Chuck Harrison has owned horses for almost four decades. The Mechanicville resident loves the sport of harness racing and has had his horses trained by local conditioner Scott Mongeon after deciding to getting into owning back in the 80’s. Harrison has complete and utter faith and trust in Mongeon and why not? The two don’t just have the average relationship of an owner and trainer, they are more like father and son. They’re family. Over the course of the 38 years they’ve had horses together, as is often the case, they have had some good ones and their share of bad ones. Probably the top horse in the long history of the duo was Future Falcon N. That star pacer was co-owned by Harrison while trained and driven by Mongeon when he was named Pacer of the Year at Saratoga back in 2006. They have had a host of other success stories such as Triplexity back in the 90’s. While Mongeon has trained several stalwarts for Harrison, as is pretty much always the case if you have enough horses, there were a few clunkers along the way as well. Looking for a new horse last fall, Harrison, who partnered up with his friend Fred Barthelmas of Ballston Spa several years back, turned to Mongeon to look for one. Scott did what so many trainers do these days and went online to a website that posts horses that are for sale. He saw a young, inexperienced trotter named Wishing Barefoot that caught his eye. He showed winning a race while parked the mile and had a third place finish over the mile track at Lexington and Mongeon was intrigued.
Wishing Barefoot had just eight career starts under his belt but was available to be purchased. Mongeon went to Harrison with the young trotter and got the response he’s gotten for nearly four decades now. “I trust you. If you like him, we’re in,” the extremely likable longtime owner told Scott. Wishing Barefoot was purchased for $21,000 which seemed like a fair price but with a young horse that was for sale and bought sight unseen, there was certainly a level of risk to it. When the trotter got to Saratoga, Scott said he had a few issues they would have to work on but overall, he was pleased with what he saw. “You never know what you’re going to get when you buy one online,” Mongeon told me. “He was a little off when I got him but nothing that couldn’t be worked with. We gave him a little bit of time off before his first start with us.” That first start came here at Saratoga on November 1st of last year and took place in the non-winners of one pari-mutuel race lifetime class. The then three year old was the betting public’s 4-5 favorite despite the fact that he drew post eight and had been off a month. People liked what they saw and his backers were rewarded when the new Mongeon acquisition overcame a deficit of better than ten lengths in the early going before swooping the group to win his local debut. The following week, the young trotter was seemingly home free while opening a big lead heading into the final turn when he made a costly break that resulted in a seventh-place finish.
The break proved to be more of a hiccup than it was a regularly for Wishing Barefoot who stepped up in class but again outclosed his rivals to prevail in his following start. Mongeon brought his new acquisition to the Meadowlands to try him on the big track and liked what he saw in his two starts in New Jersey last year. The youngster secured a fourth and a third place finish down there before returning to the Spa to wrap up his season with a decisive win that came in a career-best 1:58.1 on a cold December afternoon. The end of the Spa meet didn’t mean a break for the lightly raced Wishing Barefoot as the Mongeon stable’s rising star kept his winter roll going when he returned to the Meadowlands in January. The Spa’s leading driver Billy Dobson was at the Meadowlands that night and sat behind the young trotter when he was dismissed at odds of 53-1. Dobson forwardly placed the longshot who wound up surging late before scoring the upset in a lifetime best 1:55.4. A $109 win mutuel and more importantly another victory for the emerging star’s connections.
After kicking off his ’22 campaign in style, Wishing Barefoot brought his successes back to the Spa when the meet started in February. Fast forward two months and the promising trotter now owns six wins on the season! He competed in the winners of two but not more than five win lifetime class for his first half dozen local tries this year and rattled off four victories. In fact, his only two defeats came when he made breaks. One of those starts was the one that caught his trainer’s eye the most. “The wins have been great. He’s versatile. He’s been winning from off the pace and when on the front-end,” Mongeon told me. “But the week when he broke and spotted the field about twenty lengths and almost won was pretty awesome. That’s when I really knew we had a horse that could be special,” he admitted. On Sunday March 27, he was forced to step up in company after graduating out of the class in which he spent the first couple months of the season at the Spa. The public was undeterred from the jump up in competition for Wishing Barefoot who on a cold, windy day came from sixth while first-over and wound up recording yet another victory. Brian Cross, Billy Dobson and Jay Randall have all piloted Wishing Barefoot to wins and Mongeon says each of the drivers has been vocal in their praise. “They all seem to love him,” Mongeon said of his barn’s trotting star. “When a horse comes to him, he just keeps rolling. When he’s following horses, he just digs in.” When I asked Scott about what Wishing Barefoot’s “ceiling” might be and whether that could include being an Open horse, he was pretty assertive in his response. “Anything can happen but he’s really getting better and better. He didn’t race as a two year old so he’s still somewhat inexperienced which kind of adds to the excitement just seeing how much better he can get. But he’s an easy horse really. He’s sound, no lasix, no trotting hopples. He’s handy and safe. He fits his current class a bit longer and then it’ll be up into the Winners Over or the Open.” As far as his future plan, in addition to potentially being on a path to the Open, Mongeon says “we may take him to a bigger track again. Plainridge maybe, or even the Meadowlands. He was good on the big track before but he’s showing he definitely fits the half (mile track) well also.” The hopes are high for Wishing Barefoot and why not? He’s won eight of his first thirteen local starts. Mix in another career-best score at the Meadowlands and no wonder owners Harrison and Barthelmas and their trainer Scott Mongeon are excited about the prospects of what they might have in Wishing Barefoot, a budding trotting star at the Spa.
Live racing takes place every Saturday evening starting at 5pm and continues on Sunday and Monday afternoons beginning at Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!