After showing glimpses of talent during an abbreviated 2-year-old harness racing campaign in 2011 Walter & Paige Paisley were optimistic that their bay gelding Riccolo would return in 2012 a more mature and even stronger race horse.
The talented son of Northern Kid has not disappointed his connections one bit as he scored for the fifth straight time this year winning Wednesday’s (May 30) $41,900 Cardinal Stake for Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old trotting colts by 3 ¼ lengths in a career best of 1:56.2. Ducking to the back of the pack from post position eight Miller wasn’t the least bit worried that he and Riccolo were some 17 lengths behind Vaporstar (Dave Magee) who led the field through an opening quarter in 28.2.
“This horse can leave if you need him to but they were stepping out of there pretty good so I wasn’t that concerned,” said Miller. “Then they started to slow things down on the backstretch so I was able to make up the ground I needed to without even asking him.” Moving up to fifth, just 5 ½ lengths behind Vaporstar as the field reached the half-mile mark in 59.0 Miller moved his charge to the outside where he began to pick off rivals in impressive fashion.
“We picked up some cover from Dale’s horse (Fox Valley Steffen) mid-way around the turn but I would have just as soon not had somebody in front of us since my horse felt so strong,” explained Miller. Tipping three-deep as Vaporstar continued to lead the field by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:28.2 Riccolo eyed the clear sailing in the lane and seemed to find another gear. Effortlessly rolling by his rivals with a 27.2 final quarter, the long striding bay scored for the sixth time in eight career starts. Vaporstar held on for second while Fox Valley Steffen was third.
After the victory Miller continued to marvel at just how sharp the Nelson Willis trained gelding has been this year. “Once he see’s that open space in front of him when you straighten out for home he just swells right up and you just know that he’s going to go right by them.” Miller said. “He hasn’t even had the earplugs out of him in any of those wins this year because he’s done it completely on his own with very little urging. He’s one heck of a horse right now.”
Trainer Nelson Willis also came away very impressed with the effort of his prize trotting pupil. “We knew he had talent last year but he also had a small issue with an ankle so we didn’t want to take any chances with him,” said Willis. “He got the winter off to grow up and he’s definitely come back bigger and stronger and nothing’s bothering him right now.
He’s been racing from way out of it just because he’s been much the best in these races but he can do it any way you want him to. We’ll give him a few weeks off since these Illinois bred stakes are strung out a bit right now and hopefully we can keep him this sharp all year long with that kind of schedule.” The win upped Riccolo’s career earnings up to $38,830. Bet as though defeat was out of the question the 1-5 favorite returned $2.40, $2.40 & $2.10.(Tom Kelley, Balmoral Park)