Courtesy of Brett Sturman, VIP Stable
"Summer Camp and Andy Miller, what an effort here. Summer Camp, a giant mile," exclaimed Meadowlands track announcer Ken Warkentin during a non-winners of two conditioned race last May.
In that race, Summer Camp was able to overcome a difficult trip to hold off a late closing Valentino in 1:51:3. Just two months later, Valentino went on to finish third in the $1 million Meadowlands Pace, making it clear to his owners that Summer Camp was sitting on a tremendous amount of raw talent. It just took some time for that ability to shine through.
The late blooming 4-year-old son of Rocknroll Hanover bids for his fifth straight win in the $18,000 opening round of the Clyde Hirt Series on Friday night at Meadowlands Racetrack. Co-owned by Larry Baron and the VIP Stable, Summer Camp reached the winners circle nine times in 23 starts in 2010, earning over $80,000. However, the road to Summer Camp’s late sophomore season success was a bumpy one.
Summer Camp made breaks in six of his starts last year, including the opening leg of the Escort series on October 30, 2010 at the Meadowlands. After spotting the field considerable ground, Summer Camp gathered himself together and flew late to just miss the victory by a nose. Since then, Summer Camp is a perfect four for four.
"I think a lot of it is that he has matured,” said the gelding’s trainer, Josh Green. “As a lot of horses go from their three-year-old year to their four-year-old season they tend to get stronger. They can mature out of a lot of things. One of those things includes being rough; I think it's been more of that than anything we've done."
While Green has been pleased with Summer Camp’s progress since the horse entered his barn at the end of October, he credits the trainer who bought, broke and previously trained Summer Camp with laying the foundation for his success.
"John [Butenschoen] had him before I did,” Green noted. “[Summer Camp] actually had won in his start right before I got him. Even when I got him I think he was already heading in that direction; we just continued on from John's work with him."
Summer Camp’s streak includes a career best 1:49.3 in the $57,000 Escort Final on November 20. On a cold night, he endured heavy front end pressure while cutting fractions of :54:1 and 1:22 flat, and still had enough left in the tank to come home in :27:3. With a subsequent pair of 1:51.3 and 1:51.2 victories against older conditioned horses at Dover Downs, Summer Camp rolls into Friday night’s third race as the 5-2 second choice from post nine. Andy Miller has the driving assignment.
Summer Camp is likely to receive his toughest threat in that race from Ron Burke trainee Meirs Hanover. Although Summer Camp got the better of Meirs Hanover in the Escort Final, that one is exiting the Blue Route Final at Harrah's Chester in which he was only a neck away from dethroning undefeated St Elmo Hero.
"He has very high speed and he is able to carry his speed,” Green noted. “Horses that can do that tend to be successful. He's in a couple of different series and they get tougher as they go, so we'll just take it week by week at a time. We'll go through the series and then I think that he'll be a good fit at Dover or elsewhere in the winners-over, open type ranks if he continues to progress."
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