by Evan Pattak
Thoroughbred jockey Chantal Sutherland-Kruse, who hadn't been aboard a Standardbred in about 20 years, made a triumphant return to harness racing Sept. 23 at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino when she piloted DW's NY Yank to a trotting-under-saddle North American record–though it took three tries for the pair to achieve it.
DW's NY Yank crossed the wire in 1:59 for one mile on a five-eighths-mile track, shaving a tick from the mark established by Karen Isbell and Fort Valley As June 29, 2013 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The event was sponsored by The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association and The Meadows.
Sutherland-Kruse grew up around Standardbreds at the farm of her father, Hugh Sutherland, an owner/trainer who campaigned horses for many years at The Meadows in the Garry Martin Stable. But Sutherland-Kruse opted for Thoroughbred racing and made a name for itself at Woodbine in her native Canada, where she was twice apprentice of the year.
Her mounts have won more than $47.3 million, and she was featured on Animal Planet's Jockeys series as well as the HBO series Luck. The graduate of Toronto's York University was named one of the "100 Most Beautiful People" by People Magazine in 2006.
In Monday's record attempt she rode a horse owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Howard Taylor with a mark of 1:51.3 for one mile on a five-eighths-mile track and career earnings of $204,988. Ron Burke, the continent's leading trainer since 2009, and Hall of Fame driver Dave Palone drove Standardbred prompters for the event, which was conducted according to harness racing time-trial standards.
In the first attempt following the seventh race, DW's NY Yank got through a sluggish half-mile in 1:01 before breaking stride.
"That was my fault–he's a sweetheart" Sutherland-Kruse said. "I gave him his head a little too much. That was my bad, but we'll try again."
Thereafter, Burke re-rigged the horse, pulling the hood, adding bell boots up front, and elevating the horse's head. He also took himself out of the equation, leaving Palone driving the sole prompter. Sutherland-Kruse also carried her crop; she didn't in the initial effort.
They tried again following the 10th race, this time using the starting gate, but DW's NY Yank broke stride at the start. With Palone yelling encouragement, Sutherland-Kruse settled her horse down, got him to the start and away cleanly.
"He was a whole different horse that time," Sutherland-Kruse said. "He had a whole different toughness. He was really ready. He was more focused and got more intense."
He went quick three-quarters in 1:27.3 before he and Sutherland-Kruse both began to feel the effects of their long day. "I was tired, and I gave him some rein because my arms were dead," she said. "That's when he slowed down. So I gathered him again. Dave was shouting, 'Go, go, go!" so I started screaming at the horse. He picked it up a little bit."
Sutherland-Kruse indicated she'll be riding at Santa Anita Park when the meet Sept. 27 and does not anticipate switching to harness racing anytime soon.
"My hat's off to all the drivers," she said. "I'm so happy and honored to be here, but I'll stick to Thoroughbreds."