Brad Grant isn't one to mess with a winning formula.
Neither he nor co-owner/trainer Jack Darling have been present for many of Bulldog Hanover's harness wins. Afraid to jinx the heralded colt, Grant and Darling watched the US$500,000 William R. Haughton Memorial on Saturday night at the Meadowlands on television.
They saw not only a win by the four-year-old, Ontario-sired horse but in one minute 45.4 seconds, the fastest mile in harness-racing history. That broke the previous mark of 1:46 that Bulldog Hanover shared with Always B Miki and Lather Up.
Grant, a truck magnate in Milton, Ont., said he wanted to make the trip to the Meadowlands but couldn't due to work commitments.
At least, that's the story he's sticking to.
"Let's put it this way, I wasn't busting my butt," Grant said with a chuckle Tuesday. "He'd done pretty well without me around, why ruin a good thing?
"To be able to say you were there the night the world record was set is something. But the next-best thing is I got to rewind it and watch it . . . probably a good half-dozen times. I sit back and enjoy the trip. He's just an impressive animal to watch."
Especially considering Bulldog Hanover reportedly threw a shoe on the first turn. But it didn't stop the horse from earning its seventh in eight races this year and push his earnings to $525,135.
Overall, he's won 21-of-29 career starts with $1.45 million in earnings.
"He's just a solid, well-put together animal," Grant said. "As Jack always says, he just doesn't have quit in him."
Following his world-record run, Bulldog Hanover returned to Ontario, where he'll remain until the US$300,000 Dan Patch Stakes on Aug. 12 at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. Then the plan is for Bulldog Hanover to participate in the $600,000 Canadian Pacing Derby on Sept. 3 at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Campbellville, Ont.
While Grant is cautious about watching Bulldog Hanover race, he does visit the horse at the barn.
"I'll go over and see him and feed him a carrot, banana or whatever," Grant said. "Jack and I joke about it, neither of us was there (Saturday), neither of us has been there for his four wins at Hoosier and four wins at the Meadowlands.
"Whether we're both more superstitious than we thought, I don't know."
Right now, Grant plans to break with tradition and attend the Pacing Derby. He might even go to Indiana.
"Hoosier Park is about a six-hour drive," he said. "My wife and I love to go watch the horses so I might go down there.
"Someone once said the horse never knows what he's worth and never knows if you're there or not."
The world-record run has put a bull's-eye on Bulldog Hanover and driver Dexter Dunn. And Grant said there's no shortage of horses capable of giving Bulldog Hanover a serious run, including Rockyroad Hanover, the second-place finisher Saturday.
"Rockyroad Hanover did the last quarter in 24.1 (seconds), that's unheard of," said Grant, whose horse ran its last quarter in 25.1. "If Bulldog isn't in that race, we're talking abut Rockyroad Hanover."
Rockyroad Hanover finished in 1:46.1 on Saturday night.
So, can Bulldog Hanover go faster?
"You talk to Dexter and even he says he's not sure how fast (Bulldog Hanover) can go, which is scary, scary," Grant said. "Under perfect conditions on the right racetrack . . . is there more?
"I don't know."
In 2021, Bulldog Hanover was the heavy favourite for the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk Park. But Hall of Famer Trevor Richie drove Desperate Man to victory in 1:49.3 as Bulldog Hanover finished fourth.
"I've never gone to races with the absolute 100 per cent belief I'm going to win," Grant said. "Last year I probably went to the North America Cup figuring I had the best horse and was going to win the race.
"When he didn't . . . that one hurt. It's on the bucket list for me. It's home at Mohawk, it's one I've kind of always have had on my list to win and just couldn't get it done. After his elimination race I think everybody thought he was the one to beat and three other horses did, so, what do you do?"
But Grant said there'll be no unfinished business for either the horse or his connections at the Pacing Derby.
"He won up here earlier before we sent him down to the Meadowlands and quite impressively against a field of invitation pacers," Grant said. "It's always satisfying to win at home but it's probably the toughest thing to do."
Grant remembers first noticing Bulldog Hanover as a two-year-old. Having known and done business with Darling, of Cambridge, Ont., for years, the subject of Bulldog Hanover came up casually during a telephone conversation.
"I wasn't trying to buy him," Grant said. "It was more, 'Jack, if you ever decide you want to (sell) please keep me in mind. Or if you ever want a partner, I'd be glad to be a partner.'
"Five minutes later, I'm a partner."
Which, Grant said, wasn't overly surprising.
"Jack and I have always done deals quick," he said. "I trust the man emphatically, there's no one who can question his integrity.
"Basically Jack manages the horse. We talk but all the credit goes to Jack and his team . . . they deserve it. I'm just along as an owner enjoying the trip."
Grant recognized potential within Bulldog Hanover, but admits he didn't see a world-record run coming.
"We always believed he was a good horse and could compete," Grant said. "But to do what he's done is, like, a bonus.
"He's a terrific horse, it's a lot of fun to be around him. I'm very, very lucky to be partners with Jack and, again, it's him and his team. Jack picked the horse, he broke the horse, he trains the horse. He's the credit behind it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press