Chicago Barn to Wire


Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 255-4300
Wednesday, September 13, 2000
90th Day


"We got into the horse business for the fun and thrill of being owners together," said Kate Herzog of the February purchase of a two-year-old colt she and her husband bought through trainer David Kassen this winter in Ocala, Florida.

"Just the thrill of participating out at Arlington International, with the potential to go to other places like Churchill Downs appealed to us," added Mark Herzog of their decision to bring in the new millennium in an unusual manner.

The Chicagoland couple was not starry-eyed in their approach. Mark Herzog had owned horses with partners several years ago, with Kassen as a trainer. Kate Herzog had served as a stable manager for her sister in Barrington Hills previously, so expectations were realistic and modest.

The Herzogs named their chestnut colt Wheat Penny. As an entire son of Wheaton out of a mare named Rusty Red Pennies, the residents of Lincoln Park were recognizing the copper pennies no longer minted with the outline of wheat sprouts on the side that would come up tails.

When Wheat Penny made his first start in late May, he, too, came up tails. Showing his lack of seasoning, the juvenile broke awkwardly, bumped with a rival inside and was always outrun.

But in his second trip to the post in early June, Wheat Penny showed his other side, reversing his fortunes and those of the Herzogs as dramatically as in a coin flip.

He pressed the early pace while staying off the rail, gained the advantage in upper stretch and drew off late to tally by five and a quarter lengths, establishing a track record of :51.64 for the four and a half furlong distance at Arlington International.

"It was like being on a roller coaster ride," said Kate Herzog. "We went from having an inexperienced colt who ran that way to having a colt who with a little more training sets a track record."

"Our whole approach to horse ownership was accelerated," said Mark Herzog. "Suddenly, we geared up to thinking: 'This can be a viable family business.' We had entered into it strictly as a hobby."

Following the track record performance, however, Wheat Penny went to Churchill Downs for the Grade 2 Bashford Manor July 9 and disappointed again, finishing ninth, beaten almost 20 lengths, with no apparent excuse. "But we found out later the horse had flipped his palate," Kate Herzog said. "Thankfully, the jockey sensed that something was wrong and didn't abuse him."

Following the Bashford Manor, Wheat Penny developed a lung infection and missed some training. After being returned to the racetrack, the juvenile started next in the $75,000 Spectacular Bid on September 3. After stalking the pace, Wheat Penny took command in upper stretch, but could not withstand the late bid of Deebill Farms' Spectacular Cat in the final local prep for the Grade 2 Arlington-Washington Futurity September 23.

"We were a couple of works away from where we wanted to be for this race," said trainer Kassen immediately following the Spectacular Bid, "but the winner (Spectacular Cat) is a pretty decent horse, so if we can stay around him, we can always dance another dance."

Interestingly, Spectacular Cat ran here that same afternoon that Wheat Penny set the track record. He was second by a nose in a four and a half furlong race run in :52.67.

Both Wheat Penny and Spectacular Cat are presently on course to meet again in the Arlington-Washington Futurity.

"It's been a roller coaster for four races," Mark Herzog said, "and having a potentially really nice horse adds to the responsibility of ownership. Hopefully, we'll be able to keep this horse sound and he'll make everybody proud."

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