Niatross slept late this morning.
So did Clint Galbraith, driver-trainer and part-owner of the undefeated 3-year-old harness racing wonderhorse.
Both had earned the rest with another Saturday night of work well done. This time, as in the 17 previous career outings, it was a trip to the winner's circle. Twice.
Niatross was virtually unchallenged as he swept both an elimination heat and then the final in claiming $112,433 from the $321,365 pot offered in the 25th edition of the Cane Pace, the first leg of the standardbred Triple Crown for 3-year-old pacers.
The bay son of Albatross-Niagra Dream by Bye Bye Byrd loped to victory in a time of 1:57 4/5 in his qualifying heat. He dispensed with a fruitless challenge by Storm Damage, who eventually finished second, 3 1/2 lengths behind, at the first quarter pole, never to be headed the rest of the evening.
Niatross covered Yonker's half-mile oval in 1:57 3/5 in scoring a 1 1/4-length Cane Pace final victory over Trenton Time, the winner of the second elimination.
"He was within himself. He just does it on his own," said Galbraith, 36, of Niatross' relatively routine -- for him -- clockings. "I'm out to win the race, not beat the clock. Sometimes, you go too much, you get beat. But, we did want to stay in the lead. That way we could dominate the race."
Niatross, whose ownership includes Mrs. Elsie Berger of Buffalo, N.Y., and Lou Guida, New York, has won $829,650 in purses to date and has been syndicated for $8 million.
Plans do not call for racing Niatross as a 4-year-old, but his management has a full summer schedule of weekly racing planned. Nearly a million dollars in bonus money would be earned should he remain unbeaten, sweep the Triple Crown -- which includes the Little Brown Jug at Delaware, Ohio, Sept. 18, and the Messenger at Roosevelt (N.Y.) Raceway, Oct. 11 -- and break Steady Star's world record 1:52 clocking in a series time of trials.
Will Niatross, who followed in his sire's 1971 footsteps by winning the Cane, ever lose?
"There are still some other good 3-year-old colts yet, maybe some will come on," said Galbraith as he loaded Niatross for a trip to this weekend's $100,000 Battle of Saratoga. "It's early. But, I also don't think my horse has peaked yet. He's only had six races to far this year. I think he'll get even better."
Will Niatross step out of his sophomore class, as Albatross did, and challenge the older free-for-all pacers?
"No, no," Galbraith responded empatically. "He's not going to race against older horses. He's got nothing more to prove."
Indeed, Niatross has had a sparkling career. His 19 consecutive wins, the last 17 in under two minutes, represent an all-time-record. As a 2-year-old, he experienced his closest margin of victory last July when he nipped Denali with a late rush by three-quarters of a length to snare a qualifier for Woodrow Wilson Pace at The Meadowlands in New Jersey. One week later he outdistanced Whamo by a length to win the $862,750 Wilson proper.
Niatross posted his lifetime-best of 1:55 2/5 when he won an elimination for the Battle of Brandywine at that Wilmington, Del., track four weeks ago. A week later he won the Brandywine finale, beating Trenton Time by 3 3/4 lengths. The week before the Cane, in the Reynolds Memorial at Buffalo Raceway, he won by 8 1/2 lengths on a half-mile oval in 1:56 2/5.
Yonkers Raceway did see some records set Saturday, too. The $341,512 wagered on Niatross in his qualifier shattered the previous mark of $249,869 rung up by Cardigan Bay in 1966.The Raceway also experienced minus pool betting totals of $60,366.80 in the qualifier when Niatross was a 1-to-20 favorite among the 17,061 bettors and $48,274.91 in the final when he went off at 1 to 10.
"It was worth it," said Tim Rooney, president of Yonkers Raceway, about the minus pools. "It's not often you get to showcase a great attraction such as Niatross."
About the only goal left for the horse, according to one of the owners, would be the speed record.
"We would like to set a new world record if at all possible," said Mrs. Berger, 70. "We'll do our best toward setting that record."
A first attempt at a time-trial record is expected in late August at Syracuse, N.Y. Should that fail, Niatross would try again in September at Lexington, Ky.