When Yankee Up and True Horizon cracked open the new year of harness racing in Alberta - winning this past weekend’s Snowshoe and Snowflake series’ at Northlands - Bill Andrew and Jim Rhodes cracked open big grins. Yankee Up and True Horizon are both sons of Vertical Horizon, a new stallion owned by Andrew and Rhodes. Standing in High River, Alberta, Vertical Horizon’s first crop of foals had a huge year in 2017. From just 20 starters, nine sons and daughters got to the track and, like Yankee Up and True Horizon, seven of them won at least one race.
“It sure seems like Vertical Horizon is going to be a real good sire,” said Jamie Gray, Yankee Up’s trainer, driver and, along with Rhodes, the colt’s co-owner. “He could be a sire of the future out here. From what I’ve seen he sends out tough horses; they’ve all got the desire. I bred three mares back to Vertical Horizon and it wasn’t just because of what Yankee Up did. I’ve got another colt by Vertical Horizon who showed a lot of talent but needed some time to grow properly.”
Gerry Hudon, who trains and drives True Horizon for his wife, Monica, and Donald Mcdougall, is in agreement. “True Horizon is a nice filly; she’s good gaited like most of Vertical Horizon’s are. I definitely wouldn’t be scared to breed another mare back to him.”
Despite their victories, neither True Horizon nor Yankee Up was at their peak - both were suffering the affects of a virus. “True Horizon has been fighting a virus for five months,” said Hudon. “I was just really glad to get that stakes series over with.”
The virus may be why True Horizon saw her lead shrink from five lengths at the top of the lane to just three-quarters of a length at the finish - and with runner-up Winking at You trying to squeeze through a hole which wasn’t quite big enough.
But Hudon thinks that’s more a product of True Horizon’s penchant for wanting to slow down for horses to chase her. “She stops and waits and waits. That’s why I much prefer to race her from behind.”
Yankee Up, who went wire-to-wire, was also all out for his snappy 1:59 win - with a last half in :58 2/5. “He was getting a little tired,” Gray said of Yankee Up holding off ferocious charges by Shaker Tank and Blue Star Trooper. “I’ve had a bit of a bug running through my barn. I was scared as hell. He was a sluggish all week and he was a little sluggish in the race itself too but he still won it. Now he’ll get a six-week break which he can really use. He raced eight times in roughly 10 weeks and still had four wins, two seconds and a third. You can’t beat that.”
Yankee Up and True Horizon are hardly the only promising progeny of Vertical Horizon, a 12-year-old stallion who Andrew bought privately. Paradise Hill won four of eight races in Alberta, paced in 1:56 and won the Century, a ASHA Colt division, Horizon and Shooting Star stakes. Maid in Alberta scored three times in nine starts, paced in 1:57 2/5 and won the Starlet, ASHA Filly and the Emerald stakes to earn $43,000; Duannes Horizon won the Stardust; Ginger Beer was second in the Starburst and the ASHA Filly and Screen Test paced in 1:56 1/5 winning the other division of the ASHA Colt and also won the Lonestar. How’s that for a debut?
“From his first crop he has had horses that like to race,” said Andrew. “And they will race from the front or the back and they can call all step down the lane. Trainers also tell us that his offspring are good to handle which helps if you want to sell them,” said Andrew, who grew up in a harness racing family and who has been actively involved himself for 25 years.
“My grandfather trained harness horses and I’ve got a brother, Brian, who trains and drives a bit in Prince Edward Island. The first race horse I had was with Bobby Sabourin in the early 1990’s,” said Andrew, who has half a dozen race horses but has turned much more heavily into breeding. “At one time I had 15-20 horses racing. Now I have 30 broodmares.”
Andrew’s top broodmare is Just Sassy, who has produced winners well in excess of $1 million. Winner of the 2004 Northlands Filly Pace, Just Sassy, Alberta’s champion two- and three-year-old filly, has produced the likes of Big N Bad, who has a mark of 1:49 2/5 and has won $629,000 and Ghost Pine, who has won $301,000 and paced in 1:50 3/5. Standing for just $1,000 for a live foal, there is much to like about Vertical Horizon in addition to how good his first-year crop was.
There is also his breeding and his own racing career. By Western Ideal, Vertical Horizon is out of Summer Mystery, who produced Lost in Time, who won this past fall’s $800,000 Metro Pace at Mohawk, and Kryptos, who won 11 of 20 races. Western Ideal, who took a mark of 1:48, won $1.4 million with victories punctuated by the Breeders Crown, which he won as a five-year-old and set a then world-record of 1:48. He also took the $325,000 Graduate, the Canadian Derby and a $600,000 stake at the Meadowlands.
“I really liked Western Ideal,” said Andrew, of the stallion who sired the likes of American Ideal, Luck Be Withyou and Artspeak - all three taking marks of 1:47 4/5, Rocknroll Hanover, who won $3 million, Vintage Master, who went over $2 million in earnings and 11 others that topped $1 million.
As for Vertical Horizon he was solid on the track too - pacing in 1:49 3/5 while winning the Jersey Cup, Blue Grass and the $350,000 Progress stake at Dover Downs. He also raced in the Breeders Crown and The Little Brown Jug.
“I like a horse that not only races as a colt but can also race when they are older,” said Andrew, who also stands Mystician, a son of Cam Luck and Santanna Blue Chip, who won the Breeders Crown as a two-year-old in Alberta, while his Meridian Farms also has a PEI base which is devoted primarily to trotters. “Vertical Horizon was a horse that I was following for quite a while.”
Now so are a lot of other horsemen. "Rod Hennessy recently paid $47,000 at a B.C. yearling sale for a Vertical Horizon colt that was out of a mare he raced,” said Andrew. “We haven’t seen prices like that for a few years. It’s all very encouraging.”
Northlands only racing card this weekend will take place Saturday at 1 p.m.
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