After flirting with establishing a new record for the fastest mile in harness racing history the past two weeks, Bulldog Hanover got it done Saturday (July 16), winning the $500,000 William R. Haughton Memorial, for older male pacers, in 1:45.4 at the Meadowlands.
The previous world record of 1:46 was shared by Bulldog Hanover, Always B Miki and Lather Up. Bulldog Hanover had equalled that record on July 2 at The Meadowlands in winning a division of the Roll With Joe Stakes and paced 1:46.1 last week in capturing the Graduate Series Open Pace championship, also at The Big M. He also won in 1:47 on June 25.
Bulldog Hanover won the Haughton by two lengths over Rockyroad Hanover as the 1-5 favourite. Tattoo Artist finished third and Abuckabett Hanover was fourth.
“That’s the amazing part of it. A lot of good horses can go a quick mile; to go four times in a row, four weeks in a row, is unbelievable,” said Noel Daley, who is training the four-year-old stallion in the U.S. instead of his usual trainer Jack Darling.
“He’s a special horse. We’ve only had him to look after for the month, which has been great. He came down in good order. Obviously, he’s liked it down here. Just to be able to back up like he does is unbelievable.”
A light rain began to fall just prior to the Haughton. Tattoo Artist led the field to the first quarter in :26 but already was under pressure from Rockyroad Hanover, who started from post nine. Rockyroad Hanover and driver Todd McCarthy took the lead on the backstretch, but held it only briefly as Bulldog Hanover and driver Dexter Dunn came calling.
Bulldog Hanover grabbed the top spot in a :53.1 half and remained in front from there. He hit three-quarters in 1:20.3 after fending off a first-over challenge by Whichwaytothebeach, and then held off Rockyroad Hanover in the stretch to establish the record with a :25.1 last quarter.
Rockyroad Hanover was timed in 1:46.1 just one week after being timed in 1:46.2 in a second-place finish to Bulldog Hanover in the Graduate and two weeks after winning the other division of the Roll With Joe in 1:46.2.
“I knew there was going to be some speed inside and outside of us,” Dunn said. “Todd came across in front of me in the first turn with Rockyroad, and I had a good helmet (to follow) all the way around the first turn and a hot first quarter. Once Todd crossed over, the big fella got clear air and was marching on after that.
“I wasn’t really fighting the timer; I was fighting off Rockyroad in the stretch there,” Dunn added. “Then the time popped up. He’s just an amazing animal. It’s just a pleasure to sit behind him. I just sit on my bum and enjoy the ride with him.”
Bulldog Hanover is a son of Shadow Play out of BJs Squall. He was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms.
For the year, Bulldog Hanover has won seven of eight races and earned $525,135. For his career, he has 21 victories in 29 starts and $1.45 million in purses. His trainer Jack Darling owns Bulldog Hanover along with Brad Grant of Milton, Ont.
“I honestly had a tear in my eye as they crossed the line. Just watching him is incredible,” said Darling. “Just been doing it for so long, and this is the kind of horse you’re looking for. I have had some great horses, but to get a horse like this is incredible.”
Darling trained the Shadow Play son during his two- and three-year-old campaigns where he racked up wins in the Ontario Sires Stakes, including a Super Final win at two and six total wins at the Gold level. He was sent to the breeding shed prior to his four-year-old season and through it all has shown what a talented and resilient horse he is.
“He’s just an iron horse. To watch him as a two-year-old, and how he progressed and was so impressive, and three he came back well,” said Darling. “Now, just week after week, these incredible miles. Going from the breeding shed and coming back at four. He just keeps getting better and better.”
Up next for the world record holder is a return to Ontario, where he will get a well deserved three-week rest before heading to Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. for the Dan Patch, and after that setting his sights on the Canadian Pacing Derby at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Darling will continue to enjoy the ride of owning the fastest pacer of all time. Something he never even dreamed would happen.
“I never really thought that would happen,” said Darling. “Every time you go to the sale, you’re hoping to get a good one, but to get to this level is really something special.”
Bulldog Hanover paid $2.40 to win.
(with files from the USTA and Ontario Sires Stakes)