He was, however, a little astonished with the number of names dropped in the box for Saturday’s (June 21) Earl Beal Jr. Memorial eliminations at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Especially since he sends out two from his barn, Auspicious Hanover, who established himself as a talented individual at age 2 and the intriguing Datsyuk, who has burst on the scene just this year.
“I can’t believe there were only 14 horses entered in the eliminations for this race,” he said. “I think everyone might be scared (in reference to Nuncio and Father Patrick). But I like where my two horses are right now and how they coming into the race. You can’t win it if you aren’t in it.”
And why should Norris be scared off?
|Chris Gooden photo|
|Datsyuk is the 3-1 second choice in his Earl Beal Jr. Memorial elimination.|
Datysuk, unraced his freshman year, captured the first three race miles of his career before losing by a neck to Father Patrick in a $72,300 Pennsylvania Sire Stake contest on June 14. Auspicious Hanover has been knocking heads with Nuncio after picking up his first triumph in a $36,512 Historic-Dickerson Cup division on May 21.
On Saturday, Datysuk will leave from post three in race three with Norris doing the driving honors. He is the 3-1 second choice behind Nuncio and that horse is the only one in this field that has made more money in 2014. Auspicious Hanover will appear in the second Earl Beal elimination, which is slated as race five. Matt Kakaley will be in the bike for the first time, as the gelding will begin his trip from post six. He is 12-1 on the morning line.
“I really like how both my horses are coming into the race,” Norris said. “I think we have a really good chance of getting both into the final.”
Although he did not win a race in his first season of competition, Auspicious Hanover flashed the ability to succeed at the top levels of the sport. A son of Andover Hall and the unraced Donerail mare Above All Hanover, he was purchased for $50,000 at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale by Acadia Farms, Dale Sweet and Douglas Allen.
At two, he competed primarily in Pennsylvania and trotted 11 miles with four seconds, while banking $131,398. He capped off his year with a seventh place finish in the Breeders Crown before taking his winter vacation. That’s when Norris decided it was time to geld him. In four starts this year, he has a 1-0-0 record with a little more than $33,000 in purse money.
“He’s always had the ability,” Norris said. “But gelding him has really helped and he is starting to become more professional. He’s really just beginning to figure it all out and even has some gate speed now. He is becoming racy and rounding right into form. I’m really pleased with him.”
Although Datsyuk did not have a freshman campaign, Norris was always high on this horse. A son of Explosive Matter and the Mr Vic mare Pink Ribbons, the gelding dominated his first freshman race at Pocono Downs on June 13, 2013, but was a mere shadow of himself the following week, finishing eighth and last, under the exact same conditions. Norris was definitely scratching his head and did not discover what was hampering the gelding until the fall.
“He was awesome in his first race,” Norris said. “Then in that second baby race he couldn’t get it together behind the gate. He just couldn’t go at all. I took him to Dr. Nolan, who is one of the best vets in the business and we did everything. Bone scans, x-rays. You name it and we couldn’t find one thing wrong with him.
“Finally when we were down in Lexington in September, we took him to Rood and Riddle. That’s when Dr. Bramlage ultra-sounded him and found a strained bursa under his left shoulder muscle. After all that time, it took him only five minutes to find it, but we were just glad he did. This is a talented colt and we hated not knowing what was wrong. Dr. Bramlage said to just give him time and that’s what we did. He came back great.”
Datsyuk commenced his 2014 campaign with a facile victory in a $12,000 non-winners race at Pocono Downs on April 27. He captured his next engagement, a $75,300 Pennsylvania Sire Stake race at Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 15, coming home ahead of last year’s Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion Don Dorado in 1:55.3.
Then it was on to The Meadows under the same conditions on May 30 for another win, this one in 1:54.1. The gelding traveled back to Pocono Downs on June 14, where he suffered his first defeat in another PA Sire Stake race. He was beaten a neck by last year’s Dan Patch Award champion Father Patrick, who stopped the clock in 1:53.1.
As mentioned earlier, Norris likes his chances as far as both of his horses making it to the final. For the rest of the year, he will just take it race by race with the geldings, but he does have his eye on one certain prize.
“We will see how everything goes with getting into the final and then after it,” he said. “Of course you are always looking ahead to August 2 (Hambletonian day). Everyone that has a trotter should be thinking about that day. If you aren’t then you shouldn’t be in this game.”