CHESTER, Pa. - Trainer Jimmy Takter has seen his share of great trotters over the years and he thinks Father Patrick is among them.
The 4-year-old Father Patrick, who was a division champion at ages 2 and 3, made his 4-year-old debut a winning one by capturing Sunday's $150,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational for older trotters by two lengths over Bee A Magician in 1:52.1 at Harrah's Philadelphia. Lindy's Tru Grit finished third.
Father Patrick's time equaled the track record for a 4-year-old male trotter.
"If everything stays perfect I think he's going to be very dominant," said Takter, whose past stars include Horse of the Year Award winners Moni Maker and Malabar Man. "I really do. I've been around greatness, and I think he's going to be a horse people talk about for many, many years."
Father Patrick has won 23 of 29 career races and earned $2.51 million for the Father Patrick Stable ownership group.
The Maxie Lee field featured a deep group of trotters, including 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician as well as division champions Classic Martine and Market Share, who won last year's edition of the event.
Father Patrick and Bee A Magician were among four horses to go for the lead on the first turn and Father Patrick got to the front before the group neared the second turn. The opening quarter was :27.1, followed by a half in :55.4 and three-quarters in 1:24.2.
Bee A Magician tried to launch a challenge coming off the final turn, but Father Patrick yielded no ground.
"He did it so easy too," winning driver Yannick Gingras said. "The earplugs are still in; I never really called on him. I let him trot the last eighth [of a mile].
"Bee A Magician got the right trip, but with those kinds of fractions maybe I got a little bit of a jump on her. But she's a great horse and I was definitely worried around the turn when Brian [Sears] pulled because I knew she would give me a run. But he just showed what kind of horse he is."
A son of Cantab Hall out of the mare Gala Dream, Father Patrick prepped for his seasonal debut by qualifying three times, with his final effort being a 1:52 victory at the Meadowlands on May 16.
"Last week we wanted to get him a race but weren't able to, so I treated that [qualifier] as a race," Gingras said. "We went decent fractions and he stretched his legs out a little. I knew he was about as ready as he could be. He's not in peak, peak form yet, but he was good enough to win today."
In addition to preparing for his racing campaign, Father Patrick has been doing stud duty. He made three trips to the breeding farm in the week leading up to the Maxie Lee.
"It's individual," Takter said about whether breeding and racing could work for all horses. "I know horses that won't go at all; when you start breeding them they lose total interest in racing. In his case, it hasn't been negative. So far so good."