For most of the year, owner Perry Soderberg’s 2-year-old colt pacer was one of the best around, having won five of his first seven starts and earning $316,838. He was the New Jersey Sire Stakes champion and runner-up in the Metro Pace.
There were high hopes entering October’s Breeders Crown, and that’s when it went bad. In the first turn of his elimination, Western Vintage was interfered with and forced wide. He got to the lead at the halfway point in :54.4, but worked hard to get there and ended up finishing seventh.
|USTA/Mark Hall photo|
|Western Vintage banked $316,838 as a freshman.|
“He was razor sharp the whole year,” said Soderberg, who bought Western Vintage when the clients he consults for were not interested. “We were looking to finish off fairly strong, and we were trying to do something for the Governor’s Cup instead when the Breeders Crown went the way it went.”
In qualifying for the Governor’s Cup, Western Vintage beat the eventual champion JK Endofanera in 1:54.2. But afterward driver Yannick Gingras relayed some concerning news to Soderberg and trainer Nancy Johansson.
“Yannick said there wasn’t the same punch in him like there normally was,” Soderberg said. “We scoped and it turned out he was sick with a throat infection so at that point we just didn’t want to take a chance.”
It was an unfortunate end to a season filled with so much promise.
“You shouldn’t complain when you have a year like that, but a few things didn’t go our way,” Soderberg said. “But basically it’s what everybody goes through. You always learn as you go, and the trainers handled everything extremely correctly. We hope to have similar luck, or better this year. He should be a contender.”
Since returning in late January, Western Vintage appears to be back in form. Although he is medium sized, he grew some over the winter, added muscle and “feels wonderful” according to the owner.
“He’s been training really, really good,” Soderberg said. “I saw him train (Wednesday); he’s getting better and better. He’s staked to everything. Our plan is to qualify him here at the end of this month, then go into sire stakes here (in New Jersey) and kind of race him into shape a little bit.
“Then we’re hoping he’ll be as good as last year or better so we can be big in all the big dances.”
One of the biggest improvements in the horse has been his attitude.
“He matured mentally,” Soderberg said. “Last year we couldn’t drive him the way we wanted to, there was too much speed for him to handle. I’m hoping with his maturity this year he can do whatever the driver needs to do.
“That horse can go more than he showed last year. You just have to be a little cautious. He’s a very explosive, forward type. If you throw him a line a little he’ll take off. He wasn’t mature enough to handle speed last year so we had to be a little cautious.”
Western Vintage is one of those rare horses Soderberg purchased on his own, although he now shares ownership in the colt with Marvin Katz. The native of Sweden usually scouts yearlings for other owners to buy. But when he tried to sell his clients on Western Vintage, no one seemed overly interested.
“He had an old scar on one of his hind ankles, he had that strike against him at the sale,” Soderberg said. “He was a New Jersey Sire Stakes horse, which was not popular. I don’t have that many clients, but the ones I have would rather go with Pennsylvania or New York, where they have a foundation to the sire stakes program in addition to the Grand Circuit. So there was no interest for him.
“Some people also want them bigger than this. But he’s a medium sized horse, which normally works fine.”
Perry started the bidding at the Lexington Selected Sale at $3,000, and after a few more bids, he bought the son of Western Ideal-Major Harmony for $7,000.
“I have kind of a system worked out with how I go about looking at horses and he had a fantastic attitude,” Soderberg said. “You saw a sparkle in his eye. Body-wise he was built just like a great horse should be with a fantastic shoulder.
“He wasn’t big, but when I turned him out, I judge the way they move and athleticism and these kind of things and he had an explosive appearance in the way he moved. He was very athletic. I really, really liked him.”
Soderberg owns a few other horses that he is hoping may be heard from.
“I bought three yearlings last year,” he said. “I got a colt from Hanover (Western Pioneer). I tried the same thing again and it’s a very nice horse, a different horse than Western Vintage, but he’s done everything right so far. He’s maybe not as explosive as Vintage is, but a very nice horse. I look forward to seeing what he can do.
“And I have a 3-year-old I also really like. He’s at the same training level so we’ll see where he can develop from here.”
At the moment, Soderberg is especially interested in the re-development of Western Vintage -- only with a better ending this time.