Top Dog: Bulldog Hanover goes out a winner

Monday, November 28, 2022

Appearing for the final time in his history-making career, “The Bulldog” was best in show once more.

Bulldog Hanover, who electrified the sport this season with his speed and personality, romped to victory in Saturday’s (Nov. 26) $345,000 TVG Series Open Pace championship by 2-1/4 lengths over Tattoo Artist in a stakes record 1:47.3 at the Meadowlands. Abuckabett Hanover finished third.

The winning time lowered the previous stakes record of 1:48, first set by Sweet Lou in 2014 and equaled by McWicked in 2018, by two-fifths of a second.

It took Bulldog Hanover three-eighths of a mile to get the lead from This Is The Plan, who brought the field to the opening quarter in :26.1. But once he was on top, there was no looking back. Bulldog Hanover and driver Dexter Dunn hit the half in :54.2 and three-quarters in 1:21.3 on their way to the career-ending triumph.

“Week after week, he puts those kinds of runs in,” said Dunn, who gave several fist pumps crossing the finish line. “He doesn’t do it easy. He was working in that first turn; he was (outside) in hot speed and I just carried on with him. He’s got all the power. It was an amazing performance tonight and a great way to go out for him.”

The win was Bulldog Hanover’s 14th in 16 races this year and pushed his seasonal earnings to $1.64 million for Canadian-based trainer Jack Darling, who owns the 4-year-old stallion with Brad Grant. For his career, the Hanover Shoe Farms-bred son of Shadow Play-BJ’s Squall won 28 of 37 starts and earned $2.41 million.

In July, also at the Meadowlands, Bulldog Hanover became the fastest horse in harness racing history when he won the William R. Haughton Memorial in 1:45.4.

He retires with four of the nine fastest race miles in history and a record total of six wins in under 1:47. Among those were two Canadian record-equaling 1:46.4 victories at Woodbine Mohawk Park, most recently in the Breeders Crown last month.

“I’ll remember this season with him for the rest of my life,” Dunn said. “It’s hard to come by horses like this and it’s an amazing ride once you do it. Thanks to Brad and Jack and (caretaker) Johnny (Mallia) for letting me sit behind him. It’s been great.”

Following the victory celebration, Bulldog Hanover was given a retirement ceremony in the Meadowlands winner’s circle.

“He’s just been tremendous as a racehorse,” Darling said during the ceremony. “He has a way of pulling at your heartstrings. Warming up tonight, going on the track, it was very emotional. He’s just that kind of a horse. He’s so classy, he has the personality; he’s just a special horse.”

Darling put Bulldog Hanover in the care of trainer Noel Daley when the horse raced at the Meadowlands during the summer, so Darling watched Bulldog Hanover’s record 1:45.4 mile from home. When asked to reflect upon that performance, Darling said, “I was just happy he won the race. I wasn’t even thinking about the time, and when they flashed the time up, my wife and I jumped 10 feet in the air.”

Bulldog Hanover closed his career by winning 18 of his last 20 races. In addition to the Haughton and Breeders Crown, his triumphs this year included the Canadian Pacing Derby, Dan Patch Stakes, Dayton Derby, Harrah’s Hoosier Park Pacing Derby, Graduate Series final, and a division of the Roll With Joe.

He will head to full-time stallion duty at Seelster Farms in 2023. He bred 79 mares this year prior to racing.

“He’s going to a good life, and he’s right close by so we can see him anytime we want,” Darling said.

Grant said the journey with Bulldog Hanover was “an amazing ride.” Grant also was among the owners of trotting mare Atlanta, who also had a retirement ceremony Saturday night at the Meadowlands following her performance in the TVG Series Mares Trot.

“They both seem to have huge fan bases,” Grant said about the two outgoing stars. “They’re going to be missed on the track, but they’ll be in the breeding barn, so in the years to come, they’ll be remembered.”