“The handicapper has caught up with him” is a term used quite a few times this year with Pennsylvania Dutch this season. Having started the year out as a horse who was well handicapped, he then went to one who may be badly handicapped. His four wins proved on the contrary and once again he made people eat humble pie as Pennsylvania Dutch won his fifth race of the season when taking the 6f Sri Lanka Staying Strong Handicap at Thirsk, his third win at the track.
Last year Pennsylvania Dutch was the nearly horse, showing promise but then not backing it up. This year he is the star turn and a poor run comes as a surprise. He has raced with eye shields on then off, he has made all and then come from off the pace. One thing for sure is that the 5yr old is thriving and making up for lost time. Although still quirky he has learnt to race properly now and the improvement has known no end.
After racking up a hat-trick of wins there were some doubters who felt he may have come to the end of his run. They were probably feeling rather smug when he finished down the field, proving them right. Pennsylvania had different idea though and followed that up with a fourth win travelling all the way to Goodwood. Although he had got back into the winning circle he then followed it with another below par effort, again allowing doubters to claim he had no more improvement left. Although that could well have been true, having reached a career high 89, there were plenty of excuses for the below par efforts. Both had come on softer ground and his last run was lumping 10st, 2 of which was dead weight.
Kevin decided that the best way forward for Pennsylvania Dutch was to step him up in grade. He would be carrying less weight but also it would show whether he was up to that class or not. The 6f handicap at Thirsk was a 0-95 contest and the line up attracted some sprinters who were used to winning at this level and above. Tom Eaves was booked for the ride and the pair were viewed as 12-1 shots by the punters.
The 9 strong field lined up with the stalls in the centre of the track. As is always the case Pennsylvania Dutch was loaded with a hood on but once Tom whipped it off, just in time for the stalls opening, he was out like a rocket and quickly into stride. On the far right side of the field, Dutch took the lead as the pace wasn’t too strong and only Dark Defender went to go forward too. Tom allowed Dutch to stretch out into his giant stride and the gelding spearheaded the field as they tracked over to the centre of the track through the first furlong.
Having raced in many different styles throughout the season and his career, Pennsylvania Dutch really didn’t give Tom too many worries as he strode out in front. The gelding looked to be enjoying himself and without any headgear he was as eager as ever. His rivals looked as though they were keen not to let the leader get an easy time of of it and between the 4f and 3f marker the field did bunch up, with a blanket able to cover the 9 runners. Despite this the pace was never fierce despite these older sprinters and Dutch travelled lovely in Tom’s hands.
One big difference this season in the performances of Dutch has been the time allowed to him to wind up. Always a smooth traveller and strong finisher, Dutch had been asked to go from first to sixth gear in a quick burst. This season he has been given the time to wind up and lengthen, which has really helped him maintain his run and finish the race strongly. As the gelding took the field into the second half of the race, Tom just loosened the reins and started to get his mount to stretch out. It was looking like a fascinating finishing as almost all the field headed to the final 2f with a chance and now Dutch was really pressed for the lead.
Tom had been niggling away and Dutch had moved up through the gears, maintaining his position. As they moved into the final couple of furlongs it was time for Tom to now ask his mount for a real push. The two leading fancies in the field, Muscika and Wentworth Falls, were begging to move through the field and lay down dangerous looking challenges. Dutch was hitting top gear and maintained a narrow lead as he looked to fend off all comers.
Genuine and brave were probably two words that wouldn’t have been the first to spring to mind with Pennsylvania Dutch but this year they don’t do him enough justice. Responding to every push from Tom he quickened and found more for pressure. Now in full drive and heading into the final furlong, Dutch was joined by Muscika and closely followed by Wentworth Falls. As they reached his girths, Dutch got spurred on and found once more. Deep inside the final furlong and Dutch had a 1/2 length advantage still in the bag. That was as close as Muscika could get though as the leader continued to respond to pressure. In the final 100 yards Pennsylvania Dutch again found some more and strode out, eventually gaining a 1 length advantage to secure a fifth win of 2019.
What Pennsylvania Dutch has done so far this season is remarkable. New tactics and a new frame of mind for the horse have seen the 5yr old thrive and take his career to a new level. This was another step up for Dutch and the way he won suggests that there is still more to come from him. The handicapper will again have to take a look and this performance will see his mark push on to 90+. Pennsylvania Dutch couldn’t sell the last time he visited the sales in May and once again he is due to go through the ring at the July HIT at Tattersalls. We are all looking for a Saturday horse and the way Pennsylvania Dutch is going, he could well have a big one ion the bag this year.