Dover, DE --- Valentine's Day might be over but Delaware trainer Erika Paradee is still enjoying her chocolate and roses -- Chocolate N Roses that is.
Chocolate N Roses, the 5-year-old trotting mare Paradee co-owns and trains, is off to a strong start for the year, finishing first or second in each of her five starts in 2012. Not even two full months into the year, the mare has earned more than $20,000 and taken a new lifetime mark of 1:55.4 at Dover Downs.
"She's a really nice mare," said Paradee, who also bred the winner of more than $221,000.
On Feb. 15, Chocolate N Roses, the 2007 offspring of CR Commando and Confederate Rose (Armbro Charger) bested the competition in a $20,000 claiming handicap at Dover Downs in a new record time of 1:55.4. The mare made a three-wide move at the three-quarter pole to cross the finish line first by a length and a quarter. That win was preceded by three seconds and another win in 1:57.1 in January.
Paradee, who's campaigned Chocolate N Roses her entire racing career, says the mare continues to improve with age.
"She's just gotten better and better," Paradee said.
Chocolate N Roses actually marks the start of Paradee's involvement with trotters. Although she'd had pacers, she decided to make a foray into the other side of the sport and acquired broodmare Confederate Rose in 2006, breeding her to popular Delaware trotting stallion CR Commando. And so Chocolate N Roses was born in April 2007.
She got off to a good start on the racetrack, finishing her 2-year-old season with more than $85,000 in the bank and three wins, three seconds and one third from seven starts.
To the frustration of her connections, Chocolate N Rose’s sophomore campaign did not begin well -- she started making unexplained breaks.
“She must have gotten cast,” Paradee said. “Her hips were out of alignment.”
Paradee enlisted the help of a chiropractor, however, and the filly was back to top form in no time.
While she ended her 3-year-old season with just two wins, she earned more than $63,000. Chocolate N Roses had no trouble finding the winner’s circle the following year, winning 12 of 27 starts as a 4-year-old.
Paradee credits driver and co-owner Bret Brittingham with keeping the mare’s mind on racing while she’s on the track.
“She’s not an easy horse to drive, she’s kind of temperamental,” Paradee said.
On the farm, however, the mare knows she’s at home. Paradee said she tends to keep Chocolate N Roses on a strong jogging regimen between starts.
“She’s not a real good trainer,” she said. “She acts like she’s bored.”
Paradee said she plans to continue racing the mare at Dover, where she can typically be found competing against the boys in $20,000 claimers. While she is perpetually afraid her horse of five years will get claimed, Paradee said the mare usually has enough money on her card to put her over her head in the conditioned trot classes.
Nevertheless, she’s confident Chocolate N Roses will maintain her recent success.
“She’s always been all business,” she said. “She knows her job.”