Saturday, October 13, 2018

FIRST POST: 1pm        INTERNATIONAL TROT: 3:40pm

Up And Quick

Up And Quick Eyes One More Win on World's Stage 

By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY with additional reporting by Manu Roussel

YONKERS, N.Y. – The sun inched toward the horizon in the western Paris skies around 4:30 p.m. January 25, 2015, casting a soft golden glow over Hippodrome de Vincennes. The crystal horse trophy Philippe Delon cradled in his arms captured the rays and it too gleamed in a golden hue as Delon raised it over his head. From atop the podium in the winner’s enclosure, Delon smiled as he looked into the stands at the thousands of fans who cheered, waved flags, and smiled back at him before lowering the prize back into his arms, staring down at it in disbelief.

Moments earlier, Delon watched as his homebred star Up And Quick streaked into the stretch with the lead in the Grand Prix d’Amérique. After grinding leader Mosaique Face into submission, Up And Quick kicked away from late threat Voltigeur de Myrt. Ahead by 3 lengths nearing the finish, driver Jean-Michel Bazire took both lines in his left hand, blew a kiss with his right, and turned to the crowd to give a thumbs up as he and Up And Quick passed the finish.

In that moment, Up And Quick rose to the top of the trotting world. The Prix d’Amérique was the third Group 1 win of the Buvetier d'Aunou son’s career after taking the Critérium des Five Ans in 2013 and the Grand Prix de Paris in 2014. The victory improved on Up And Quick’s second-place effort to Maharajah the year before.

Nearly four years later, the curtain is about to close on the final act of Up And Quick’s racing career and Delon hopes his trotter can deliver one more thrill on the world’s stage. Up And Quick will reach the mandatory retirement age in France when he turns 11 in 2019 and will no longer be able to target France’s biggest trotting spectacle. Instead, Delon set his sights on New York, sending his star across the Atlantic to compete in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot. The representative of France would be the first Prix d’Amérique winner since Lutin d'Isigny in 1985 to win the International Trot.

“He’s given us everything a breeder and an owner can dream of,” Delon said. “We would love to see him finishing his last season with a bang in New York.”

Up And Quick’s journey to the Yonkers International Trot has been rife with struggles. Although he scored a fourth Group 1 in the 2015 Grand Prix de Paris, Up And Quick’s attempt to defend his Prix d’Amérique title in 2016 proved disastrous. After finishing fourth in the Prix de Bourgogne and 10th in the Prix de Belgique, Up And Quick was up the track when 14th in the Prix d’Amérique after attending the pace. He pulled up with a fractured ilium, one of three bones that comprise a horse’s hip.

"As after every major race, a battery of tests were conducted and now the verdict is in: a fracture of the ilium was detected,” Delon’s Écurie Quick Star posted on it’s website after the race. “It is very surprising that Up And Quick could deliver such a beautiful race. He must be a brave and sacred competitor to trot as he did when he was injured.”

Although he did not require surgery, Up And Quick needed months of stall rest and would not compete again until returning a winner in the Grand Prix de Noël at Hippodrome de Wallonie December 29, 2016. He didn’t make it back to the French classics, but Up And Quick proved himself competitive on the track, winning a pair of Group 2 races in 2017, the Critérium de Vitesse de Basse-Normandie at Argentan April 29, 2017 and the Prix de la Communauté de Communes Thiérache du Centre at La Capelle July 9. Soon though, Up And Quick would suffer another setback.

“He suffered from a small fracture in July last year and had to stay two months in his (stall). Before that, he’d broken a hip bone and had to stay four months locked in,” Delon said. “It takes a real champion to come back the way he did after that. Jean-Michel Bazire said that’s the true mark of a wonder horse, coming back to do what he does best.”

After covering 82 mares in the winter, Up And Quick returned to the track again in March and successfully defended his title in the Critérium de Vitesse de Basse-Normandie, posting a nose win over Un Mec d’Héripré and Ave Avis in a scrambling finish. Although he rides a nine-race losing streak into the Yonkers International Trot, the €2.1-million earner finished third in an elimination of the Elitlopp, second in the Group 1 Hugo Åbergs Memorial, and third in the Group 2 Grand Prix du Département des Alpes-Maritimes.

Up And Quick was fifth last time out in the Group 1 UET Trotting Masters Series Final September 16 after getting pinned inside three back along the pylons in the 12-horse field. Facing a wall of horses in the stretch, Up And Quick finished 3 ¾ lengths behind Propulsion. Delon chalked it up to a tactical mistake; driver Wim Paal chose to follow Pastore Bob and expected a pocket trip behind the speedy rival, but ended up buried at the inside instead.

“We chose the wrong leader. Wim Paal and I thought Pastore Bob was the one to follow, but he got us nowhere,” Delon said. “Propulsion was the one to beat and we never had a live chance. Just throw that race away. The horse is absolutely fine. He loves to work and to race. That’s what kept him going all these years despite a few health issues that belong to the past now.”

Since the Trotting Masters Final, Up And Quick has prepared for the Yonkers International Trot at Haras De Sassy, about 130 miles west of Paris. His days are easy at the stud farm with trainer Antoine Lhérété. Delon fears the quiet lifestyle can’t be replicated at Yonkers.

“He’s out all day in his paddock. He loves it. He works in the pool, too. He only gets in his (stall) at night,” Delon said. “That was a bit of a problem for us because he won’t be able to relax like that while staying at Yonkers. That’s my main concern today. At least he’ll be able to get out twice a day, but that’s not exactly the same. I hope they will lodge him in a good (stall) because like Dreammoko, he’s a stud, full of energy.”

Yannick Gingras, who finished 16th behind Maven in the 2015 Prix d’Amérique, will drive Up And Quick for the first time in the International Trot. Up And Quick will have to navigate the half-mile track’s turns five times in the 1 ¼-mile stakes.

“Up And Quick can turn very fast on small tracks in Europe, as long as it’s left-handed, so I am not worried about that,” Delon said. “We picked up Yannick because he’s one of the best in America and Up And Quick is an easy horse to deal with. He’s been driven by many different drivers and that was never an issue. We felt it was better to get a local driver for him.”

Up And Quick will face nine rivals in the International: Arazi Boko (Italy), Ariana G (United States), Cruzado Dela Noche (Sweden), Dreammoko (Netherlands), Lionel (Norway), Marion Marauder (Canada), Pastore Bob (Sweden), Ringostarr Treb (Italy), Slide So Easy (Denmark).

The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 13 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the Harry Harvey Trot and Dan Rooney Pace.