Kiwi mare top earner in US

They may be a very long way from home, but New Zealand bred pacers Shartin and Bit Of A Legend are continuing to fly the flag proudly for their homeland in the United States this year.

Just last weekend Shartin extended her winning record this year to 12 wins from just 16 starts, and her stakes earned this year alone to $US 590,050. Making the five-year-old Kiwi mare the leading money earner overall in the States to date – and her biggest targets are still to come.

Bit Of A Legend is not far behind her in seventh position on the overall table, with $425,255 in stakes this year.

Bred by Grant Crabbe of Christchurch, Shartin is a daughter of Tintin In America and left New Zealand as an unraced filly to race in Australia. There she collected seven wins from 13 attempts, including the 2017 Queensland Oaks at Group 2 level.

Shartin also raced against the boys in the Queensland Derby finishing a brave second beaten a head by More The Better, who now too has headed to America and won three of seven starts this year. 

Following her three-year-old season Shartin was then sold to her current American owners, Rich Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King, and placed with trainer Jim King Jr in Delaware.

The King family has had a long association with Poillucci and New Zealand bred horses, including Christen Me and Nike Franco in recent years.

“The New Zealand bred horses we train are thanks to our owner Rich Poillucci. He loves watching races from New Zealand and Australia and finding horses to buy,” explained Looney-King.

“Rich does all the homework and talking with trainers. He loves it and obviously knows what he's looking for and does a great job. He bought horses like Nike Franco, Christen Me and Bailey's Rock and we were training for him but hadn't owned anything together. Then, when Shartin became available, we were thankful that he gave us the opportunity to become partners with him. Rich and his wife Donna are great owners and super business partners.”

Shartin’s trainer Jim King Jr has noticed an advantage during his time training Kiwi bred horses.

“A big difference I've notice with horses that are born in New Zealand is that the trainers really take their time and allow the horses to mature and develop in the early years.

There is not as much of a rush to get them to the track or have them race in a serious manner at two and that's a big benefit when these horses come up here because they aren't tired and they haven't been raced a lot,” said King Jr.

Her best attribute is her attitude and determination, according to co-owner Looney-King

“She is absolutely perfect to take care of and a real people friendly horse. And, when it comes to racing, she just does not know when the end of a mile is.

She has incredible talent and it's matched by an eagerness to do her best.”

The joy Shartin has brought to her North American connections has been immeasurable.

“We've won races that we've never won before. She has gotten us in the winner circle for the Roses Are Red, Betsy Ross and The Matchmaker. She's a thrill and being a part of her journey is hard to put into words except to say how grateful we are,” stated Looney-King.

Shartin’s mile win last weekend was clocked in a slick 1.48.4 in the $30,000 Great Northeast Open at Pocono Downs but her biggest test will come in October at that very same track.

“We would love to win the Breeders Crown with her. The supplement is more than $30,000 but you have to be in it to win and if she is as good in October as she is now then she'll be up to the task”, said King Jnr.

Before a final decision is made about the Breeders Crown campaign, Shartin will compete this Sunday New Zealand time on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands.

She has drawn post one for driver Tim Tetrick in the $US197,400 Lady Liberty, which is a free-for-all for mares, and will also compete against  her stable mate and fellow Kiwi, Nike Franco.

“Above all, we want to complete the year knowing that she is healthy and will return next year in great shape. She seems to enjoy her life and routine here and the training schedule we have her on, so we are looking forward to a great future with her,” said Jim King Jr.

Also beating the drum proudly for the New Zealand breed, Bit Of A Legend was successful over the weekend when picking up his 45th career victory in the Open Handicap at Yonkers.

The now nine-year-old has earned over two million dollars in total during his career and  is currently seventh on the overall earners list in the US to date this year, just in behind North America Cup winner Lather Up and Meadowlands Pace victor Courtly Choice.

Trained by Peter Tritton, Bit Of A Legend has remained competitive at the highest level since heading to the United States in 2016.

The game pocket rocket has amassed wins in the Yonkers Levy Final, the Battle of Lake Erie, the Gerrity Memorial, Quillen Memorial and the Molson Pace in Canada amongst some of his major successes.

Bit Of A Legend will next head to the Dan Patch at Hoosier Park on August 10, the same race in which Down Under wonder Lazarus will make his North American race debut.

“It will be an interesting race,” admits trainer Peter Tritton. “We keep saying we are going to retire him to stud, but he keeps earning over $500,000 a year.”

“It makes it hard to retire him when he’s going so well.”

  • Shartin, Nike Franco, More The Better and Phoenix Warrior will all compete at The Meadowlands in the early hours of this Sunday New Zealand time.
  • Anthony MacDonald of Thestable.ca has Lawmaker in the Hambletonian heats, hoping to make the $1million final the same day for his legion of owners.
  • This racing can be viewed live at www.playmeadowlands.com
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