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Twilight Bonfire looks to emerge from the shadows in Meadowlands Pace
Thursday, July 11, 2013 - by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Kimberly French
Louisville, KY --- At odds of 96-1, last year’s Matron victor Twilight Bonfire was guided up the rail by David Miller to finish second in the $980,000 North America Cup final on June 15 at Mohawk. With all eyes on the 2012 Pacer of the Year, Captaintreacherous, Danny Collins’ charge seems to be a bit overlooked within his division, although the colt has been a model of consistency.

“Captaintreacherous went a monster mile at Pocono two weeks ago,” said Collins. “But I worry about one horse and that’s ours. He’s going into the race (Saturday's Meadowlands Pace) in top shape and I think he will represent us really well.”

The son of The Panderosa and the Cam Fella mare Firelight Dancer started 14 times at age two with three wins, two seconds and three thirds. He set his mark of 1:51 when he captured the Matron, was victorious in a Bluegrass Stakes division at The Red Mile in 1:52.1 and won a Standardbred split on Jug Day in 1:55. Twilight Bonfire also came home fourth in the Breeders Crown, once again at odds of 95-1. For the season, the Bob Key homebred earned $257,848.

Nigel Soult photo
Twilight Bonfire has banked $577,184 in his career.

This year Twilight Bonfire, who is a half brother to Fire Within K (No Nukes, p,3,1:52.1s, $288,894) and a full brother to Dancing With Fire (p,1:52.1f, $169,163), has had his nose on the gate for five pari-mutuel miles with two wins, two seconds and $319,336 in the bank.

His next engagement is another battle with Captaintreacherous on Saturday (July 13) in the $635,750 Meadowlands Pace. The colt, who also received a bye into the final like his rival, will leave from post four, while Captaintreacherous has the five hole.

With more than three decades of experience and horses such as American Winner, Win Missy B, Break The Bank K and Winning Mister, Key is no stranger to capturing some of harness racing’s most coveted trophies, but Twilight Bonfire is responsible for providing a different kind of thrill.

“Since we raise and breed them ourselves, being in the Meadowlands Pace is a very exciting thing,” he said. “This horse is definitely the best pacer I’ve ever had. You know I like the trotters and it’s also great because my son is in New York. It’s something for us to keep in constant contact about and for him to represent me.

Then there’s Danny. He’s a great trainer and a really, really nice guy. When you have a trainer like him, he lives through a horse like this. It’s like Billy Haughton said, ‘The horse makes the trainer and owner and the trainer and owner are really only as good as their last horse.’”

Key is actually quite content to relinquish the spotlight to Captaintreacherous and doesn’t look at the tote board as a reflection on his colt’s ability.

“I like being the underdog,” he said. “It’s better than being the favorite, well, not really, but it doesn’t put much pressure on you and I like Danny’s training methods. He trains this horse a mile and a half, so he doesn’t know when the mile ends. I think you have to do that with these horses nowadays and Danny will have him ready.”

When Collins first put Twilight Bonfire into training, he wasn’t exactly blown away by how he trained, but once he started racing the Columbus resident realized he might have a nice horse on his hands.

“He qualified mediocre but when he showed a :28 last quarter in his first race and he liked to pass horses, he just improved with every start,” Collins said. “We kind of babied him as a 2-year-old. In Delaware we sent him to the front to see how he responded and he responded well, so then when we took him to Lexington we decided to find out what kind of horse he was and everybody was at Lexington, the Breeders Crown and the Matron, so he has done just about everything we have asked and we are really happy with him.”

Twilight Bonfire comes into this race off a triumph in a $30,000 Invitational at Scioto Downs on July 6, which wasn’t exactly the spot his connections wanted to place him, but they were pleased with the result.

“Danny and I didn’t want to go there but we skipped Pocono and since he had been off for three weeks, we needed to get a race in him,” Key said. “Scioto was very nice to let us race there and really nice to give us the one hole. Although we didn’t like the idea, it turned out well. He went in 1:50.4 and Tony Hall drove him very well. He didn’t push him at all and he was very good right after the race as well as the next day. We think we got a good prelim into him for the race this week.”

After contesting the Pace, Twilight Bonfire still has a pretty full agenda for the remainder of 2013.

“That’s another great thing about this horse,” Key said. “I’ve had a lot of horses, but never had a driver be so interested in one as David Miller. He is in contact with Danny all the time about this horse and even called after he watched his race at Scioto even though he had driven a horse (Beach Memories) that made the final. He called Danny all winter about him and is high on the horse. That’s the reason I staked him so heavily.”

When he leaves the Meadowlands, Twilight Bonfire will be on his way to Pittsburgh and will probably spend some time in the Keystone State before appearing at a certain fairgrounds in September.

“Well, Bob’s from Pennsylvania, so we will go in the Adios the week after this race,” Collins said. “Then maybe some Pennsylvania Sire Stakes as we will play it by ear, but since it’s my hometown I would love to go to the Jug.

Johnny Campbell was driving him for us last year and I have a really good relationship with him. Like he said to me, ‘This is Delaware’ and I said, ‘Well let’s give it a shot and see what he does.’ He kind of quarter poled him and said he was a little lost up there on the front, but when he heard the horses he kind of took off.

Saturday night is only the second time he’s been on the front end and Tony Hall said the same thing. He was kind of wandering around up there but as soon as he heard the horses come to him, he took off again. He’s a tough horse and likes to pass and beat other horses. That is his best attribute.”

Following is the field for the Meadowlands Pace final with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Odds On Equuleus, John Campbell, Robin Schadt; 2. Sunshine Beach, George Brennan, Mark Steacy; 3. Resistance Futile, Jody Jamieson, Blair Burgess; 4. Twilight Bonfire, David Miller, Danny Collins; 5. Captaintreacherous, Tim Tetrick, Tony Alagna; 6. Sir Cary’s Z Tam, Patrick Lachance, Lachance; 7. Johny Rock, Andy Miller, John Butenschoen; 8. Beach Memories, Corey Callahan, Brian Brown; 9. Wake Up Peter, Ron Pierce, Alagna; 10. Rockin Amadeus, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter.

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