By John Cirillo
The names ring true to rank among the greatest of International Trot champions: the American standouts, two-time winner Delmonica Hanover and Classical Way; Canadian star Fresh Yankee, and the French flag-carriers Une de Mai and Roquepine, both two-time titlists.
What do these immortals have in common? All were mares who dominated their male counterparts in global warfare.
This sets the stage for this year’s tigress, Bee A Magician, one of the likely favorites in the $1 million International Trot on Saturday afternoon, October 10th, to be contested over Yonkers Raceway’s historic half-mile oval.
This lady will be quite at home at Yonkers, having won three of four starts at Empire City Casino’s famous harness thoroughfare.
Bee A Magician is coming off a scintillating performance in the Centaur Trot, a $210,000 affair at Hoosier Park. Saturday, when she became the first mare to capture the Centaur. Now, she’s trying to do what only the fabled Good Time has been able to do: win Horse of the Year crown twice but NOT in back to back years. He did it in 1949 at age 3 and then parlayed the first ever $100,000 earnings season at age six into yet another Horse of the Year campaign.
David Miller had the sulky assignment as Bee A Magician took care of business against a field of nine male rivals to score by a length in 1:53. The world champion race mare had to overcome a circuitous, overland journey for her second consecutive triumph as the 3-5 favorite.
“She’s an amazing animal,” Miller told reporters in the winner’s circle. “She was able to overcome a bad post and unfavorable trip to win that race. She raced great again.
“She really is something though,” Miller added. “To be able to continually dominate at this level and take on the boys week after week is pretty special. She’s a pleasure to sit behind.”
Bee A Magician is trained by Richard ‘Nifty’ Norman. She is a five-year-old Kadabra mare and has registered 41 career victories, including 10 this season in 14 starts. With the win, Bee A Magician pushed her career bankroll to $3.75 million for owners Melvin Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee.
As Sinatra musically puts it: “That’s why the lady is a champ,” and “luck be a lady, tonight.” Bee A Magician will try to beat the boys one more time while carrying the Canadian flag on October 10th. Canada has won two Internationals, the longshot Tie Silk in 1962 and Fresh Yankee, yes, another mare, in 1970.
Back to the history: The powerful, French flag-carrier Ideal du Gazeau, with his white blaze and an amazing burst of speed, was the only three-time International champion under the reins of Eugene Lefevre. Holding his head high in a unique and exciting trotting style, Ideal du Gazeau pulled off the Pat Riley-esque “Three-peat” consecutively in 1981, ’82 and ’83, after finishing second to the American mare Classical Way (John Simpson, Jr.) in his debut in 1980. Legendary U.S.A. standard-bearers, the gelding Su Mac Lad (1961 and ’63/Stanley Dancer) and the mare Delmonica Hanover (1973-74/Delvin Miller), and the French champions Roquepine (1967-68) and Un de Mai (1969 and ’71), both mares from France driven by JeanRene Geugone, were the quartet of two-time International titlists during the late sixties and early seventies. Mares won five in a row and seven of eight International titles from 1967-74. Speedy Crown, driven by Howard Beissinger, interrupted the distaff dominance in 1972.
Thank you to Standardbred historian extraordinaire Bob “Hollywood” Heyden for his extraordinary assistance on this article.