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Blazin Benny bounces back to lead North American Standardbreds in wins

Monday, December 14, 2015  By: Ken Weingartner

Freehold, NJ --- Mark Beckwith thought Blazin Benny’s career was finished. Recurring ligament issues forced the trotter to the sidelines and Beckwith was prepared to retire the horse, even to the point of tentatively finding another home for the gelding.

But then one day Beckwith saw Blazin Benny trotting across a field, appearing sound. And then Beckwith received a phone call from the person who was going to take Blazin Benny, with the caller telling Beckwith he had no room for the horse at the current time.

So Blazin Benny returned to training. And racing. And winning.

Blazin Benny leads all harness racing horses in North America in victories this year, with 23 triumphs. The 7-year-old trotter is owned by Irwin and Ellen Kaplan’s Mo Coo Inc. and Jonathan Klee Racing, who first bought the horse in May 2014. Beckwith drives Blazin Benny and the horse is trained by Beckwith’s wife, Melissa.

Beckwith and Irwin Kaplan purchased Blazin Benny privately last year. The horse had a tendency to go off stride in races, but Beckwith liked the trotter’s speed. Blazin Benny won five times the remainder of 2014, but made breaks in four starts. A subsequent change in trotting hobbles suggested by Beckwith’s friend, driver Jim Marshall III, made a big difference this season.

“Since I’ve put them on he’s only made one break,” Beckwith said. “That was a major difference. I have to give Jim the credit there.”

Blazin Benny, who earned $95,711 this year while competing predominately in the claiming ranks, completed this season by winning his final three starts of the year. He capped his campaign with 1:57.3 score on Dec. 6 at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, a triumph that put him one victory ahead of 3-year-old pacer Wiggle It Jiggleit for the top spot in wins in North America. Third on the list, with 20 wins, is 14-year-old gelding pacer Albert Chief A.

Wiggle It Jiggleit also is finished racing this season.

“I knew he was tied with Wiggle It Jiggleit for the most wins and I was hoping that it would work out that (Blazin Benny) would get one more,” Beckwith said, adding with a laugh, “So now unless they bring back Wiggle It Jiggleit, I think I’m safe. I’m going to give him a month off and then I’m going to New Jersey and I’ll take him with me and race him at either Yonkers or Freehold.”

Blazin Benny twice this year was claimed from the Beckwith Stable, but each time he was claimed back in short order.

“I’m a claiming horse guy,” Beckwith said. “We like to win, so we generally have our horses (entered) a notch below where they should be and take the risk of getting claimed. He’s one of those horses that almost anybody could win with him, so he’s attractive that way. All trainers want trotters that don’t make breaks and can leave the gate, so he meets the criteria. It’s a business.

“You have to look out for the horse’s well-being and try to race him where he can win and not be too hard on himself at the same time. When you put a horse in a claiming race you can’t expect people not to claim. That’s not fair.

“Would it be sad to lose him, yeah, but we have to run this as a business even though he has a lot of sentimental value to us. He’s super around the barn; my kids love him and my wife loves him. But if you’re not careful you end up with a barn full of pets and that’s not going to work.”

Kaplan, who has enjoyed success as an owner of claimers, agreed. He said Blazin Benny’s accomplishments were in large part a reflection of the group’s management plan.

“It’s an achievement,” Kaplan said. “Most of the credit would go to Mark and Melissa and the management of the horse. He’s Melissa’s favorite horse. That’s her baby. He’s tough and he’s able to win and perform. We’re not afraid to do what we’ve got to do with him. That’s this business. If you put a horse in a claimer, you have to be prepared to lose them. Jon and I make money claiming horses, so I can’t complain if someone claims mine.”

Blazin Benny, who started 40 times this year, spends little time training between starts, but does a lot of swimming. A son of Angus Hall-Benn’s Riverdance, he has won 42 of 119 career races and earned $248,398.

“The more we can keep him off the racetrack, the better it is for him,” Beckwith said. “We might have trained him once this year. He doesn’t require much work that way. He’s racing almost every seven days. He’s stayed sound. He’s come out of his races very, very well. Even when he doesn’t win, he’s right there at the wire; I don’t think he’s raced bad.

“Everything fell into place. The Good Lord shined on us with this one, that’s for sure. He’s been a blessing for all of us. He’s made money and we’ve had a ton of fun with him.”


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