a sign designating the milestone by Rosecroft Director of Operations Lisa Watts.