“Three of us bred her,” said Mitchell, a former trainer and amateur driver. “The first gentleman was Peter Hardy who passed away late last week and unfortunately my second partner Steve Tokos, who I owned horses with for 35 years, passed away on Sunday morning (March 3).
“We changed ownership because they were sick and I became partners with both their wives. We had a conversation and asked both ladies if under the circumstances they wanted to part with the horse, so I made them an offer, they accepted and that’s how I came to have her myself.
“We weren’t big breeders but we bred a couple and another colt we bred, Gotthejobdonemate, raced the same night at Saratoga. Both horses jogged and we were talking about Steve and what had happened in the paddock.”
|Dave Oxford photo|
|Betterluvnexttime won her fifth straight race March 3, scoring in 1:55.3 in the Mares Open at Saratoga.|
A 5-year-old daughter of American Ideal and the Walton Hanover mare Darriwillian Girl, Betterluvnexttime was named after a country song Mitchell heard on the radio and sports a record of 48-17-10-6 with $191,547 in the bank and a mark of 1:52.1. She was a perfect two for two as a 2-year-old and as a 3-year-old won $28,208 from a resume of 16-2-3-3. The mare seemed to blossom last year at age four with eight wins, seven seconds and three thirds from 24 starts and purse money of $116,906.
This year, Betterluvnexttime is five for six and has already won $42,000.
“When she was ready to go I told Steve I wanted to bring her to Michigan and have my guy Al Tomlinson break her and train her down,” said Mitchell, who is from Saratoga Springs but resides in Novi, Mich. “I went down and picked her up from Sally Shaffer down at Autumn Leaf Farm in Ohio, as she was taking care of her for us, but at two she had open knees so we got her ready late in the year and she jogged in both her races at Windsor.
“When she was three I sent her up to Canada for a series, but we rushed her to try to get her ready for those good mares up there and she got a little sore, so we turned her out. It really gave her a chance to grow and develop, as well as allowing all the little aches and pains to go away. When she came back, she was just a different horse.
“Then I stopped with her last year and decided to turn her out again last summer for no reason, as she did well and made quite a bit of money up in Canada, but since she’s come back, she’s been a gorilla. I think she’s won 10 of her last 13 races.”
Mitchell feels there are two reasons his mare has enjoyed a successful career.
“She has a great attitude,” he said. “She is a little horse, but has a huge stride and wears a hobble that a much bigger horse would wear. You can also do anything with her. When Bruce (Aldrich Jr., her driver) got off her the other night, he said, ‘She is like a Cadillac.’ You ask her to go and she does. You ask her to come back and she does. She can also leave and finish like a rocket and will just do whatever you ask her to.”
Betterluvnexttime is currently under the care of Jackie Rousse, who also conditioned her briefly at age three, but has spent most of her time with Al Tomlinson.
Mitchell is not exactly sure how long the mare will be competing at Saratoga.
“We pretty much got written out at Balmoral because she was dominant and then they wrote a class where she didn’t fit, so I decided to put her on a trailer and take her to Saratoga. I told Jackie I wasn’t sure how long she would be there with her, as I would like to race her at Hoosier and Scioto when they open up in April. I’d like to race her myself, but I run 13 Texas Roadhouse restaurants in Michigan and Ohio, so I’m pretty busy. At least if she’s at Scioto and Hoosier I can go see her race, which I can’t do at Saratoga.”
Mitchell has been around the horses for years, but this mare holds a special place in his heart and even has his wife Susan finally interested in racing.
“Everybody loves her because she is just a nice horse,” he said. “She doesn’t turn her back to you, puts her head on your shoulder and is the nicest horse I’ve ever had. I would even put my 2-year-old grandson in her stall and walk away. I’ve owned probably 100 horses and my wife has never been a fan of them, but she likes this one. She goes to the races now and goes to the paddock.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been attached to a horse, as this is a business, but I’m attached to this horse. I’ve had probably 10 offers to sell her and first off I’m lucky enough I don’t have to sell her, but there is just something about her that has me more attached to her than any of my other horses.”