Trainer Jim Campbell is happy with Honor And Serve's preparation for his 3-year-old season. He is less excited about the way the trotting colt will have to start it.
Honor And Serve opens his campaign Thursday by competing in the fourth of four Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisions at Harrah's Philadelphia. He faces a group that includes returning Dan Patch Award-winner Pinkman as well as stakes-winners Walter White and Cruzado Dela Noche.
A total of 23 Hambletonian Stakes-eligible trotters will race in Thursday's Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisions at Philly. Trainer Jimmy Takter sends out the morning line favorite in each division: Uncle Lasse in the first, Whom Shall I Fear in the second, The Bank in the third, and Pinkman in the fourth.
The $1 million Hambletonian is Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Last year, Honor And Serve won two preliminary divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and finished second to Billy Flynn in the $260,000 series championship. He also finished second to Habitat in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at The Red Mile.
He ended the season with six top-three finishes in nine starts and earnings of $164,920 for owner Fashion Farms of New Hope. Two of his off-the-board finishes came when he went off stride and the other was a fifth-place finish where he was beaten by only 11/2 lengths in a division of the International Stallion Stakes.
"I was happy with his year," Campbell said. "He raced really good in some of the sire stakes, including the sire stakes final, and he raced good in Lexington too. We had a couple disappointments with him making breaks in the Peter Haughton [Stakes] and the Matron; in the Haughton he just took a bad step and in the Matron he kind of got jammed up a little bit.
"But he was the type of horse that never got hurt or anything like that, so hopefully he'll come back and have a good year for us."
Honor And Serve is a son of Donato Hanover - the 2007 Horse of the Year - out of mare Honorable Daughter, who received the 2008 Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old female trotter. Bred by Valley High Stable, the colt sold for $75,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale.
"He's matured both physically and mentally," Campbell said. "He showed us some nice speed last year and he's bigger and stronger this year so hopefully he'll be able to carry it further."
Honor And Serve prepped for the start of this season with two qualifiers, winning the second in 1:56.2 on May 5 at Harrah's Philadelphia. He will start his Pennsylvania Sire Stakes race from post one with driver Tim Tetrick and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line.
Pinkman, who is 2-1, also is making his seasonal debut. He will leave from post three with driver Yannick Gingras.
Last season, Pinkman won six of eight races and earned $566,960. Named after a character from the television series "Breaking Bad" (as is stablemate Walter White) the gelding's victories included the Breeders Crown, in a stakes-record-equaling 1:53.2, and Valley Victory Stakes.
Walter White, Cruzado Dela Noche, and Dapper Don all enter the race 1-for-1 this season. Cruzado Dela Noche won a division of the Pennsylvania All Stars on May 2 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono while Walter White and Dapper Don won conditioned races.
"We couldn't have asked him to be any better in his two qualifiers," Campbell said about Honor And Serve. "It's just unfortunate he got into the division he got in, but we have no control over that.
"He's staked for everything. What he races in, that's going to be week to week. There are a lot of good horses out there, that's for sure."
Whom Shall I Fear, who is a full brother to Dan Patch Award winners Pastor Stephen and Father Patrick, is 3-for-3 this year after going winless in five starts last season. He is coming off a victory in the Pennsylvania All Stars and is the 9-5 morning line favorite in the second PaSS division.
Uncle Lasse, a full brother to Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry, last year won a division of the Bluegrass and finished second in the Peter Haughton and Valley Victory. He is making his seasonal debut and is the 2-1 choice in the first PaSS group.