McWicked seeks consecutive championship seasons
story by Kimberly French
On Nov. 24, 2018, McWicked and pilot Brian Sears rolled home with a final quarter panel of :26.2 in the $350,000 TVG Open Pace final at The Meadowlands to collect the 7-year-old stallion’s fifth consecutive victory on the year. Trained by Casie Coleman and owned by Ed James’ S S G Stables, the son of McArdle – Western Sahara ended the season as the sport’s highest-ranked horse in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. Immediately after the race, the speculation commenced on whether that performance would be his swan song.
“He was a little bit fat, but he finished out the season so strong, I almost wished there were more stakes to run in,” Coleman said. “All season long, stud farms kept coming up to me at the track or calling me about standing him. There were six different farms competing to get him. I kept telling them it wasn’t my decision to make and it was up to Ed. I honestly don’t think he called one of them back and did not have any intention of retiring him. You would make more money breeding him than racing him in stakes next year. But Ed’s not worried about the money; he just wants to see his horse race.”
After his winter vacation at Anvil And Lace Farm in Cynthiana, Ky., McWicked, Canada’s newly crowned Horse of the Year and champion older pacer traveled to Florida, where he is preparing for his 2019 campaign under the watchful eye of Jim McDonald.
“I haven’t seen him, but Jimmy does this every year,” Coleman said. “He and Ed stake him, Jim-my gets him ready and then he sends him to me when he is ready to qualify. I’m just responsible for racing him.
“Like I said, I haven’t seen him since he’s been down here, but Beth [Yontz, co-owner of Anvil And Lace Farm] sent me tons of pictures of him every day. She kept telling me how great he was doing and he sure looked like he was doing exactly that. I’m definitely looking forward to this season, even if he is 8 now. I’ve never seen a horse this consistent, and with how he is doing, there is no reason to think he will not be just as good this year.”
After the Pennsylvania-bred enjoyed last season with a record of 19-12-3-2 and $1.57 million in the bank, it will be interesting to witness what McWicked will accomplish in 2019.
“To think he was going to do what he did last year would be impossible,” Coleman said. “To come back as a 7-year-old and do what he did after some of the bumps in the road he had is something horses very rarely, if ever, do.
“All of his races were awesome, but the Canadian Pacing Derby was special. I had been trying to win that race for a while and McWicked got the job done for me. It means a lot.”
Already a Breeders Crown winner at age 3, in addition to being a world champion and Dan Patch Award winner, McWicked was purchased by James at the 2013 Standardbred Mixed Horse Sale as a 2-year-old for $210,000.
In his first season of racing, McWicked was owned by Andy Miller Stable Inc., Paymaq Racing and Hannah Miller. Trained by Julie Miller, the then colt showed promise as he compiled a record of 10-3-5-1 and earned $179,617.
“Norman Hall picked him out,” James said. “We’ve been buying horses like that for years and we were going to get this horse no matter how much he went for.”
Coleman took over the training duties when the colt was a sophomore in 2014 and McWicked rose to the top of his division. He earned $1.47 million with a resume of 23-12-5-4 and established a world record of 1:47.3 with a win in the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. His other wins that season included the $301,560 Progress Pace at Dover Downs and the $400,000 Adios final at The Meadows.
When he returned to competition as a 4-year-old, McWicked did not return to top form. His record was 10-0-3-2 and he earned only $90,283. As a 5-year-old, he faced the starter on only four occasions, managed two third-place finishes and collected $18,650.
The stallion, however, did have a reason for his poor performances.
“He had to have two different throat surgeries,” James explained. “The first one did not take and we had to take him back for a second one. That is why he was on the sidelines for so long.”
McWicked also changed barns and was trained for the first part of 2017 by Steve Elliott. De-spite flying a bit under the radar, the stallion earned $560,025 with a record of 27-7-7-2. He was second in the $421,000 Breeders Crown final and the $350,000 TVG Open final.
“He kept being the bridesmaid,” Coleman said. “He just had a lot of bad luck with traffic. He was pacing harder than any of them at the wire; he just had some bad luck. But saying that, the horse had made more than $2 million, so I guess you can’t say it’s bad luck.
“It’s not often that he’s off the board. He usually gives you all he’s got and he’s usually right there. He’s had a lot of first-over journeys where he still gets the job done. He can take any trip you give him.”
McWicked kicked off his 2018 campaign with a win in a $26,520 Preferred event at Woodbine Mo-hawk Park on May 19. He was then fourth in the Commodore Barry Invitational at Harrah’s Phil-adelphia prior to finishing second in the $76,000 Mohawk Gold Cup back at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
He then won the $500,000 Ben Franklin final and the $471,100 William Haughton Memorial fi-nal before finishing second in the $260,100 Sam McKee Memorial and third in the $325,000 Dan Patch Invitational.
After returning to Canadian soil, the stallion captured the $462,000 Canadian Pacing Derby, then dead-heated for fourth in the $250,000 Ewart Memorial. He was then second behind New Zealand superstar Lazarus N in the $177,000 Hoosier Park Pacing Derby before finishing third in the $150,000 Dayton Pacing Derby.
After leaving Dayton, McWicked reeled off five straight victories, including a 1:46.2 triumph at Red Mile in the $179,000 Allerage Farms Open Pace on Oct. 6. It is the second-fastest race mile in the history of the sport behind only Always B Miki’s 1:46 standard.
He then dismissed all doubts about his ability over a half-mile oval with a dominant score in the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational Pace at Yonkers Raceway on Oct. 13, and then became only the second horse in history—joining Wesgate Crown—to capture a second Breeders Crown four years after the first with a facile 1:49.3 score in the $430,000 Breeders Crown final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Oct. 27.
After his win in the TVG final, Coleman said she hoped she would have the opportunity to train McWicked in 2019. James was more than happy to oblige her and had his own reasons for not sending the stallion off to stud.
“I bought the horse to race,” James said in March of 2017. “I never got in this business to make money. I worked and still run my business (SSG Gloves) primarily by myself. I don’t take partners on horses because I like to control my own fate.
“I’m 87 years old and by the time I could watch his foals race I would be 92 and, let’s face it, I might not be here then. Horses like this don’t come around very often; some people never get one and I don’t have another lifetime to find another one. And they never put periscopes in caskets.” HB
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