NY Trainer Hits World Stage in Hong Kong
by Bob Kieckhefer
Date Posted: 12/6/2013 10:25:41 AM
Last Updated: 12/8/2013 7:48:26 PM
King Kreesa won the 2013 Mohawk Stakes.
Order This Photo
Jeremiah Englehart isn't exactly a newcomer to the track, having started walking hots at Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack almost before he can remember.
But 2013 is proving to be his entry onto the brightest stages of the sport, with a victory in the Breeders' Cup World Championships and now his first foreign adventure in Hong Kong.
The outgoing 37-year-old conditioner will saddle King Kreesa in the Dec. 8 Longines Hong Kong Mile (HK-I) at Sha Tin Racecourse. The 4-year-old King Cugat gelding, owned by Minnesotans Gerald and Susan Kresa, will be a longshot in a race featuring top milers from France, England, and Ireland as well as the usual tough lineup of Hong Kong-based runners.
Englehart is optimistic and likely to get at least a couple of calls for his horse, whose prominent running style was good enough to win the Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park July 4. King Kreesa went on from that win to finish second behind reigning U.S. Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga.
After a misfire in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park, he comes to Hong Kong off a win in the Mohawk Stakes.
The summertime victory, Englehart said, caught the eye of Bill Nader, a former New York Racing Association official and now executive director of racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Nader was interested in King Kreesa for the December race.
"I brought it up to the Kresas," the trainer said. "He wasn't nominated to the Breeders' Cup and it would have cost $140,000 (in supplemental and entry fees) to run him there. As the time got closer, we kept in touch and here we are."
"Here" is a long way from the backstretch at Finger Lakes, where Englehart started working for his parents who both trained at the upstate New York track. He worked with them until he was 19, then left for college, "looking for something else to do."
But, he said, he and his brother then bought a horse, Good Man Sam, who ran well enough in the claiming ranks to get Englehart back into racing for good. He worked for Mike Hushion as a fill-in employee in 2002 and Ken McPeek for about a year.
By 2003, he went out on his own with a horse he claimed from Richard Schosberg. The horse promptly posted a narrow victory over a Schosberg trainee in his next race. Englehart said that prompted Schosberg to tell him: "Sometimes you're the pigeon and sometimes you're the statute. This time, I'm the statue."
Englehart's first year on his own produced two wins from 29 starters and earnings of just over $100,000. He has steadily progressed from that modest beginning and entered the weekend with 101 wins from 426 starts this year.
After 10 years in the business, Englehart now has about 40 horses in training at Finger Lakes and "20 to 25" in the New York City area.
His first horse with the Kresas, he said, was a bit of a trial. The owners came from Minnesota to New York to see the horse in his first start, only to have him get off the van lame, resulting in a scratch. They returned only to have the horse flip in the starting gate and be scratched.
On their third visit, the race didn't go. And on the fourth, the hapless horse showed little when he finally ran.
The fifth time out, Englehart put the horse on the grass and he won. "I think they were starting to have their doubts about their trainer," he said.
His biggest success to date has been a win by disqualification by Ria Antonia in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park last month at odds of better than 30-1.
"I'm hoping lightning will strike twice," Englehart said of Sunday's race. "But not that way. Do they disqualify horses over here?"
While hope springs eternal, a win in the Mile over the Sha Tin turf course would be even more of an upset than the Breeders' Cup victory. Among the favorites are French-based Moonlight Cloud, the 5-year-old mare who nearly ended Black Caviar's winning streak at Royal Ascot a year ago June, and the British 3-year-old filly Sky Lantern, who already has three group I wins to her credit this year.
Mike Smith has the mount on King Kreesa, marking the first time he has ridden for Englehart. "He is rising through the ranks," Smith said of the trainer. "But when I was riding in New York, he was just getting started."
Whatever the outcome of the race, Englehart said he is enjoying his first exposure to international racing and already has aspirations of competing in Dubai or at Royal Ascot.
"Being here kind of opened my eyes as to how big racing is around the world," he said. "I think Americans don't always appreciate the international part of our sport."
The other U.S. trainer competing in Sunday's Longines Hong Kong International races said Englehart is likely to make good on his ambitions.
"Jeremiah is going to play the game at the highest level for a long time," said veteran trainer Dale Romans, who will saddle Little Mike in Sunday's Longines Hong Kong Cup (HK-I).
Copyright © 2015 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.