June 22-28, 2012
Normally, I use this space each week to detail the exploits of several of the racing stars at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. This week is an exception, because one performance was so outstanding that it outshone all others, even in a week that witnessed several track records falling by the wayside in the eliminations for the Ben Franklin, James M. Lynch, and Max C. Hempt stakes races.
The performance in question was put in by a horse with an odd name and an even odder story. Googoo Gaagaa is that unique colt, proof that absolutely anything can happen in the sport of harness racing. In the past two weeks, he has done things at Pocono that no trotter has ever done, a fact made even more amazing when you consider the origins of this one-of-a-kind performer.
Richard Hans is an owner and trainer of horses on the Maryland circuit, and he attempted a few years back to breed a trotting mare he had purchased named Kora’s Trotter to another trotter, but no offspring resulted. Wanting to get something for his money, he matched Kora’s Trotter with a pacer that he owned named Cam’s Rocket. The result was Googoo Gaagaa.
Googoo Gaagaa began racing in Maryland last season as a 2-year-old, and the results were astounding. He won every one of his six trots, capping the season with a ridiculous 41-length win in the finals of the Maryland Sire Stakes at Ocean Downs. Hans resisted overtures from big racing syndicates to purchase the horse in the offseason, even as skeptics doubted the colt’s ability to face off against tougher trotters he would inevitably meet outside of his home state.
Those skeptics seemed prophetic when Googoo Gaagaa’s first start in 2012 and his first out of his Maryland ended with a break of stride at Harrah’s. Two weeks later, he bounced back with a sizzling win on the same track, and he followed that up with a win in the Simpson at The Meadowlands and a victory over older condition trotters at Harrah’s.
Hans handed the reins over to Corey Callahan for those races, and driver and horse got along extremely well. Next up was the elimination for the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial trot at Pocono on June 16. This seemed like it would be the colt’s toughest test yet, and yet Callahan never lifted a finger as Googoo Gaagaa romped to win in 1:51:3, which set a new world record for 3-year-old colts on the trot, almost a full second faster than the previous mark.
All of that led up to Saturday night’s final. As a sports fan, I can think of so many occasions where the storyline was so perfect up until the ending, only to have something unexpected happen to ruin the ideal finish. As I prepared to call the Beal final, the cynic in me wondered if the Cinderella story of Googoo Gaagaa had run its course and fate would intervene in the final.
Instead, Googoo Gaagaa put on a performance for the ages. He took over the lead on the front stretch from Stormin Normand, a superstar colt in his own right who, in any other year, would have won this race in record-setting fashion. In the stretch, Stormin Normand came hard at the leader, and Callahan asked for more from his horse for the first time.
To say that the colt responded would be an understatement of epic proportions. Even though he had set nasty fractions throughout the mile, Googoo Gaagaa found another gear late and burned his way home to the win in 1:50:4.
That’s right: 1:50:4. I called the race a few years when Arch Madness trotted a mile of 1:51, which set the world record for all age groups at a 5/8-mile oval. It was so ridiculously fast that I never thought anyone would approach it again. Googoo Gaagaa not only approached it; he bested it, becoming the fastest trotter ever at a track size used by many of the top tracks in the country.
After the race, our television personnel, Kelly Connors and George Anthony, interviewed a jubilant Callahan and a reluctant Hans. The trainer couldn’t wait to get off the stage, while Callahan chuckled at Hans’ one-word answers to the questions.
They made quite the odd couple, but, then again, Googoo Gaagaa is one odd horse, although what’s truly odd about him really isn’t his name or his pedigree or his connections or anything else in his unlikely rise to the top of the trotting world. He’s odd in terms of the fact that he can trot faster than just about any horse on the planet right now. That’s the kind of odd any horsemen would want.
That’s it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 22-28, 2012