At a time when the greatest equine stars of our sport often don’t step foot on the race- track once their three-year-old season is complete, in 2012 Betterthancheddar (Bettor’s Delight) will offer the racing fans something they are not accustomed to seeing--a three year old star back at age four.
Trainer Casie Coleman and the colt’s owners have decided to buck An industry trend and race Betterthancheddar this year. With the exception of Up The Credit (Western Terror) splitting his time between the breeding shed and the racetrack, Betterthancheddar is the one three-year-old star of 2011 to return in 2012.
“We fielded a lot of offers for him to stand stud in 2012,” Coleman said. “But he was getting better and better. I always want to bring my best horses back at four, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.”
On May 5, 2011, the vast majority of the racing world had never heard of Betterthancheddar, who was the 1-5 favorite in an $18,020 conditioned pace at Woodbine that night. Other than a few nice qualifiers, there was no rea- son anyone would have. He did little on that day to bring himself to the forefront, finishing sixth.
Then everything changed. After winning a condition event in 1:49.2 at the end of May, the son of Bettor’s Delight was on the fast track to the North America Cup. Coleman knew she had something special, but also knew that it would take time for the colt to reach his zenith.
“He was a June foal, and a little small,” said Coleman. “When he got sick, we made the decision that we thought this horse had a lot more to offer, and no matter what happened the rest of the season, he would race as a four year old.”
What happened the rest of the season was winning a leg of The Triple Crown in The Cane Pace, followed by a win in The Breeders Crown.
There are two deterrents for not bringing a star back to the track at age four. The first is obvious, the mighty dollar. The lure of sending a superstar off to retirement, and being paid handsomely to do that is appealing to some. The second reason is the lack of opportunities for a four year old to compete against his own age group. More so than thoroughbred racing, the transition from three to four for a standardbred is difficult, and facing the older horses is an extreme challenge.
But it is a challenge that Coleman is looking forward to. “When he raced in Chicago, he went a full second faster
than Foiled Again, and he wasn’t asked to do much,” she said. “Now looking at him physically he has filled out so much, it’s really remarkable. He has so much muscle now and all signs are pointing to him being able to handle the challenges he’ll face this year.”
Betterthancheddar is spending his winter at a South Florida Training Center, and Coleman has no problem giving him time to come back to the races, with no specific goals in mind.
“We are going to look to start to bring him back in the spring,” she said. “The Aquarius for horses just his age comes up too fast, so we aren’t going to go there. He’ll be staked to all the big dances, and I think he will be able to compete with the best.”
Harness racing should be rooting for Betterthancheddar this year. If he does well, it could very well show horsemen that bringing a star three year old back at four not only can be done, but it can be done successfully and it can be very profitable.