Fan favorite Helicopter repeatedly dominates the synthetic, and now all of a sudden turf, by winning his third race at Arlington Park this year! This Three Wonders gelding out of a Septieme Ciel mare has won 19 of his 49 races and has hit the board an amazing 32 of those 49 times. However he wasn't always this successful, especially at the beginning of his career. Let’s take a deeper look at this five year old runner and see how he made quite the turnaround.
Born in 2006, things did not come so easy for Helicopter. You see he spent his entire two year old season in 2008 at Calder Race Course in Miami running in low-level Maiden Claiming races. He finished second four times in his juvenile campaign and really didn’t show much even in those races until his very last race that year where he just lost by a neck to a horse named The Juice Is Loose (I wonder if that horse was named after OJ?). It was obvious that Helicopter did not prefer the dirt course at Calder and his two year old record showed it. 14-0-4-1. Not very good at any distance he ran that year, long or short.
Helicopter’s three year old campaign didn’t start out much better. Completing the Florida circuit with four more races, he managed to hit the board only once with a place finish in a 10k Maiden Claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. OK, so maybe this horse just didn’t like Florida at all! Obviously it was time for a change and his connections sent him up to Chicago to mix things up a bit. Note that his lifetime record at this point was 19-0-5-1 and only one of the place finishes was even close.
Sweet Home Chicago! Right off the bat Helicopter won his first race in the Chicagoland area even as the post-time favorite (someone must have known something). Also, we discovered that he likes the longer distances as this race was at 1 mile 70 yards, a distance that he finished second at twice before. But was it just the added distance that would turn Helicopter into a superstar?
Once the Arlington Park meet opened up in 2009 Helicopter was destined for greatness. Personally I was never sure that a horse could truly tell the difference between conventional dirt and the synthetic surface. Now I was sold. On the Polytrack, Helicopter proceeded to impress by winning three races in a row, all at the claiming level and all at one mile. In fact, to round out the three year old season, Helicopter had finished with a 16-8-2-1 record with an 11-8-1-1 in Chicago with two of those defeats at distances of less than one mile! Once the Arlington meet closed for the summer Helicopter was shipped to Keeneland, Woodbine, and Mountaineer to race before returning to Hawthorne. Professing his love for Polytrack, he set TWO new track records running 10 furlongs in 2:03.2 at Woodbine and 10 furlongs in 2:02.4 at Keeneland! WOW! Obviously he had found his stride, distance, and surface.
Including his three and four year old seasons Helicopter had won an astounding 16 of 22 races in total with his only defeats coming at the hands of a 6 furlong sprint, a 7 furlong sprint, an off day in September 2009, a muddy track at Mountaineer, an attempt on turf, and a two mile marathon. That’s it. During that streak Helicopter had also reeled off six wins in a row! And even more impressive than that he added two new track records to his CV in his four year old season with 18 furlongs in 3:56.0 and 14 furlongs in 3:00.2 both at Presque Isle Downs.
(Helicopter wears #1 on opening day 2011)
So far this year in his five year old season, Helicopter has not disappointed his fans. His record thus far is 5-3-1-0 with a nice win on the first race on the first day of Arlington’s 2011 meet. One of this year’s wins even came on only his second ever attempt on the turf (RACE REPLAY).
With career earnings nearing $300,000 it’s nice to see Helicopter still competing, and winning, here in Chicago. Not a bad pickup for only $5,000 in the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2007 Eastern Fall Yearling Sale. A pretty good investment if you ask me!