Attorney and businessman Robert Key of Leechburg, PA has bred and owned hundreds of harness horses in his three decades in harness racing. Yet, Winning Mister is the single trotter that has captured Key’s heart.
The six-year-old son of Angus Hall drew post nine in Saturday’s $210,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands Racetrack. After reeling off a devastating 1:51.3 lifetime best in the Cutler prep, Winning Mister will go for his eleventh win in 13 starts this season.
“He’s probably one of the best horses I’ve ever had,” admitted Key. “I’m really lucky to have him. He had ability right from the beginning. He started out training with Encore Encore [1:53.3, $418,337] and this one was faster. Right now, this is the one. None of the others I’ve had were racehorses like this one. ”
Winning Mister showed high level talent early in his career, yet struggled to establish himself.
“Some of his drivers had a preconceived notion about Angus Halls being headstrong, so they wanted to teach him how to race,” explained Key. “They would let him go to the lead. Then when they tried to rate him he would get angry. He would make a break or not race well. This went on for his first two years of racing, and he wasn’t reaching the potential we thought he had.
“Normally, you don’t want a horse that’s constantly on the front end, but we decided that’s simply the way he wanted to go. We’ve told our drivers to race him that way. Now he’s won 34 races and close to a million dollars ($933,044). He’s just a fantastic horse and I’m looking to stand him at stud.”
In 2012, Winning Mister has become a rateable, controlling presence, and Key was more than pleased with his dominant elimination mile.
“I really think [driver] Tim Tetrick fit him well and did a great job with him last week,” said Key. “He rated him as well as you could, and he kicked home in :27.3, just three-fifths off a world record.”
Fresh off a $319,200 four-year-old break-out campaign, Winning Mister is poised for an even bigger season.
“This year we have him staked to everything,” noted Key. “Last summer, we raced him through that record heat, transporting him from track to track. I think it took its toll on him. He likes to be turned out, and he’s a classy horse who takes care of himself. At the track, he can get a little excited, so we try to keep him away from the horses. Our trainer, Richie Gillock, knows how to handle him and does an excellent job with him. When I shipped him to the Remmens [trainers Larry and Ray] for these races I told them I gave them my franchise!”
Key is President of Key Bellevilles, Inc. of Leechburg, PA, which is the largest manufacturer of disc springs in the world. Key got involved in the sport through a meeting with the late Hall of Famer Billy Haughton in 1981. Some of Key’s top horses include world champion Amneris, millionaire American Winner, Super Pleasure, BJ’s Mac, BJ’s Pleasure, Jonlin, Pleasure and Power, Encore Encore and Break The Bank K.
Key won the 1993 Hambletonian with American Winner.
Last fall, Winning Mister’s half sister Win Missy B set a Mohawk track record of 1:53.3 winning the Peaceful Way Final. The Conway Hall filly, also out of the dam Winning Missbrenda, banked $731,175 for trainer Charlie Norris, and looms as an early contender for the Hambletonian Oaks.
Key’s son, Rob Key, has also taken an interest in the business. The younger Key is CEO of Converseon, an independent, award-winning full service social media consultancy.
“He worked with top trainers all through high school and college, and he has his trainer’s license. He owns a social media corporation in New York, and he’ll be there on Saturday night.”
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