Obviously he is his own unique individual, yet Hugadragon, like all the immediate members of his family, shares common personality traits or characteristics based on his genetic composition. Some of which have caused the Burke family, his breeder/owner, a considerable amount of consternation.
“He’s just like the rest of his family, which is one step above being severely mentally handicapped,” explained Ron Burke, who conditions the 4-year-old son of Dragon Again and Hip Huggers. “He ended up having to be broken by the Amish, which we have never had to do, because he does things his own way and doesn’t care. He went from being dangerous to simply annoying.”
The gelding, one of the first horses the Burkes have ever bred, has competed in top company throughout his two year career.
In his initial season of racing Hugadragon captured his career debut in a $7,800 affair at The Meadows on June 23, 2010. After breaking his maiden, he paced five more miles before he returned to the winners’ circle, but did show promise by finishing second in two Pennsylvania Sire Stakes events worth $51,026 and $74,539 at The Meadows on July 3, 2010 and August 16, 2010 and in the $21,000 Arden Stake also at The Meadows on July 31, 2010. He was fourth in a $60,192 Pennsylvania Sire Stake on July 31, 2010 at Harrah’s Chester Downs and the $200,000 Sire Stake Final at Harrah’s Chester on September 5, 2010.
The gelding finally had his photograph taken on September 24, 2010 in a $29,520 Keystone Classic division at The Meadows before traveling to Pocono Downs on October 1, 2010 to finish second in his $25,000 Breeders Crown Elimination. He ended his season with an eighth place finish in the $600,000 Final the following week. From 11 trips to the post, Hugadraon collected three victories and four second placings, with earnings of $119,005 and a mark of 1:53.1f.
On May 20, 2011, the horse returned to the races with a triumph in a $13,000 non-winners’ race at Pocono Downs. But like the year before, although the gelding was consistent in lucrative events, he only entered the winners circle twice between the third week in June and the first week in October.
Hugadragon finished fourth in the $26,367 division of the Reynolds at Pocono Downs on July 9, 2011, in a $70,078 Pennsylvania Sire Stake on July 16, 2011 at The Meadows, in the $500,000 Adios Final on July 30, 2011 at The Meadows and in his $84,288 Little Brown Jug Elimination, but was placed fifth, at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on September 22, 2011.
After competing in The Jug, the gelding finally found his best form. He won a $100,500 division of the Bluegrass Stake at The Red Mile on October 2, 2011, the $243,000 Tattersall’s Pace also at The Red Mile on October 9, 2011. He then finished second in his $25,000 Breeders Crown Elimination at Woodbine Raceway on October 22, 2010, before hitting the wire seventh in the $500,000 Final the following week.
Subsequent to that poor performance, Hugadragon traveled to Indiana Downs to annex the $275,000 Monument Circle on November 5, 2011, then to Balmoral Park on November 12, 2011 where he was second in the $225,000 American National and closed out his sophomore campaign at Dover Downs with victories in $32,745 Matron Stake Elimination on November 20, 2011 and the $221,465 Final on November 27, 2011. He compiled a record of 21-7-5-3, banked $715,828 and lowered his speed badge to 1:49.3f.
“As long as you take him to the marshal and let him collect himself two minutes before the race, he is usually all right, but that is not a guarantee,” Burke said. “He’s in Florida now and while he was being driven the other morning he was about 10 feet from the pond before he finally decided he was going to turn instead of going in. He has a mind of his own and you don’t know if he will make it to the gate or if he does, just not participate at all.
“I think in the Breeders Crown (Final) he didn’t show up,” he continued. “His driver (Sylvain Filion) went from trying to win the race to trying to figure out how to get him to the gate and get involved.”
It took Burke quite some time to realize, despite his stubborn disposition, Hugadragon did possess the ability to defeat the elite in his division and anticipates 2012 might be the season he begins to shine.
“When we raced him at the Meadowlands last year (second in the $102,750 Oliver Wendell Homes on August 6), is when if I finally knew he had extreme speed and before that I wasn’t sure if he did,” Burke recalled. “I knew he was a nice horse, but I didn’t know what kind of horse. He paced in 1:48 and I could say if Roll With Joe (2011 3-Year-Old Pacing Colt and Gelding of the Year) weren’t there, I think he could have won that race. It was when he seemed to break loose.”
Even though dealing with his temperament on certain occasions is definitely a struggle, Burke feels Hugadragon has made enough progress to become one of the top horses in his already talent-laden barn.
“He’ll get a little bit of a later start, but I do have him staked to everything this year,” he said. “Out of all the horses we have that are Dragons (by Dragon Again) he has showed the most improvement. I think without a doubt the Dragons tend to get better with age. In fact I’ve seen it with Atocia and I’ve seen it with Foiled (Foiled Again, 2011 Champion Aged Pacer and Pacing Horse of the Year). Out of every other one we’ve had, he most fits the pattern of Foiled. He has taken abuse and kept going so there is a part of me that hopes he is getting better and has a good year.”