Shamballa won the $225,550 US Pacing Championship at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day. Photo credit: Mark Hall / USTA
He’s been in this business for decades and has certainly possessed some outstanding horses along the way, including champions Buck I St Pat and Economy Terror. But Howard Taylor is a little superstitious regarding the success he has enjoyed in 2016 with Shamballa, Control The Moment and Lady Shadow.
“I am almost embarrassed by the wealth of riches we have at this moment,” the Philadelphia attorney explained. “There are so many years you have such high hopes and then so many things go wrong. You can never imagine having a year like this and there is so much racing to come. You just hope everything keeps working the way it does and that your luck continues to hold on. In fact, I don’t know if you heard me but while I’m talking to you I’m knocking on wood right now. I still have to keep pinching myself to believe this is real.”
And there very well may be more to come, as Taylor also owns the undefeated 2-year-old filly Candlelight Dinner and numerous horses that are doing extremely well on various Sire Stake circuits.
“This is unbelievable but the day after we won those races at the Meadowlands with Shamballa, Control The Moment and Lady Shadow, we had two horses win New York Sire Stakes races at Buffalo Raceway,” Taylor said. “Then there is Candlelight Dinner. She is with Casie Coleman and we think she is a special horse. She is a big, beautiful filly and no one has even been close to her in all four of her starts. Casie has been around a lot of nice horses and believes this might be the best filly she has ever trained.”
But back to Hambletonian day…Taylor had one of the most spectacular days as an owner in harness racing history and it could be the most prolific of all time. On that date (Aug. 6) in East Rutherford, N.J., Taylor’s horses captured the $225,550 U.S. Pacing Championship, the $732,050 Meadowlands Pace and the $235,930 Lady Liberty.
Shamballa kicked off the Taylor Stable show with his upset triumph in the U.S. Pacing Championship. Sent off at 8-1, the 6-year-old gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere-Bolera Takara enjoyed a perfect second cover trip which pilot Scott Zeron used to his advantage.
He bested defending Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit, world champion Always B Miki, who many feel is the best horse in harness racing, and last year’s Breeders Crown victor and world champion Freaky Feet Pete.
Co-owned by his conditioner Rick Zeron and Cool Cat Stables, Shamballa demonstrated that win was no fluke as he followed up with a dead heat third place finish in the $325,000 Dan Patch Invitational on Friday (Aug. 12) behind none other than Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki.
To date, the gelding has earned $706,158 with a resume of 54-23-7-7 and established his lifetime mark of 1:47.1 at the Meadowlands in the U.S. Pacing Championship.
Taylor entered a partnership on the horse over the winter and was touting him in the early spring.
“I had been watching his races when Rick asked me if I wanted a piece of him,” Taylor said. “I liked the horse and I’ve had horses with Rick before, so of course I said yes. Did I think he could beat the best horses in harness racing? Maybe not, but I knew we had a very nice, older horse on our hands that could be very competitive. Rick has always been very conservative with the horse and knows him well. He is eligible to all the big stake races for the rest of the year and at this point I would say you could put a blanket over him with “The Big Three.” I’m excited to see what he accomplishes the rest of the year and beyond because he is a very fast horse with a tremendous brush to him.”
Control The Moment
Taylor has always had high expectations for Control The Moment. After he trained down as a yearling, trainer Brad Maxwell, who co-owns the 3-year-old son of Well Said- Life’sliltreasure with Tara Hills Stud, Ed Gold and Ben Mudry, explained to Taylor this was one talented individual and the sky could very well be the limit.
“I always believed Well Said would turn out to be a very good stallion and wanted to support him by buying some of his yearlings,” Taylor said. “This one fit the bill and just has done nothing wrong. Since he raced primarily up in Canada last year, people down in the U.S. did not really realize what a great horse he is and then we had that happen to him in the Breeders Crown where he came up sick.
“We knew this year, we would have a monster of a horse on our hands,” he continued. “He progressed like a horse should through the winter and he is just so fast. People still did not understand how good he was this year because he had a lot of bad posts early on. He showed them in the Meadowlands Pace and then followed that up in the Cane Pace. We did not take him to Northfield for the Milstein Memorial because Brian (Sears, his driver) said he was getting pretty hot and grabby so he it would be best to give him a week off. The goal with this horse has always been the Jug and then the Messenger. We want him to win the pacing Triple Crown and that is what we have been shooting for since he started his career.”
Control The Moment, a world champion and last year’s O’Brien award winner as Canada’s best 2-year-old pacing colt, had a record of 17-12-1-1 and had banked more than $1.025 million. He was a $47,000 yearling purchase at the 2014 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. His quest for the elusive pacing Triple Crown hit a bump August 20 when he finished third in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine on Super Stakes evening at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Last but certainly not least, is the 5-year-old world champion Lady Shadow. The daughter of Shadow Play-Lady Camella was the 2014 O’Brien award winner as leading 3-year-old filly and last year was Canada’s top older pacing mare.
It appears she is on her way to collecting her third championship title as she is at the head of her division, set a world record for the 1-1/8 Golden Girls of 2:00.3 in July and is currently on a five-race winning streak.
Not bad for a horse Taylor was never truly sold on owning.
“I received a call she was for sale as a 4-year-old and I thought the price for her was too high,” he recalled. “I called up Ed Gold and told him what I thought and asked if he wanted to buy in or if he agreed with me on the price. He did not and thought we needed to buy her. He said even if she didn’t do well racing she had residual value as a broodmare. So we bought her and I think it was within a week of having her she won the Roses Are Red final and paid for herself. Since then she has done nothing wrong and has always been a contender.”
In the Lady Liberty on August 6, Lady Shadow, with Yannick Gingras in the bike, had a huge lead coming into the stretch and it appeared she would dominate her foes just like she had in the Golden Girls three weeks prior. Solar Sister, however, who has been chasing her for the last several months, would not be denied and made a bid for victory that cut into Lady Shadow’s lead until less than a length separated them at the wire.
Once again, Solar Sister had to settle for second place.
“She is in everything for the rest of the year as well,” Taylor said. “This year she did not start off so great because she just did not do well with Josh (Green), her trainer. The intention was for Josh to take her and keep her down here in the U.S. but he called me up and said he just could not get her to go for him. That’s when we took her back up to Ron Adams. Since then she has been very sharp. Sometimes horses need that and you just need to keep them happy. She must like her stall, her groom and her routine up there, so we won’t change anything. I just appreciate Josh’s honesty to admit he just could not get her where she needed to be and suggesting the trainer switch.
“No matter what happens for the rest of the year with any of these horses, it has been a spectacular ride already and I cannot really put into words what kind of season this has been,” he continued. “You always dream of things like this, but how often do they come true? I’ll tell you something, if I am dreaming I sure don’t want to wake up.”