Quicksilvercandy A and Pannochio are old and wise. More importantly, they’re winners.
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
They will never run in the Meadowlands Pace. They will never run in the Gerrity Memorial or any “big”race for that matter. But, run they do. Not only do they run, but they win, too. We’re talking about two stalwarts of what I refer to as modern day harness racing. Bettors love them and I’m sure those who attend and follow the respective tracks love them too.
Exhibit A is Quicksilvercandy A. Last Saturday, she raced at Batavia Downs. She usually hangs out at Buffalo Raceway during the winter and then heads east on the “I-90,” taking Exit 48 to Batavia Downs where she takes up residence from July-December.
Of course, she does more than just hang out. For the most part, she runs the weekly open paces at both Buffalo and Batavia that have purses ranging from $8,000 to $10,000, but on Saturday, “The Downs” put together a special night of racing for claimers. The Quick one was one of six entered in the $20,000 claiming championship series. She took the lead, then let stable mate Kaitlyn Rae take over as they set fractions of 27.3, 57.1 and 1:27.1. She then made her move to win going away in 1:57.0. The time is never going to blow anyone away, but does it really matter? Why is the race being singled out? Because the win was her 20th, this season—that’s right 20 wins in 2017 and the year is not over yet. No horse in the USA has won more this year than Quicksilvercandy A.
Those wins have only earned her a little more than $106,000 this year, which some horses can make in one start, but that takes nothing away from her. Every week, she gets the work done and when the car moves away, she is all business
Perhaps even more remarkable is that the 12-year old mare “only” has 61 career wins. Think about that. For ten years, she won 41 races, an average of four per year, which is not terrible by any stretch. But, like a fine wine, she is aging gracefully, with 20 wins as a 12-year old. One would think that she would be back at it in 2018, staring in January at Buffalo Raceway. And, why not 2019 before mandatory retirement age kicks in? It’s not easy to keep a horse healthy, happy and more importantly eager and motivated to run and keep running. Clearly, the aptly named Quicksilvercandy A is four-for-four here.
Exhibit B is the legendary Panocchio. For starters he has the dream existence; a life that I, and most, would envy. He spends his winters resting, training and racing at Pompano Park in Florida and then heads north to Saratoga for his summer season. To say he trains might be understated. He is legendary for his lack thereof, often doing training miles in 2:20 or even 2:30. But, racing is a different story for the 7-year old gelding. When the pace car speeds off, Panocchio takes his game to a different level. On Sunday, November 12, he won the $11,000 open pace in 1:51.4 and he did it by starting in the 9-hole on the 5/8 mile Pompano track.
There’s the old saying, “horses for courses,” and that fits Panocchio to a tee. He runs well at Saratoga, but he is the king of Pompano Park. Of his 57 career wins, 35 have come there. His career record is 57 wins, 27 seconds and 12 thirds in 136 career starts, an astonishing 71 percent in the money. Like Quicksilvercandy, he isn’t reliable, he’s more so.
Some may argue that these horses should venture out and take on better horses in better races at different tracks, but why? This is what harness racing is all about, the grinders, the workers and the horses that like to go to the post and run as often as they can. And, why tinker with what’s working. The “Quick One,” is 12 years old, the last thing anybody should do is alter her routine. At 12, she could balk and decide she no longer wants a part of the race and training action, and at that advanced age, she has earned the right to be cranky, ornery and everything else in between. Simply, there is no reason to mess with her success.
Panocchio, on the other hand, seems to like his north-south routine, especially the southern part. I was able to see him win this summer at Saratoga and his races follow the same pattern. He gets out, engages and tries to win. That is something not every horse does. Some lollygag, some are content just being in a race, while others don’t have the courage to go for it and try to win. Drivers know this too; they know when to push the horse and they know when to try to collect an envelope with a third, fourth or fifth place finish.
People get in the game for a variety of reasons. Some want to win the biggest races like the Hambo, the Jug, the North America Cup and the Breeders Crown. Others just want to be part of the lucrative sire stakes programs in each state. But, most want to own a horse that runs and a horse that they can see run. Those horses run in all kinds of races—the opens, the preferred handicaps, the non-winners of $7,500 over their last five. These are the horses that keep the sport alive and give back as well. When bettors see these horses entered, it affects how and what they wager week in and week out.
We hear of horse shortages and tracks requesting fewer days to run, and this is why horses like Panocchio and Quciksilvercandy A are very important to the sport. These horses bring a level of consistency and excellence to their respective tracks. When I look at entries for both Batavia Downs and Pompano, when I see “open” I’m looking for Quicksilvercandy and Panocchio and truth be told, dozens of other horses, too. I know who they are and I know when they run and I want to follow their races.
When we hear of tracks running fewer days, it hurts the industry in many ways because it could take away from horses like Panocchio, Quicksilvercandy A and hundreds of others. Every track has horses like this; there’s Twisted Pretzel at Saratoga and Steve Said, who this week, will make his 41st start of 2017 at Monticello (he has 12 wins). The big races are nice; they draw the crowds and help drive handle, but the sport should always pay homage to true warriors like Panocchio and Quicksilvercandy A.