Day At The Track

Gimpanzee brings undefeated record to Yonkers

04:16 AM 25 Jun 2019 NZST
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Gimpanzee, harness racing
Gimpanzee

YONKERS, N.Y. – Champion trotter Gimpanzee will bring his undefeated record to Yonkers Raceway Tuesday evening (June 25) in a division of the New York Sire Stakes for harness racing 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings. The Dan Patch Award winning 2-year-old of 2018 will take to the track in a non-wagering split of the NYSS at approximately 6:10 p.m.

Gimpanzee went 9-for-9 as a freshman, capturing victories in NYSS at Monticello, Tioga, Saratoga, Vernon, and two legs at Yonkers before scoring a 1:56.3 win in the $225,000 NYSS Final at the Hilltop September 22.

The Chapter Seven son then posted consecutive 1:54.4 victories in the Breeders’ Crown Elimination and $600,000 Final at Pocono Downs October 19 and 27, respectively, to take divisional honors and give trainer Marcus Melander his first Breeders’ Crown win.

“We turned him out after the Breeders’ Crown for a month, roughly. We brought him in early December and started training him,” Melander said. “He filled out very, very good. He didn’t grow so much, he’s not the biggest horse, but he filled out really nice. He definitely showed some speed now this year as well. He’s been having a lot of qualifiers and just one start so far, but I think he’s developed good.”

Despite his impressive record on the racetrack and his Champion title, Gimpanzee keeps a low profile at Melander’s farm. However, one of Gimpanzee’s greatest assets is understanding when it’s time to race.
“He’s very lazy. He’s like a 10-year-old gelding, he’s been like that his whole life,” Melander said. “He has no hurry at all. He’s a very nice horse to be around, but when he trains, you don’t think that he’s undefeated in 10 starts and made almost $700,000. You don’t feel that when you train him at home, but then he’s a totally different horse when he goes to the track.

“When we train him down, he always feels good, he’s just lazy. But as soon as you bring him to the Meadowlands to train or qualify, he really knows what’s going on,” Melander continued. “I think that’s a good personality to have. He doesn’t get too excited at home, he does his work and he knows when it’s time to race.”

Gimpanzee returned to the track April 27 in a Meadowlands trial, finishing fifth while individually timed in 1:58.3. He returned May 4 to win a qualifier in 1:55 and Melander pointed Gimpanzee to his first target, the Empire Breeders’ Classic eliminations at Vernon Downs. However, after only nine trotters declared for the $215,200 stakes, the race went straight to the final and Melander was forced to qualify Gimpanzee again May 18.

“I just want to race him, but when he went to the Empire Breeders’ Classic, there was no eliminations needed for that race,” Melander said. “I didn’t plan that; I planned that he was going to race in there, so I maybe should have raced him at Vernon the week before in the Sire Stakes. Then the Sire Stakes went to Monticello and Buffalo and I didn’t want to bring him there.” 

After tuning up in another qualifier in 1:53.0 with a :27.1 final quarter, Gimpanzee traveled to Vernon for the Empire Breeders’ Classic. He relaxed in third 3 ¾ lengths behind Mt Viktor early before driver Brian Sears mounted a first-over challenge nearing the half. Gimpanzee inched closer to Mr Viktor around the final turn and took the lead straightening away. With Sears motionless in the bike, Gimpanzee extended his advantage to 3 ¼ lengths to win in 1:54.0 at odds of 1-20.

“It was good. He had qualified good going into that race, but you don’t know; it’s horse racing,” Melander said. “He was very good that day. He raced off the pace and he won easily. Brian was happy with him and it was a good first start.

“For him, (the trip) doesn’t matter, honestly,” Melander continued. “He loves his work, it doesn’t matter where he comes from. Of course, on those bigger tracks, it doesn’t matter where you come from, but those half-miles, it’s easier if you go to the lead.”

Gimpanzee’s Empire Breeders’ Classic win extended the colt’s undefeated streak to 10 and boosted his earnings to $695,730 for Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. With Courant owning Melander’s other two top Hambletonian hopefuls, Greenshoe and Green Manalishi, who each won eliminations of the Beal at Pocono Downs June 22, Melander doesn’t feel extra pressure to keep Gimpanzee’s record perfect.

“My other horses are really good. Greenshoe is super-fast, he’s maybe a better horse, or at least faster than (Gimpanzee),” Melander said. “We try to keep them apart as much as we can here in the beginning. They’ll race each other in a lot of races later in the fall, but if we can keep them separated in the beginning, that’s great.

“If I raced (Gimpanzee) in New York all year, he’d probably stay undefeated, but I’m not going to do that because he is more than just a New York Sire Stakes horse,” Melander continued. “But we wanted to start him out there in the New York circuit and we’re going to race him against those other colts late summer. Maybe start with one race before the ‘Hambo’ and then we have all of those other races all fall.”

The deciding factor in Melander’s choice to bring Gimpanzee to Yonkers Tuesday was NYSS points. The colt hasn’t started in any NYSS events yet this year after bypassing legs at Vernon, Monticello, and Buffalo and needs victories in the series to get into the rich Sire Stakes final this fall. 

“It’s really important for Gimpanzee to get some points for the New York final in September,” Melander said. “They go for a lot of money and we haven’t raced in any Sire Stakes so far, so we need some points. Yonkers is a track he goes around very good, so that’s why we’re racing him there.”

Gimpanzee tuned up with a 1:53.4 qualifier at the Meadowlands June 15. He will start from post six with Brian Sears in the bike and will face five rivals in his $54,833 spit of the NYSS Tuesday evening: Chip Chip Conway, Cavill Hanover, Kredit Karma, Big Money Honey, and Lucky Weekend. Melander is confident.

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t be,” he said. “It’s horses that he beat before and should beat again. Of course, he got the six hole all the way out, but for him, it’s a field he should beat. I’m confident. He’s been training good since the qualifier. If everything is right and he doesn’t make a break or anything, he should have a good start in there.”

Tuesday’s 12-race wagering card includes two other divisions of the NYSS.

First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

For entries to the races, click here.

By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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