Eight years ago, Frank Bellino bought a colt from the first crop of stallion Rocknroll Hanover. The pacer’s name was Rock N Roll Heaven, and at age three the horse won 16 of 21 races, earned $2.15 million in purses, and was named Horse of the Year in the United States.
Two years ago, Bellino bought a colt from the final crop of Rocknroll Hanover. The pacer’s name is Stealth Bomber and he is a full brother to Rock N Roll Heaven. Now a three-year-old, Stealth Bomber will try to follow in the footsteps of his renowned sibling.
Stealth Bomber was unraced at age two because of soreness, but the Bellino family believes the sky’s the limit this season.
“I’ve had some special horses and so has dad,” said Frank Bellino’s son, Joe. “He doesn’t overreact to things. But when he saw this horse win in his first start, he said this could be a special horse. We’ve got very high hopes. I’m as high on this horse as any we’ve had.
“He is just something special, in my opinion. We’re really looking forward to this year.”
Stealth Bomber won his career debut February 16 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Sent off at odds of 3-5, the colt won a $10,640 conditioned race by three and a quarter lengths from Post 8 in an eight-horse field with Doug McNair driving for trainer Tony O’Sullivan. The time for the mile on a 24-degree (Fahrenheit) night was 1:53, which is tied for the fourth-fastest clocking of the season by a three-year-old pacer.
“He looked pretty good,” O’Sullivan said. “For his first lifetime start, well, that’s kind of what good horses do, isn’t it? He did it well in hand.”
On Thursday night, Stealth Bomber returns to the same class for his second start. He will start from Post 5 in a seven-horse field, with McNair again at the lines.
“He’s been remarkable training down,” Bellino said. “He’s big and strong and does everything right. He can sit if you want to sit. He can leave if you want to leave. When you pull, he’s right on the bit. He’s never done anything wrong. He’s just so smooth; you’d think he’s an older horse. He acts like he’s been there before.”
Stealth Bomber, purchased for $125,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale, is out of the mare Artistic Vision and was bred by Steve Stewart, Charles Nash, Julie Nash and Francene Nash. In addition to being a full brother to Rock N Roll Heaven, the colt is a half-brother to multi-millionaire Clear Vision.
Last year, Stealth Bomber was training well, but started dealing with sporadic soreness. There were no signs of injury, but the connections decided to shut down Stealth Bomber to give him time to mature.
“It took a lot for us to shut him down, but we didn’t want to push him to get to the races,” Bellino said. “We didn’t want to discourage him.”
Stealth Bomber will have every chance to compete at harness racing’s top level this year. He is staked to all the sport’s major events for pacers, with the exception of the races at Lexington’s Red Mile. It is similar to the stakes schedule that was prepared in 2010 for Rock N Roll Heaven, who was later supplemented to race in Lexington.
“He’s got a full plate if he’s up to it,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s put together like a good horse. He’s not a tall horse, but he’s got a lot of muscle on him and he looks after himself.”
O’Sullivan plans to race Stealth Bomber every three weeks or so as he prepares the horse for the stakes season. If all goes well, his first stakes test will come on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit in early May.
“I don’t want to race a lot, but at the same time, he hasn’t raced,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s going to need to be versatile. We need time to see what makes him tick.”
The Bellinos are looking forward to hopefully returning to the Grand Circuit with a three-year-old pacer.
“You want to make those races,” Joe Bellino said. “The last time we were there was with Pet Rock (in 2012). It’s not easy sitting on the sidelines.
“I think everything is aligning for us,” he added, referring to coming full circle with a colt from the final crop of Rocknroll Hanover. “We hope it’s going to be a special year.”