Bettor Sweet is better than ever as he gets ready to begin another harness racing season competng against the best older pacers around.
Last week, the 7-year-old gelding returned to the racetrack for the first time since last winter, winning a qualifier by 14 lengths in 1:52.1 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. He could make his seasonal debut for trainer Tom Cancelliere and owner John Cancelliere on Saturday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs as he prepares for his first major test, the Graduate Stakes at the Meadowlands (eliminations on May5,final on May 12).
Bettor Sweet won eight of 24 starts in 2011, including the Breeders Crown Pace, and earned a career-best $879,000. For his career, the son of Bettor's Delight-Sweet Future has won 22 of 74 races and banked $2.21 million.
"He's come back very strong," said driver John Campbell, who has guided Bettor Sweet to many of his top victories during his career. "I was very happy with his qualifier; he just kind of cruised around there. He's wintered well and he's going into the campaign in good shape.
"We know he can compete at the highest level. He's done it before and there's no reason to think he can't do it again. I think he's going into this year as good as any year."
Bettor Sweet, who struggled with staying on gait early in his career, raced only twice as a 2-year-old. He won the $390,000 Progress Pace at age 3 and added the Pacing Classic to his resume a year later. That same season, he won his elimination race for the Graduatein a world-record 1:47.2 and finished second to Shark Gesture in the William Haughton Memorial.
In 2010, he won the American-National Stakes and last year, in addition to the Breeders Crown, won the Bettor's Delight in a world-record 1:48.1 mile at Tioga Downs plus a division of the U.S. Pacing Championship.
"He doesn't change much, especially the last couple years," Campbell said. "He was a little tricky when he was younger; you had to be more careful with him because he wasn't as sure of his gait. Since he's made the free-for-all ranks, he's been pretty much the same year after year.
"He's just a great horse. That's the key. They certainly do a great job managing him and looking after him; Tommy knows every in and out of him. The bottom line is he's a great horse."
And when looking at his family, he is not alone. Bettor Sweet's dam, Sweet Future, is also the mother of 3-year-old colt pacer Sweet Lou, who won last season's Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male pacers with a world-record 1:49 performance at Woodbine Racetrack.
Sweet Future won the 2001 Hopeful Series at Yonkers and is a half-sister to Sweet Dragon, who was prevented by Magical Mike's nose from winning the 1993 Woodrow Wilson Stakes.
With another successful season like last year, Bettor Sweet could surpass $3 million in earnings. Only 12 other pacers have topped that level in harness racing history.
"You have to have an admiration for a horse that can race at this level for as long as he has," Campbell said. "Everybody that's in (the sport) just loves horses, and when you get one that's that special, to be around him that's what we're looking for in this game."