Day At The Track

Theartofconfusion gets a shot at $250,000

10:02 AM 12 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Theartofconfusion A,Harness racing
Stephanie Torres photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – While many of the horses competing in the Dan Rooney Invitational Pace compete on the Grand Circuit, traveling from track to track chasing harness racing’s biggest purses, Theartofconfusion will be at home.

The $250,000 stakes on the Yonkers International Trot undercard will be the 99th local start for the 9-year-old Riverboat King gelding and his 55th straight race at the Hilltop.

Theartofconfusion has the Yonkers all-age track record to his name after he became the first Standardbred to pace a sub-1:50 mile in the track’s 120-year history. The mile came unexpectedly in a $30,000 overnight Aug. 31.

Despite Theartofconfusion’s typical off-the-pace tactics, driver Austin Siegelman gunned the gelding off the gate that night. Chasing Theartofconfusion with the whip, the pair left around Mach N Cheese and forced Ideal Cowboy to take the pocket. The rest was history.

Theartofconfusion was on top by 2 lengths through a :26.2 opening panel and his lead increased to 2 ¾ lengths passing the half in :54.2. Twenty-seven-year-old reinsman Siegelman felt confident despite the torrid pace.

“When I hit the half with him, and pretty much the whole race, I was just daring the horse to run away with me,” Siegelman said. “Setting the bit in his mouth and kind of growling at him and he was just responding to that.”

Theartofconfusion left his rivals behind, pacing through three-quarters in 1:21.3 while up by 5. With Siegelman motionless in the sulky, Theartofconfusion pinned his ears back, kept his head down, and powered determinedly through the stretch to score by 10 lengths in the track record clocking.

“I probably didn’t need to go that much with him, but at the three-quarter pole, when I saw the timer, I knew he’d set the track record because he just goes faster and faster,” Siegelman said.

“I didn’t think he’d go that kind of mile until that day, but he is pretty much unbeatable on the front end. He doesn’t get tired. He’s big and strong,” Siegelman said. “He could have gone whatever that day.”

Off his track record mile, which has since been equaled by Dan Rooney rival American History, Theartofconfusion won the $46,000 Open Handicap Pace Sept. 7 before a string of outside handicaps in the weekly feature saw him lose three straight from Sept. 14 to Oct. 5. However, Theartofconfusion landed post position two in the Rooney’s random draw.

“Drawing outside, he really had no shot in any of those miles,” Siegelman said.

“The horses that drew inside of him have a lot more speed than him. Finally drawing back inside, he did it at the right time. He’s been good the past three starts, just no shot.”

Siegelman started driving Theartofconfusion in June, taking over from Mark MacDonald. Siegelman is in the midst of his biggest season to date. After getting the chance to drive full time at Yonkers and getting first call on Gilbert Garcia-Herrera’s horses, Siegelman has 283 wins this season with $2.97 million earned. While his Yonkers exploits are only responsible for 83 of his wins, his mounts have earned $2.22 million here.

“This has for sure been my best year. I didn’t expect to drive at Yonkers, and now I’m getting stakes drives and I never get stakes drives,” Siegelman said.

“It’s cool. I think I’m ready for it and I think I can drive with just about anybody. It’s just about getting the mounts and getting the security to where I can just relax on the racetrack about it and not worry about every race that I have to win. I think I’m finally getting there.”

Despite his powerhouse season, Siegelman’s focus on Yonkers and his relationship with Garcia-Herrera were unexpected.

“I just got lucky,” the driver said. “Guys called out sick and they needed to call me in. So, I showed up. Right after Monticello one day, I went over to Yonkers and showed up and happened to do some good for people and got listed back.

“I drove a few odd times for (Gilbert). We just did all right whenever he got stuck with me and MacDonald started going to stakes races and I was there each night.”

Theartofconfusion was among those Siegelman began to drive for Garcia-Herrara. Over their 16 starts together, Siegelman has learned to read the horse.

“He’s a cool horse. He doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s nice to be around. He’s a little bit hot,” Siegelman said.

“He’s a little hard to drive in that he doesn’t have the real quick speed that some of those other horses have, so that kind of puts me at a disadvantage. He’s kind of a one speed grinder that just doesn’t get tired. Every once in a while, you can get him out of the gate fast.

“I think you either have to decide before the wings fold whether you’re just going to go on a mission and go forward,” he continued. “You have to take him off the gate otherwise. You either have to tell him he’s going to leave or not.”

Despite Theartofconfusion’s track record performance, he’s a longshot in the Rooney. He’ll face Horse of the Year and defending Rooney winner McWicked, who enters for Casie Coleman and Brian Sears fresh off a win in the Allerage Open Pace at the Red Mile Oct. 5.

Other rivals include Jimmy Freight, who drew the one hole off his Dayton Pacing Derby victory Sept. 27 and None Bettor, who will start from post five off a victory from the eight hole in the local $42,000 Open Handicap last out Sept. 28. Regular Yonkers competitors The Real One and Micky Gee drew will start from posts three and four, respectively, while This Is The Plan and American History will need to overcome wide draws.

“He’s a 20-1 morning line. I don’t really look at the morning line, I don’t think it means much. I’m just happy to be in the race and have a shot to get money,” Siegelman said.

“I have to push him out no matter what so he doesn’t gap,” the driver said. “We’ll see how it works out. It’s just a matter of whether I want to really tune him in scoring down or not. I’ll have to talk to Gilbert about that, see what he wants to do and how he feels he should race. I don’t have any strategy right now. We’re still thinking about it.”

Although a Grand Circuit victory on the Yonkers International Trot undercard would be a milestone in Siegelman’s career, the reinsman thought first of Garcia-Herrera and co-owners Barbara and Donald Arnstine.

“It would be cool for me, but I would just be happy to get the win for Gilbert, who’s pretty much supported me now for the past year,” Siegelman said.

“It would be cool for him and those owners to get that. It’s not really about me.

“Gilbert’s first owner owns this horse with him. They’re out of California. They’ve been with him the longest. It would be cool for those people.”

The $250,000 Dan Rooney Pace will be held on the undercard of the $1 million Yonkers International Trot, slated for Saturday (Oct. 12) at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature the $250,000 Harry Harvey Trot at 10 furlongs. For more information on the event and its participants, click here.

Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.


By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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