From the Apron with Stephen Bardsley: The Fastest Ever & Sam McKee

THE FASTEST EVER: A LOOK AT HARNESS GREAT ALWAYS B MIKI

I have been a sport nut my entire life. For almost 50 years as an artist, I have drawn almost exclusively sports. I have really focused on horses for the last two years. I don’t like hypotheticals in sports! I don’t like when people question how an athlete of a past era would fair against athletes today, or how a horse today would fair against horses from the past or vice versa. I do however love stats! Comparing them, keeping them, studying them, especially sports or events that are based on speed. Open a racing form, and everything you see is somehow related to timing, speed during a workout, or a previous race.  When conditions, equipment, training techniques, medicine, supplements, or other variables change over time, the measure of time doesn’t. The fastest time ever is the fastest time ever.

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In my last column, I wrote about Secretariat, whose times in the 1973 Triple Crown Races are still the fastest ever for those races. One of the biggest stories in TB racing lately was the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. Arrogate won that race, setting a track record for that distance at that track. I was in Saratoga last summer when He did the same thing in the Travers. No other horses have ever run those distances faster at those tracks or races. Fastest times ever are the fastest times ever!

Last year I got interested in the story of Always B Miki. Miki emerged onto the harness racing scene as a three-year-old. In November of 2014, Miki broke his left hind Pastern bone and missed the rest of the season. New Jersey Equine Surgeon Dr. Patty Hogan surgically repaired the bone with 4 screws. After a brief return to racing, in May of 2015, Miki broke his right hind Pastern bone. Again Dr. Hogan surgically repaired the bone with 4 screws. After an eleven-month layoff, Miki returned to racing, and what a return it was! Miki became the only Standardbred in history to win four races in 1:47 or quicker. On October 9,2016 Miki raced in the Allerage Farm Pace at the Red Mile in Lexington Kentucky. Miki trained by Jimmy Takter with David Miller in the bike, stopped the timer in 1:46:00, making that the fastest mile ever by a Standardbred! The fastest ever, returning with 8 screws in his surgically repaired hind legs!

I was inspired by the story, and did a drawing of Miki and posted it on social media. Now retired, Miki stands at Diamond Creek Farm in Wellsville Pa. The folks at Diamond Creek recently contacted me about using prints of the drawing and note cards for correspondence with their breeders, trainers, and owners. We negotiated an order, and I arranged to hand deliver the artwork to the farm so that I could meet Always B Miki. That is where this story takes an interesting turn!

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Stephen, Jacob, and Creatine

In early February, long time race caller Sam McKee from Meadowlands Racetrack suffered a massive stroke. Sam called many of Miki’s races, including Miki’s final race, the TVG FAA Final for Pacers. Miki won the $400K race at Meadowlands in dominant fashion to close out his career. Sam also calls races at the Red Mile, and won an award for 2016 Race Call of the Year for the Allerage Farm Pace where Miki set the world record.

As is the case with the horse community, we have all come together for a fellow horseman. Conceived by Danonymous Racing managing editor John Piassak, this website ran a handicapping contest with all proceeds going to Sam. At the same time, Diamond Creek Farm had an online Auction for breeding with Creatine. Creatine is also a Champion Standardbred standing at Diamond Creek Farm. Sam also called many races for Creatine highlighted by the 2013 Kentucky Futurity.

This week, my son Jacob and I drove to Diamond Creek Farm to see the farm and meet Always B Miki and Creatine. What an incredible experience, and I can’t thank Caroline and the entire staff enough for the experience. After bringing Creatine out of the Stallion Barn for pictures, it was to meet Always B Miki. As they walked him out of the barn, I was moved by emotion, and truly felt like I was in the presence of greatness. I thought about the measure of time, and wondered how many thousands of horses, had been timed in how many thousands of races. Only to have this very creature stop that measure sooner than any of the others had ever done! The fastest time ever, is the fastest time ever!

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I love it that the timing worked out that this website, and the farm I was writing about simultaneously sprang into action to help a much-loved horseman. All our thoughts and prayers go out to Sam and his family as they begin this long recovery. I’m sure someday Sam and his captivating voice will return to race-calling. I am also sure that someday a horse will break the 1:46 Standardbred World Record. We keep speed records for a reason, we love to know who was, or is the fastest ever! Right now, currently in the world of Standardbreds it is Always B Miki, and the record setting race call was by Sam McKee! Both the best EVER in the world of Standardbreds!

Stephens artwork can be seen at: www.bardsleyequineart.blogspot.com or on Twitter or instagram @bardsleyart

On a side note, on November 22,2016 I went to Rosecroft Raceway to the inaugural Potomac Pace, hosted by Maryland Jockey Club. The race attracted eight of the best Standardbreds from around the county. Two of the horses were Shamballa with Scott Zeron in the bike, and All Bets Off with Matt Kakaley in the bike. Shamballa set the blistering pace and came in second, with All Bets Off in third in the Allerage Pace where Always B Miki set the World Record. David Miller, Always B Miki’s driver for the world record, also drove Split the House in the Potomac Pace. All Bets Off won the First Annual Potomac Pace, tying the Rosecroft track record for a mile, 1:48.2.

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