After three years away from racing, world champion Dali will be making a return to the track starting with a Friday qualifier at Woodbine Racetrack.
“He bred a few years in Indiana, and with Ohio slot money increasing and Indiana’s decreasing, he was brought back here to support breeding in Ontario,” Isaac Waxman told Trot Insider .”We brought him back here in the middle of November. He looked so good, we thought ‘let’s try jogging him for a month and see how he feels’ and when we turned him he just felt like he hadn’t missed a beat. So we were taking our time with him but he didn’t want to take his time with us.”
The son of Real Artist – Armbro Tea has shown his speed and talent since his lifetime debut — a scintillating 1:51.3 mile that turned heads in June 2007 at Mohawk. He went on to win the Woodrow Wilson in 1:50.2 in August before his division was rocked by the presence of Somebeachsomewhere. The only size track that ‘The Beach’ didn’t set a record on at age three was the five-eighths mile, and at the end of 2008 that 1:48.2f mark was co-held by Dali by virtue of his win in the Matron at Dover Downs.
Dali went onto an aged career, winning 12 races at four and five and recording multiple sub-1:50 wins. He was retired to a stud career after one start at age six, with 21 lifetime victories and more than $1.43 million in earnings.
“He did sustain a minor injury in his last start,” noted Waxman. “But he’s been off the racetrack for three years so he seems — at this point in time, anyway — as sound or sounder than he was in his first career.
“I think that a lot of horses, as they get older, their racing ability decreases not just because of their age but because of injuries that they race through. This is a horse that’s been off the track three years, we think we’ve taken our time with him and in all honesty he’s thicker and stronger and probably 200 pounds heavier — and it’s muscle — than the last time he raced.”
With Dali in the condition he’s in, and the success of elder-statesmen like Foiled Again and Golden Receiver in the older pacing division, the idea isn’t all that far-fetched.
“You see horses like Foiled Again and Golden Receiver that keep on going, and they’re the same age as him or older,” continued Waxman. “And you see some other guys that realize the breeding business isn’t that lucrative unless you own Somebeachsomewhere. We just made a decision that it was worth trying to bring him back.”
In December it was announced that Dali would stand stud in Ontario for the 2014 breeding season, and that 10 per cent of all proceeds from stud fees collected will be donated to the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society. Waxman confirmed that he will be performing both breeding and racing duties
“He’s still standing stud, we’ve actually had nice support from the local breeders. We put him at a very reasonable fee so he’d be affordable and he’s got quite a few mares booked,” said Waxman. “He bred his first test crop — who were two-year-olds last year — while he was racing four years ago, so he’s done it before.”
The plan for now is to give the veteran pacer two or three qualifiers before entering him to race. With the amount of money earned on his card in his last six starts, the likely place for him to start will be the Open or Preferred class.
“We’re going to make sure he’s good enough to make a good account of himself before we put him in the box.”
The driver that likely knows the horse better than anyone has already been re-acquainted with Dali and had nothing but praise.
“Luc Ouellette schooled him last week and Luc said he feels like it was just last week the last time he raced. For his age he’s still pretty youthful and full of energy.”