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Elliott ponders life after Donato Hanover
Friday, November 23, 2007 - by Ellen Harvey, Harness Racing Communications

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Freehold, NJ --- Just shy of Thanksgiving, trainer Steve Elliott took some time out to reflect on the imminent departure of Donato Hanover from his stable, and the colt’s domination of his peers over the past two seasons.

“I’ve got mixed emotions,” said Elliott, “but it’ll probably hit me some time in January, when I look down the shed row and he’s not there.

 

 USTA photo

 Steve Elliott

“It’s been a pleasure to have a horse like this in the barn and I’m very fortunate they (the owners) gave me him to train. Good horses make trainers look good. I’ve just been very fortunate to have a lot of good horses in the barn. I always said I didn’t think I’d get one better than Valley Victory (heavily favored in the 1989 Hambletonian before sickness ended his career) and I think I did. Taking nothing away from Valley Victory; different time, different era, this horse is very, very strong.”

Asked if he thought he might ever get a horse to eclipse the accomplishments of Donato Hanover, Elliott was firm.

“No. It was like David Scharf (co-owner of Donato Hanover) said earlier, you go to these yearling sales and look at these babies, you’re going to do the best you can, but he’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse. I’ve had two of them in my lifetime. I’m already over my limit. I’ve had more good horses in a year than most trainers have had in a lifetime. I’ve been very, very fortunate.”

Elliott now has Donato’s yearling half sister, D Liteful Hanover, to train, but he’s quite sure he would not have spent the sum necessary to buy her.

“I didn’t (buy her), the owners did. I wouldn’t spend $325,000 for any horse,” he laughed. “It’s as simple as that.”

Elliott is not ready to assume that the filly will have the same attributes as her big brother.

“She’s a nice filly. She broke very well,” Elliott said. “But my brother’s a preacher. We’re different. We can’t see inside these horses, they come from anywhere, so price is irrelevant to whether you’ve got a good horse or not. Artistic Fella (an Elliott trainee who’s won $1.6 million) cost $13,000 and he’s a very, very good horse. I think that what they spend for them is what the market dictates and people allow themselves to spend. When I go down the shed row, I don’t look at one as being better because it cost more. They’re all individuals, they’re all horses. To me, the price has nothing to do with who they are or what they become.”

Elliott is most thankful for the successful year that Donato Hanover has headlined, but emphasizes he’s optimistic about the future as well.

“There’s Lady Annie (a 2-year-old pacing filly), she’s six-for-six this year. We’ve had a good run this year. Good help, good horses, good owners. They make any trainer look good. I’m just a normal guy that’s been blessed with a lot of good horses.”

Elliott thinks the passage of time has helped him prepare for the success of the past year.

“You know, I think with youth comes exuberance and you get a little stupid at times,” he said. “Now I’ve got experience and you see how things go and how quickly things can happen. Valley Victory was on top of the world and the next week, he was a has-been basically. When you’re dealing with living animals, you’ve got to know that these things can happen. You’ve got to learn to set yourself up for that, as well as the good times, because every race could be their last race.”


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