By Mike Paradise
Veteran Illinois horseman Mike Brink is hoping to get out of his ICF horses as 3-year-olds more than they did as freshman and early on things are looking better for his state-bred sophomores.
Brink has a trio of 3-year-olds trotters nominated to Hawthorne’s Erwin F. Dygert stake series and gave me a run-down on their development.
“The brother to King Mufasa (Sharkbite Mike) is training really well,” said Brink. He didn’t grow up much over the winter but he’s much smarter in his head. I hope he takes after his brother a little more than he did last year.” King Mufasa (1:53.4, $288,536) was the 2013 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year for Brink, when he captured 14 of 18 starts as a 3-year-old and made almost $240,000 for owners Bill Wright (Morton, Illinois) and Mystical Marker Farms (Valparaiso, Indiana).
Sharkbite Mike made only four starts as a freshman and his first didn’t come until July 31st, in the Downstate Classic at the Lincoln County Fair track. Brink continued, “The Cassis colt (Cassisandfifth), who is a half-brother to Tour Hall, is the same way. He also didn’t grow up much after we stopped with him. I expect both of them to be okay as 3-year-olds. I don’t know if they’ll be good horses because I haven’t been along with them much yet this year. I do like Muscles Image a lot. He’s a half-brother to Muscles Babe, a mare that I had. She trotted in 53 and made something like $300,000. Muscles Image was just immature as a 2-year-old and was a little hesitant at the gate. He doesn’t appear to be that way at all this year. I think he may be a good horse.” Muscles Image is much further along than his 3-year-old ICF trotting stablemates; the gelding came out ready for his initial 2017 qualifier, winning easily in 2:00.2 with Brink at his lines on March 24th at Springfield.
Brink drove two other winning qualifiers on that Springfield card. Mike’s 10-year-old ICF trotter Rock Hollywood, who amassed almost $200,000 as a 2 and 3-year-old for Brink, drew off in his 1:58.1 winning qualifier, while Ima Skywalker, a new addition to the barn, was all out in his 1:57.1 mile. It was a unusual qualifier, to say the least, for the 3-year-old Skydance Hanover pacer. Ima Skydance got down to the three-quarters in a fast 1:24.2, pacing quarters of 28.1, 28.1 and 28 flat. His final panel was in a pedestrian 32.4 when the field made up almost 14 lengths on him. “We purchased him from Leon Walker in January,” said Brink who shares ownership with of the trotter with Bonnie Harlow and Robert Moser of Hannibal, Missouri. ” I trained him up to that qualifier in ‘58’ and he was fine. When he qualified a few weeks ago I hooked him up to a Tornado race bike and from the first step out of the gate he was hitting the wheel. The more he hit the wheel, the faster he would go. The more I grabbed a hold of him the worst he hit the wheel. I tried to have a happy medium with him so I wouldn’t double him up or stop with him. So I basically let him do what he wanted to do. That certainly wasn’t a typical qualifier from a Mike Brink horse, but I didn’t have a choice with him that day. I was going to qualify him back a week later but we had rain here all last week. I’ll change race bikes with him. That qualifier wasn’t his fault. He’s a nice enough colt, and he can go fast.”
The subject changed to Sullivan, one of Brink’s sophomore pacers owned by Illinoisans Mark Brown (Chatham), Josh Carter (Williamsville) and Ed Teefey (Mount Sterling), along with Larry Crawford of Port St. Joe, Florida. “Sullivan had bad luck all last year,” continued Brink. “He got run into a few times. He drew a lot of 8, 9 or 10-holes. I got him behind horses that made a break in front of him. Things like that. We ‘cut’ him late in the season and he got infected. He raced terrible at Springfield when he was all infected. Sullivan started off his 2-year-old season with some nice races but then it was one thing after another that kept him from doing well. He acts like a nice horse this year and could be much better.”
Mike has an abundant of 2-year-olds nominated to the Hawthorne stakes series this year. “I’ve got 16 of them, about 9 of them are trotters. It’s too early to get excited about any right now but get back to me later on and we’ll talk about them.” Will do.
Still Perfect: The Nelson Willis trained 4-year-old trotter Hot Rod Dylan (Mike Oosting), completed his sweep of the Omar Hiteman Memorial Trotting Series at Miami Valley Raceway Tuesday night in Ohio with a front-end 1:54 flat mile and remained unbeaten in 2017. Unraced at three, Hot Rod Dylan is now 7-for- this year. The $8,750 winner’s share of the championship purse boosted the gelding’s season earnings to $31,000 for Illinois owner Shirley Le Vin (Barrington Hills).