To win two divisions of the Terrapin Stakes at Freestate Raceway Saturday night, it only took one driver, one owner and one sire. Even the winning times were the same.
Handsome Sum and Nihilator each won his division of the Terrapin in 1:57 1/5. Each was driven by Bill O'Donnell and each is co-owned by Bob Boni, whose faith in the colts' sire, Niatross, has paid big dividends.
"(Niatross) was the greatest colt I've seen to date," said Boni, who has been in racing for 25 years. Boni and his partners decided "to buy as many Niatross foals as we could" that were of a high pedigree. Handsome Sum, a $92,000 yearling purchase, and Nihilator, purchased privately for a reported $100,000 and already valued at more than $19 million, are out of Niatross' first crop of about 150 foals.
But the paths the two 3-year-olds traveled to get to the Terrapin were quite different.
As a 2-year-old, Nihilator beat the best freshman pacers in the country. He won the $2.1 million Woodrow Wilson in a record time of 1:52 4/5 last year. His victory in the Terrapin was his 15th in 16 career starts, and Boni says, "He's expected not to lose."
In the second division Saturday, O'Donnell drove Nihilator brilliantly. The colt, the 1-20 race favorite, was parked for most of the first half but took the lead easily by the clubhouse turn and won by three lengths over Neros Star.
Handsome Sum was unknown until recently. In Boni's words, the colt raced in mostly "cheap" races at Pompano Park earlier this year. But the colt began to improve and turned in a sparkling performance at Maywood near Chicago in mid-May.
In the Terrapin, O'Donnell made a strong move at the three-eighths pole with Handsome Sum to take an early lead and win by 1 1/4 lengths over long shot Leading Escort.
At Freestate Saturday night, 8,606 fans wagered $990,074, the second-highest nightly handle in Maryland harness history.