Bargain horse pays big dividends

JIM CRESSMAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:56 PM ET

Joe Serratore says it's time he buys his wife Bren a new coffee pot.

"It doesn't mean there'll be more money under it, but it will be a bigger one," he said yesterday.

There's a little history here.

Immediately after proposing at the kitchen table more than five years ago, Serratore flew out the door to get to Western Fair Raceway to plunk down his wager on the daily double.

Bren was soon to learn that between her future husband's love of the ponies and umpiring baseball, she was already a sports widow before her "I do" in June 2005.

So she made a deal with Joe. He would be allowed to go to the track a few nights a week as long as there was some money waiting for her under the coffee pot in the morning.

The pressure was on Joe to pick a winner.

And that's certainly what Serratore, Murray Neilson and Scot Wood, all of London, did when they partnered with trainer Ronnie Maclean of Dorchester in a horse named Zorgwijk Kingpin in February. Maclean paid $3,700 for it at the Forest City yearling sale in October 2008.

In nine starts, Zorgwijk Kingpin has four wins, three seconds and a third -- and $208,716 in winnings.

Tonight, Zorgwijk Kingpin and driver Trevor Ritchie go off as the favourite from Post 4 in Race 5 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto in the $300,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final.

"This is something that should never happen," Serratore said. "This is a fluke."

Especially when you consider Zorgwijk Kingpin is up against the likes of Ja El Express. Word is Jeff Gillis of Guelph and Ken Henwood of Mississauga paid $200,000 to $300,000 to buy it from Fred Jamieson, who'd paid $17,000 at a yearling sale.

Other horses in tonight's OSS Super Final fetched anywhere from $30,000 to $140,000.

"We should not be there," Serratore said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime dream that this could happen. This horse is not top-of-the-notch breeding, so it is a fluke. It's normally the people who pay a lot of money, they're usually the ones who seem to get to the top of heap.

"The cheaper horses, you take your chances . . . it happens, but we never thought it would happen to us."

The three syndicated with Maclean in a previous horse, so the intrigue was there when he approached them about Zorgwijk Kingpin. Maclean has 35%, Neilson, 25% and Serratore and Wood 20%.

But the success of this horse is incredible when you hear about its beginnings.

"When Ronnie purchased the horse he had a problem with him -- it would just lay down on the track and not do anything," Serratore said.

"Ronnie likes to piece horses out (take on partners) but he couldn't do it the way the horse was, so he had it gelded and for whatever reason, he became a different horse all together.

"Then in February we saw him out at the farm and he started to look like he'd be a good trotter and Ronnie offered it. It wasn't a very expensive buy-in and we'd take that chance."

Zorgwijk Kingpin finished the OSS Gold Series with the most points and his 1:56.1 in the Gold Final Nov. 6 at Woodbine is the fastest time by a two-year-old trotter in Canada this year.

After tonight's race, the plan is to send him to Kentucky "to eat the bluegrass and not to have to face the snow here," Serratore said.

Then in the new year, they'll bring him back and begin training as a three-year-old, then next May start all over again on the OSS circuit.

Having Ritchie as his exclusive driver the last five races has been a huge bonus, Serratore said. Ritchie first drove Zorgwijk Kingpin in his sixth race and afterward told the group he wanted to stay with this horse, and Ritchie rarely makes such a commitment.

Serratore didn't expect to sleep much last night.

"We've had a great run and we owe everything to the trainer, and Ronnie Maclean certainly deserves every credit for bringing this horse to the party."

jim.cressman@sunmedia.ca

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OSS Super Final

When: Tonight, Race 5 for two-year-old trotters

Where: Woodbine Racetrack

TV: The Score, about 8:45 p.m.

Purse: $300,000

Post positions (with driver): Ja El Express, Jamieson; Sombrero Hall, Macdonell; Grumpy Jake, Moiseyev; Zorgwijk Kingpin, Ritchie; Keystone Swagger, Fillion; Text Me, Waples; Magic Fruit, Macdonald; Reach Higher, Condren; Pointe To Pointe, Henry; War King Ton, Mayotte


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