Sam DePinto is harness racing's proof that size doesn't matter. Stable size.
In DePinto's case less has become more.
"I have to be able to sit behind every one of my horses in order for them to do well," said the trainer and part-owner of Breeders Crown finalists We Will See and I Fought Dalaw.
DePinto's other nine horses have been turned out and a few more could head his way after Harrisburg, but his philosophy is not going to change.
"I feel in order for me as a trainer to make money in this business I have to own a piece of every horse I train.
|We Will See - New Image Media photo|
In the case of We Will See, the likely favorite in Saturday's $500,000 Breeders Crown Pace final at Woodbine, the returns have been significant. The four-year-old son of Western Hanover has doubled his bankroll this year as one of the dominant aged pacers in training. He's a durable horse and DePinto deserves much of the credit for bringing him along properly.
"I try not to overstake my colts as two-year-olds," he said. "That way I can get about 10 starts into them and have them fully staked at three."
We Will See was a good two-year-old, a solid three-year-old, and now could be considered Best-in-Class at four.
Obviously Saturday's contest is the primary focus for DePinto and We Will See, but certainly there has been talk about the horse's future plans. "We'll see what offers develop. I would love to race this horse as a five-year-old," said Sam who says with the exception of We Will See he will only train two and three-year-olds in the future.
A winner in half of his 22 starts this year, We Will See enters Saturday's pivotal contest at the top of his game. Earlier in the year DePinto had to put more training miles into him, but now that they are pacing in 1:48 and 1:49 with regularity he has wisely backed away.
Owned by Shannon DePinto, Earl Smith and Jerry Silva, We Will See looks for his third successive stakes score having captured the Allerage and Canadian Pacing Derby over the last six weeks. The "Derby" contested at Mohawk, was an epic performance as We Will See outdueled Won The West and Foiled Again in a 1:47.4 mile clocking.
As nice as the post position Gods were in granting We Will See the pole position in his $500,000 Crown final, they looked the other way for DePinto and company in the frosh colt pacing final. I Fought Dalaw, a $22,000 Western Ideal-sired colt, drew post 10 after finishing third in last Friday's elimination heat. "I thought he raced super. I wasn't very happy with his qualifier or his start in the Futurity at Freehold," said the trainer, "but he scoped clean and when he arrived in Canada he was feeling strong and I told Dave (Miller) he was feeling like his old self again."
|I Fought Dalaw - Iron Horse Photo|
Indeed I Fought Dalaw put in a huge mile considering he posted a :26.1 opening quarter into the wind and still was pacing strongly at the end of the 1:50 mile. DePinto wondered whether his colt had become a handful with the early fractions, but Miller told him the colt was a complete gentleman.
A full brother to the extremely fast Western Glory (1:49.4), a colt DePinto paid $105,000 for as a yearling, but never quite lived up to his own expectations.
"If he didn't hit his knees I'm sure he would have paced in 1:48," said the conditioner about Western Glory.
In I Fought Dalaw, DePinto has what he considers a better individual than the older brother and obviously a much bigger upside. "He's a bit wider in front and doesn't interfere," Sam said of the colt who will be making his final two-year-old start on Saturday in the $600,000 Breeders Crown two-year-old colt pace.
For the Crown final Ron Pierce will take the reins behind I Fought Dalaw, replacing Dave Miller who opted for Hillbilly Hanover, a frosh with a few more stakes opportunities ahead this year.
"Ronnie has done very well for us this year and I couldn't be happier to have him drive this colt," said the trainer from his Ontario-base at Rob Fellows farm. "Rob really rolls out the red carpet for us when we come to town."
DePinto's selectivity at yearling sales is an incredible feat. The trainer who cut his teeth in the business breaking in at the tender age of 14 at White Birch Farm (then Joe-Mar) when his dad asked him to train three horses (the senior DePinto was the farm manager), knows what he's looking for.
"I like the Western Hanover-line. With him gone I like the Western Ideals and definitely the Western Terrors," said the now-56-year-old trainer. He purchased a Western Ideal colt for $80,000 at the recently concluded Lexington Select sale. He was from the same family as Artesian, a runner-up in the North America Cup in 2003 that DePinto conditioned.
DePinto is good friends with George Berkner and helped campaign the half million-winner B Gs Folly during his three-year-old season in 2010. The two will share ownership on a yearling DePinto will train this winter. DePinto is quite pleased with the relationship he has forged with owner Jerry Silva.
"He took a chance when he bought into We Will See before he qualified this year," said Sam. "Then after I Fought Dalaw won an early race he asked if he could buy a piece. I think Jerry is very good for the business, he likes to be associated with good horses."
In a sport that at times seems dominated by large stables with big money to spend, it's refreshing to see a trainer with a small, but select group of horses, qualify two horses for the Breeders Crown final. In We Will See and I Fought Dalaw DePinto and company have a legitimate chance to do what only a select few have done–win two Crowns in one night.