WHEN a teenage Bruce Trogdon first began attending the Adios more than four decades ago, he never imagined he would someday own a horse in the race.
On Saturday, he will. But even if it never happened, the Adios would always be special to him. That’s because 41 years ago, Trogdon got engaged to his wife Sabrina there.
“All this, it’s a pretty neat situation,” said Trogdon, who will return Saturday to The Meadows with Sabrina for the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids and watch Fear The Dragon – the number one ranked horse in harness racing’s weekly poll – compete in the $400,000 race for three-year-old pacers. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Fear The Dragon, who has won eight of nine races this year including the North America Cup and Hempt Memorial, was raised at Trogdon’s Emerald Highlands Farm in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The colt is a son of stallion Dragon Again out of the mare Armbro Cinnamon, who Trogdon purchased five months prior to Fear The Dragon’s birth in April 2014.
Trogdon, a longtime newspaper publisher, started Emerald Highlands Farm in 1982 with 30 acres. The farm expanded gradually to 260 acres and now is home to 37 broodmares.
“I wanted to learn to do the horses myself and I basically started from scratch,” said Trogdon, who bought his first horse in 1975.
“I just loved the sport. I’ve spent a lifetime doing it. I mostly kept a few fillies every year and didn’t do much racing. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve held on to more of the colts. Dragon was just a colt that I liked. I just got lucky. In most years, in previous years, all my colts sold. I just picked the right year to keep him.”
Fear The Dragon, trained by Brian Brown, won five of 11 races last year and finished worse than third only once. His top victory came in the Elevation Stakes, but he also had a win over Dan Patch Award recipient Huntsville in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. He finished third in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, behind Huntsville and stablemate Downbytheseaside.
This year, Fear The Dragon topped Huntsville and Downbytheseaside in the North America Cup, and also beat Huntsville in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. His only loss was a second-place finish to Miso Fast in his Hempt Memorial elimination.
“We knew last year that he was as good as these other horses,” Trogdon said. “Winning the North America Cup was big to me. It gave him a chance to show the world how good he is.”
Fear The Dragon and Huntsville both won their respective eliminations for the Adios last weekend. Fear The Dragon, who was returning from a scheduled three-week layoff, captured his division by a half-length over Western Hill in 1:50.3. Huntsville, fresh off his victory in the Meadowlands Pace, won his division by a neck over Blood Line in 1:49.3.
Huntsville, trained by Ray Schnittker and driven by Tim Tetrick, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the Adios final while Fear The Dragon, with David Miller in the sulky, is the 2-1 second choice.
“We knew we might go in a little short (in the elimination), and the horse was a little dull,” Trogdon said. “He wasn’t himself; he didn’t have quite as much punch as usual. By rights he should come back this week and be tighter, be good. We’re cautiously optimistic.
“Of course we’re racing against a great horse in Huntsville. We’ve beaten him before so we’re not afraid of him, but we certainly respect him because he’s a great horse. I think Huntsville, (Downbytheseaside) and Dragon are just three superstars in the same year. I just think they’re three great horses.”
And Trogdon is just thankful to be part of the group.
“Even when I had just claimers we would drive to The Meadows, about 2-1/2 hours from where we lived in northeast Ohio at the time, and watch the races and I’ve always loved the Adios,” Trogdon said. “I just loved to see the great horses. Never did I think I might have a horse like that.
“Dragon is just a champion. It’s been quite a thrill with him.”
- KEN WEINGARTNER
Following is the Adios field with drivers, trainers and morning line.
- RJP-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-9/2 2. Highalator-Victor Kirby-Jeffrey Long-20/1 3. Fear The Dragon-David Miller-Brian Brown-2/1 4. Huntsville-Tim Tetrick-Ray Schnittker-9/5 5. Eddard Hanover-Brett Miller-Ron Burke-20/1 6. Western Hill-Dave Palone-Tony Alagna-8/1 7. Miso Fast-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-15/1 8. Blood Line-Mark MacDonald-Jimmy Takter-12/1 9. Hurricane Beach-Dan Dube-Luc Blais-15/1