Verlin Yoder and Natural Herbie return this weekend to the site of their biggest win, hoping to come away with an even bigger score.
Last year, Natural Herbie – owned, trained and driven by Yoder – prevailed over a talented field in the $250,000 International Trot Preview at Yonkers Raceway. On Saturday, the Indiana-based duo returns for the $1 million International Trot at the Hilltop.
The International Trot features horses from six different countries, with Natural Herbie joining Creatine as the U.S. representatives. Canada’s Bee A Magician is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the invitational event, which will be raced at 1-1/4 miles rather than the traditional one-mile distance.
Post time is 2 p.m. for Saturday’s first race at Yonkers, with the International Trot set for 3:10 p.m. approximately.
“It is a big honor,” Yoder said. “Two U.S. horses were picked and you are one of them, it is very humbling.”
Natural Herbie drew post No. 7 and is 8-1 on the International Trot morning line, but can’t be overlooked in the race after having won last year’s International Trot Preview in a world-record 2:24.4 for 1-1/4 miles. He is, according to Yoder, “a horse that loves distance racing.”
The 5-year-old gelding has won 27 of 63 lifetime races and earned $899,161. In September, he won his elimination for the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk and finished third in the final. Following an eighth-place finish in the Centaur Trotting Classic, he prepped for the International Trot with a 1:55.1 qualifier win on Sept. 30 at Hoosier Park, trotting his last quarter-mile in :26.3 to pull away from the field by 20-1/2 lengths.
“We had a little problem after Mohawk, but we found it,” Yoder said. “He had a little sickness. I was shipping from Indiana to Mohawk – that’s 7-1/2 hours. But he had a good week, so I hope we’re on the right track. We take him out and grass him. He likes to go out on the grass. He’s feeling good and everything.”
While Yoder looks upon Saturday’s race as challenging, he feels he is going in with a horse that has a good attitude, especially when it comes to going extra distance.
“If he’s good, he doesn’t mind it,” Yoder said. “He always trains two miles without stopping, and he’s the only horse I ever had that liked it. It’s a matter of having him healthy and sound and as far as soundness, he’s been very good. We had some little health issues but he seems to be on the right page right now.”
How that confidence translates into results is anybody’s guess, so Yoder is keeping his predictions low key. Actually, they are non-existent, as he will just let things play out.
“You always have big expectations but you also don’t want to embarrass yourself,” Yoder said. “All the horses have the right to be here, so you don’t know what is going to happen until the gate opens.”
Following is the field in post order for the International Trot with listed drivers, trainers and morning line odds:
1. Creatine, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter, 4-1 2. Papagayo E, Ulf Ohlsson, Jan Waaler, 5-1
Note: BBS Sugarlight and Oasis Bi start from the second tier.