Feegee may have the luck o’ the Irish on her side in Friday’s kick off of the Spring Survivor Series at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
The Conway Hall filly, trained by 29-year-old Dublin, Ireland native Joe Hanney, has drawn post six in the first of two $12,500 divisions, carded as races two and four. Hall of Famer Ron Pierce picked up the assignment.
Despite his roots in harness racing, Haney originally aspired to be a thoroughbred jockey.
“Back in Ireland I actually trained to be a rider until genetics kicked in with my weight and height,” Hanney said. “So, I got back into harness racing, grooming and driving horses. My grandfather was a renowned Standardbred trainer who was very good with problem horses. We have a small industry back home. They race from April to October on the grass and half-mile tracks.”
With the sport in decline in his home country, Hanney sought greener pastures across the Atlantic.
“I emigrated from Ireland in 2007, and went to Canada first,” he said. “I had worked for Liam Wallace, then Nifty Norman invited me to come to New Jersey. I was with Nifty for a year, and then Joe Holloway for a couple of years. Initially, I knew Anthony Haughan, who had come over to Ontario with some success, and it just seemed like a good idea to give it try at the time. I was 23 and single, and thankfully things have worked out.
“I have a stable at White Birch Farm (in Englishtown, NJ), and right now with my girlfriend, Liisa Vatanen, we train 15 horses. Liisa worked for Trond Smedshammer and cared for a really good trotter named Sand Vic (1:51.2, $2,117,382). She also worked with Tony Alagna. So, together we’ve been pretty fortunate to be involved with a lot of successful people.”
Originally a $16,000 yearling purchase at Harrisburg, Feegee moved into the Hanney Stable this season. Feegee started her sophomore campaign in the Syrinx Hanover Series with a pair of fourths, and then finished a close a second in the $37,000 final.
“Feegee is owned by some people from Finland (Multi Racing Stable’s Anssi Suominen),” he said. “She was trained by Bernie Noren last year. Bernie moved to Canada and this filly was at a turnout farm here in New Jersey. We were friends with a girl that worked there, the owners were looking for a trainer, and she pointed this horse in our direction.
“Feegee has really worked out well for us so far. She’s not a very big filly, yet turns her speed okay. She had a couple of minor issues last year but - knock on wood - she’s been problem-free for us. After winning her qualifier at the Meadowlands, she finished fourth in both Syrinx Hanover divisions, but only got beat about a length each time. So, I was a little surprised she wasn’t one of the favorites in that final. She ended up second. I guess being the underdog is a good thing sometimes.
“We’re trying to keep her sound and sharp on the big track, and eventually we’re hoping to try her in New York Sires Stakes on the smaller tracks. I’m sure she’s going to make some noise for us there.”
Hanney also sends out In Nomine Patri from post nine in the ninth race. The four-year-old gelding by Credit Winner, owned by Hanney’s girlfriend, Liisa Vatanen, makes a drop in class and picks up driver Jim Morrill Jr.
“We bought him at last year’s January Mixed Sale for $38,000. We saw quite a bit of potential in him. At the time, he was a three-year-old with not a lot of starts, and we liked his look. He’s got some gait speed, and if he gets away near the back he doesn’t have a great kick come home. Again, he can leave and likes to be on the front. If he’s driven that way he can pick up a nice check almost every time.”
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