MILTON, June 7, 2019 – Making most of their living racing in Pennsylvania on the fair circuit and at its three tracks, Tony and Linda Schadel will now take their first steps onto the world’s stage as their glamour-boy colt Aflame Hanover takes aim at a million-dollar prize in this Saturday’s Pepsi North America Cup eliminations.
“This is the first time I’ve ever entered a horse in another country,” trainer Linda Schadel said. “It’s just amazing; like a dream.”
The Schadel name has over the years rooted itself into Pennsylvania harness racing. Tony’s brother Todd co-owned $3.2-million earner Vivid Photo, who thrived on the PA fair circuit prior to winning the 2005 Hambletonian. Tony and Linda, who met racing on the fair circuit, have only within the last few years shifted their operation’s focus from racing claiming and older stock to purchasing and developing younger horses.
“I’m just trying to get a horse to make money and make a living,” Linda said. “I don’t need to be off racing in a million other places. I have two kids, I want to raise my family and just do what we’re used to and what’s good by us. We’re pretty happy in Pennsylvania but if these horses can lead us out of here, that’s good too.”
Tony and Linda purchased their “Cup” contender, Aflame Hanover, for $6,500 at the 2017 Goshen Yearling Sale. The colt is by the Somebeachsomewhere sire Russell Hanover, who never raced but comes from a bloodline related to millionaires Royalflush Hanover, Red River Hanover and Rocknroll Hanover.
“He just looked good,” Linda said of Aflame Hanover as a yearling, “He’s got a great looking head, put together nice. He looked like something we might be able to afford and he was put together nice.”
Aflame Hanover debuted on June 24 last year in a division of Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) at the Hughesville Fair, winning in 2:04.2 with Tony driving. He went on to race 14 more times as a two-year-old, winning six races total and earning over $80,000.
“When we were training him down, he was a nice colt—just could go as much as you wanted to go and we actually had to quit with him for a little while because he was just going too much and it was too early,” Linda said. “Obviously we probably wished we paid [into] more but we didn’t know how fast he was going to be for sure; we knew he was nice.”
Aflame Hanover went the quickest mile of his career in the Fair Final, posting fractions of :27, :55.3 and 1:22.4 in progress to a seven-and-a-quarter length victory in 1:51.4.
“When he did the mile he did last year [in the Fair Final] we paid him into a few extra things; the things we paid him into this year were things we could still get him into without payments last year.”
Aflame Hanover resurfaced as a three-year-old in late March to ready for the Bobby Weiss Series at Pocono. While he has not won a race from eight starts this season, he enters the Cup off a runner-up finish to top contedner Captain Crunch in a division of PASS at Harrah’s Philadelphia.
“From the beginning of this year [the Cup] was the goal because you could pay into it from the beginning of this year,” Linda said. “It was never anything we thought about last year, maybe [not] until the end of the year when he won the Fair Final. We just kind of thought if he comes back nice and he has done everything right all along so far so we just kept paying the payments.”
Aflame Hanover will start from post-seven as the longest shot on the morning line in his elimination. At 15-1, he competes against Brian Brown-trainee and 8-5 favourite Workin Ona Mystery as well as Battle of Waterloo champ Bronx Seelster and Metro Pace winner Stag Party.
“He’s definitely an underdog,” Linda said. “But I think he is compatible to be in there. The trip just has to work out [and] he just has to have luck—and that’s half of horse racing to me: you need to have luck. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”
Aflame Hanover’s start in the Cup elimination will also be his first without Linda’s husband, Tony, in the sulky. Instead Andrew McCarthy, Linda’s brother-in-law, picks up the reins.
“I’m hoping [Andy] listens to everything me and Tony have to tell him and takes that all into consideration,” Linda said. “Tony wanted to leave it maybe more to a professional. Not that he would not be scared to drive him—he’s driven him all along—but maybe it’s time to hand him over now.”
A pair of eliminations for the Pepsi North America Cup headline Saturday’s card at Woodbine Mohawk Park, carded as Races 3 and 8. Two eliminations for the Fan Hanover and a $35,000 prep for the Roses Are Red also go on the card, with first-race post at 7:10 p.m. (EDT).
By Ray Cotolo for Woodbine.com
Header Photo by Seth Dowling