The pacer, however, had other ideas. And after watching National Debt win all four of his starts last season as a 2-year-old, so did Hoerdt.
“For $17,000, we were counting on having a nice stake horse, a nice raceway horse for out here,” Hoerdt said. “But he just showed too much. He was telling us he deserves a shot back there.”
“Back there,” in this case, means New Jersey’s Meadowlands Racetrack, where he will be racing in the Buddy Gilmour Memorial Series starting Saturday.
Hoerdt’s confidence doesn’t end there, as he has the 3-year-old colt pacer staked to the Breeders Crown, Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup, among others.
|Derick Giwner photo|
|National Debt is unbeaten in four career starts and will make his Big M debut Saturday.|
“He’s eligible for pretty much everything,” said Hoerdt, who trained and drove National Debt when the horse was in Canada. “I’ve got him pretty much staked up. If he’s not good enough, we’ll bring him home. We’ve got some stakes with much easier company out here.”
National Debt is a son of stallion Allamerican Native out of the mare Our Inheritance. He is a half-brother to Grin For Money, who is still racing in Ontario and has earned $436,654, and his mother is a half-sister to 1992 Ontario Sire Stakes star Cedar Shake.
“He was just an Allamerican Native, and I have a few of them,” Hoerdt said. “They have a willingness about them. I really like that in a horse.”
It didn’t take long for National Debt to show his stuff as he won all four of his races as a 2-year-old. The first came against other horses his age in 1:57 at Alberta Downs.
It was the next race, also at Alberta Downs, where Hoerdt started to think he had something special.
“His second lifetime start was really a key to him extending his future in another jurisdiction,” Hoerdt said. “He won his maiden against 2-year-olds and in race two he had to race some aged horses. There was some tough company in there. He went (1):53.3 and came home in :26.4.
“I never even touched him. It was just an overnight race so I wasn’t going to get into him for that. But he did enough to convince me he was a special horse. He’s the best colt I’ve ever had and I thought he deserved a shot out there.”
It’s not the first horse Hoerdt has sent to the Big M. He had some success with Major Domo as a raceway horse there, and also had a few others.
“We have the quality out here, but we don’t have the quantity that’s in the East, obviously,” he said. “If you’ve got something exceptional, you have to give them the chance to go against the quantity and the quality. The Buddy Gilmour is a good stepping stone for him. It will be a good test.”
One thing the owner really likes about National Debt is that he looks like he belongs in the big time. The colt finished last year by winning his $24,000 division of the Premiers at Northlands Park, drawing clear by 6-3/4 lengths despite starting from the outside post.
“He’s really put together well; he’s built right for it,” Hoerdt said. “Good horses always have a presence that the average ones don’t. This one really has a presence.”
That presence becomes even more striking when he’s in a race.
“When you drive him, his response to going by horses is probably one of the most impressive of any horse I’ve sat behind,” Hoerdt said. “He wants to do it.
“He’s one of the most level headed and smart horses I’ve ever had. He’s very handy in a race. He drives basically like driving a car. You step on the gas and away he goes.”
National Debt has been in New Jersey for around five weeks and is being trained by Ron Coyne, Jr. Apparently, National Debt’s demeanor is the same as when he worked with Hoerdt’s girlfriend, Amy, in Alberta.
“We flew out after the O’Brien Awards and stopped to see him, and the horse has exactly the same temperament,” Hoerdt said. “He’s a prince to work around. He’s not a nippy, bitey horse. He doesn’t get full of himself. He’s just a real nice horse to be around.”
Adding to Hoerdt’s enthusiasm is the feedback he got from Tim Tetrick, who drove National Debt to a third and first in two qualifiers.
“Tim came off saying he thought the horse had a lot of talent, he was just fairly green,” Hoerdt said. “That was encouraging. Based on those two qualifiers, they went well enough to have him now in the stake series. Depending on how he does, he could stay out there or he could come home. We’ll see how it goes.”
Judging by that second lifetime race, National Debt sounds like a horse that makes up his own mind as to how he wants it to go.