On closing night at the Meadowlands last Friday, the son of Village Jove, out of Royal Gold by Towners Big Guy, won his second consecutive major stakes, the $431,400 William R. Haughton Memorial, wire-to-wire by half a length in 1:48.2. In his previous start, the $242,500 U.S. Pacing Championship on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands, he also won gate-to-wire by a half-length in 1:48, matching his lifetime mark.
“To do that back-to-back at the level he’s at, and the way he has done it, is amazing,” his driver in his last two starts, Andy Miller, said. “He’s as good as he’s ever been.”
But he’s been this good since January, when he swept the Presidential Series, including the $110,000 final, for owners Stable 45, Richard Taylor, Stephen Springer and Nina Simmonds, who not only bred Golden Receiver, but also his dam. Golden Receiver is one of only three horses to win the Presidential and the Haughton Memorial in the same season. He also won the $180,000 Graduate in May.
Golden Receiver is 12-for-19 this year with earnings of just under $745,000. Last year at six, he won nine of 28 starts and made $266,900.
“He really is amazing,” trainer Mark Harder said Monday. “Usually horses don’t last this long, and if they’re racing at his age, they’re not racing at his level. When I saw him in January, he was bigger, carrying more weight. He looked like, physically, that he was a bigger, stronger horse.”
And he’s showing it week after week. “I always thought he could be competitive with these horses, but beating them the way he is?” Harder said. “You’re hopeful, but is it wishful thinking?”
Not with this horse. In winning the Haughton, he stormed to the lead from Post 2 in a :25.4 first quarter and reached the half in :54. “He’s so quick in the first 100 yards,” Harder said. “It always worries you that you’re setting it up for the closers.”
They’d have to be exceptional closers. In both the U.S. Pacing Championship and the Haughton Memorial, Golden Receiver raced his final quarter in :27.
It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying Golden Receiver’s season more than Simmonds, who recently retired from training horses at Tioga Downs to run her 60-horse farm, Windy Hill Farm, near Binghamton. “She’s a very passionate person,” Harder said. “She’s very proud of her horse. Her husband died two years ago. This horse has helped her get through a rough time.”
Simmonds knows where Golden Receiver gets his speed from. “His mother, Royal Gold, was an open mare at Monticello,” Simmonds said. “She had incredible gate speed. She’d be out in front of the field in 10 seconds, which is a tremendous advantage on a half-mile track. Golden Receiver can’t handle a half-mile. The turns are tighter and he brushes his knees.”
Royal Gold literally built the house Simmonds lives in. “There was no house,” she said. “I lived in the barn for eight years. When she’d race at Yonkers, I’d yell out, `Come on honey, Momma needs a heater,’ or `Momma needs windows.’ This is the house Royal Gold built. He was my husband Richard’s favourite. She got claimed and he borrowed money from his parents to get her back.”
Royal Gold, as well as three of Golden Receiver’s sisters, live on Windy Hills Farm. His dam may have built a house there, but Golden Receiver literally saved the farm. “He’s my little baby,” Simmonds said. “I was bankrupt. The farm was paid off, but I was $75,000 in debt. I had two credit cards maxed out. I had $750 left in my bank account. He saved me.”
She saved his future success by not racing him at two. “He was a late foal and I had his knees X-rayed,” she said. “I’ve seen too many two-year-olds break down.”
Golden Receiver had a couple memorable starts early in his career. At Tioga Downs, he got away slowly, passed the entire field, then around the final turn, he noticed the stable gate where Simmonds always waited for him to come off the track. He made a right-hand turn, which is never a good thing during a race. Fortunately, he escaped injury and he returned to score a stunning first victory at Vernon Downs. “He won by 20 lengths, and they said it was the highest win payoff in track history,” Simmonds said.
As his three-year-old season developed, Golden Receiver began showing off his immense speed and ability, setting a track record at Tioga in his fifth start. At the end of his three-year-old campaign, a buyer from Canada offered the Simmonds $80,000 for the horse. “He offered me money just from watching him on film,” Nina said. “But I didn’t want to put him on a bus to Canada and never see him again.”
So she took a slightly lower amount, $75,000, from his current owners while maintaining a 10 per cent share without any costs. “It was my husband’s idea,” she said.
Under the care of Harder, Golden Receiver has developed into one of the outstanding older pacers in North America, joining another New York-bred, four-year-old Betterthancheddar in the Top Ten in the weekly United States Trotting Association Poll. They are the only older pacers in the Top Ten.
“The past two races were pretty spectacular,” Simmonds said. “I always knew that this is a horse who should be on the Grand Circuit.”
She knows, too, that as soon as his racing career is over, he’ll be living with her on Windy Hills Farm. “Great horses should be retired with dignity,” she said. “He’s always taken care of me, and I’ll always take care of him.”
(Courtesy of Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund)